A giant animal-shaped "geoglyph" (enormous drawing on the earth) has been found in Russia's Ural Mountains, in a scientific discovery made with the assistance of Google Earth satellite images.
You can see a satellite map image of the elk-shaped geoglyph at Wikimapia, where some enterprising nerd has already sketched out its outlines.
The massive structure, about 900 feet long at its widest, is located close to Lake Zjuratkul in Russia's Ural Mountains, to the north of Kazakhstan, says LiveScience's Owen Jarus, and is thought to be older than the famous South American Nazca lines, although this is not yet confirmed.
Researchers have found that the little-studied geoglyph appears to contain passages and walls, centered around the creature's hooves and muzzle.
Stone tools typical of the third and fourth millennia BC have been found at the site, adds Jarus, leading scientists to suspect it is of considerable antiquity. The Nazca lines hail from around 500 to 400 BC, according to UNESCO, while the Russian site may derive from
A number of megaliths—ancient stone structures built by humans—have been found in the Ural region, and it's likely that the elk-shaped lines hail from the same time period ascribed to these ruins. These include dolmens, portal-like tombs, and menhirs, large standing stones. (Remember Stonehenge? Yeah, that's a megalith.)
Perhaps the most famous Ural-area megaliths were discovered on Vera Island, a small scrap of land in the middle of Lake Turgoyak.
Google Maps software has freed scientists from having to charter their own planes to do aerial surveys in search of ancient structures: the satellite images have facilitated a number of interesting scientific discoveries in recent years, including more animal-shaped lines in Peru, and a previously unknown forest in Mozambique.
Only last year, curious stone "wheels" were uncovered in the Middle East, according to the Daily Mail: only visible from the air, their purpose unknown.
Here's a slideshow of images of the Vera Island megaliths in Russia: