For thousands of years humans have stared up into the night skies in order to better understand the stars above them, and perhaps even try to catch a glimpse of passing visitors who may not be from our Solar System. We’ve also created structures to try and help better understand the cosmos, or even attract alien visitors to our doorstep. In fact, there are hundreds of archaeoastronomical sites around the world devoted to studying the universe, some constructed by thousand year-old cultures, and some made by… well, who knows?
Suspend your disbelief, strap on your tinfoil helmet, and check out these famous sites that connect with the universe in search of answers.
Tiwanaku Archaeological Site – Tiwanaku, Bolivia
About halfway between Lake Titicaca and La Paz lies Tiwanaku, an important archaeological excavation and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Predating the Incan Empire by about 500 years, Tiwanaku rose around 400 AD and fell around 1000 AD; in that time the culture created massive megaliths and other complex stone structures. How exactly the Tiwanaku constructed these structures remains a mystery.
One particular section of the site, the Pumapunku Temple, has masonry so complex that it baffles archaeologists; especially considering the Tiwanaku had no written language and probably didn’t have knowledge of the wheel. The walls of the temple are made up of interlocking stone joints, cut with such precision that some believe an advanced civilization may have prefabricated the material and provided it to the Tiwanaku.
Nazca Lines – Nazca Desert, Peru
High up on a untouched plateau in southern Peru lay some of the world’s largest geoglyphs, of which their creation is still a mystery to archaeologists. The Nazca Lines are a series of shallow designs created by removing reddish rocks from the desert floor and exposing a different colored rock below. From the air or from watchtowers near the site, one can see large creations like a spider, a hummingbird, or even a eerie human-like form.
Some believe that the Nazca Lines are too complex for the Nazca people to have formed, especially without any sort of aerial technology to guide the design. There is speculation among alternative theorists who suggest it’s possible the lines serve to either guide navigation or are runways from an advanced culture, possibly one that is waiting to return to Earth.
Newgrange – County Meath, Ireland
Hundreds of prehistoric structures are scattered around Ireland, and none are more famous than the passage tomb at Newgrange. This unique site is estimated to be over 5000 years old (it predates the Egyptian pyramids by 500 years and Stonehenge by 1000 years) and has a unique feature that only manifests itself once a year. During the climax of the Winter Solstice, the rising sun shines directly into the Newgrange structure, flooding it with light for about a quarter-hour.
Because of the ancient nature of Newgrange and precision with which the light enters during the Winter Solstice, several theories have emerged on how it was created and for what purpose. When it was first discovered, archaeologists thought it might be a tomb, but further studies have scientists believing it must have something to do with astronomy because of it’s alignment; to what purpose, is still a mystery
Bimini Wall – North Bimini Island, Bahamas
Just offshore Bimini Island under about 20 feet of water lies a strange collection of limestone rock in a semi-rectangular shape that runs along the seafloor for about a half-mile. This strange pavement-like structure has been dubbed “The Bimini Wall” – or sometimes “The Bimini Road” – and its discovery in the 1960s has since created a generous amount of speculation as to how it was constructed.
While there is agreement among most geologists and archaeologists that it was formed naturally, some still debate as to whether it created by humans, or perhaps a species not of this world. One of the more popular theories is that the road was once part of the lost civilization of Atlantis. Others speculate that the road was created as some guiding strip for ancient extraterrestrial visitors, and its very existence may help explain the other bizarre phenomenon that occur within the Bermuda Triangle.
Giza Necropolis – Giza, Egypt
The sheer immensity of the Egyptian pyramids is enough to inspire all sorts of questions into how the ancient Egyptians managed to build them, especially considering the amount of manpower and precision that went into their construction. Archaeologists estimate that anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 laborers, working in three-month shifts for between 20 and 30 years, made the construction possible – and that’s just for one pyramid. Not only that, the pyramids were built to last: the largest one, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was the tallest structure in the world for almost 3,800 years.
What impresses researchers the most is their design; not only are the bases of the pyramids almost perfectly square, but they line up at a precise degree from north to south and east to west. Scientists are currently discussing why the alignment matches almost exactly with the stars in Orion’s belt, a theory called the Orion Correlation Theory, which proposes that the pyramids, the Sphinx, and the nearby Nile River are an exact geographical representation of Orion, the constellation Leo, and the Milky Way. Could Egyptians be responsible for such a precise model? Or, perhaps an advanced civilization managed to lend them a hand?
Area 51 – Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada
In remote western Nevada about 80 miles from downtown Las Vegas lies a highly secretive military installation within Nellis Air Force Base, known in popular culture as Area 51. For years the Air Force has allegedly developed and tested a wide variety of aircraft there, including prototypes for spy and stealth technologies. The base isn’t on any official maps, is completely closed off to the public, and the Air Force denies that an installation named Area 51 even exists (therefore, a tour is probably off-limits.)
With such secretive restrictions on the site, as well as other odd phenomenon that occur in this part of the country, Area 51 is often the focus of UFO seekers and conspiracy-theorists. Many believe that the site is the holding and research area for any UFOs that crash or are discovered by the US Government, or that Area 51 serves as a meeting place between extra-terrestrials and representatives of the United States. Unless the government or the CIA decides to relinquish any information anytime soon, what goes on inside Area 51 will remain a mystery to the public.
Nevada State Route 375 – Rachel, Nevada
Speaking of Area 51, the closest you’ll probably get to it is driving along Route 375, which runs for about 100 miles from Crystal Springs to Warm Springs and is affectionately dubbed “The Extraterrestrial Highway.” This stretch of road is often toured by visiting sky-watchers as a prime spot to look for incoming UFOs.
Image: Sideshow Bruce/Flickr
The town of Rachel sits near the middle of the Extraterrestrial Highway and provides a few amenities for visitors, including the Little A’Le’Inn (pronounced “alien”) with a cafe, motel, and gift shop. Just outside of town sits a mailbox near the access road for Area 51, and is a common site for ET seekers to meet in search of UFOs.
Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell has long been synonymous with extraterrestrials ever since the “Roswell UFO Incident,” where an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed and was recovered near the town in 1947. After a press release, an alleged cover-up by the US Air Force, and numerous witness accounts claiming to have seen alien spacecraft around Roswell (as well as staff on base who claim to have seen alien corpses,) the incident remains as controversial today as it was back in the 1940s.
The airbase where the surrounding controversy is closed and has since been replaced by a civilian air facility, the Roswell International Air Center. However, to this day Roswell thrives on the aftermath of the incident, and brands itself as a hub for UFO activity and research. The Roswell UFO Museum covers the history of the incident in detail through various exhibits, and sponsors parades and costume contests so to keep the spirit of alien visitors alive in the minds of locals and visitors alike.
Tunguska – Siberia, Russia
If an explosion happens in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It’s possible, especially in one of remotest places on Earth in Siberia, where an explosion estimated to be 1000 times the strength of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima occurred in 1908, but wasn’t really researched till almost 20 years later. When the Soviet Union sent scientists to survey the area around Tunguska, they found a blast area so massive that a similar explosion over a major metropolitan area such as London or New York would’ve wiped out either city.
So what caused this massive explosion? As explorers found the Tunguska site, they were surprised to discover a largely destroyed landscape, but no evidence of a crater. Most scientists today believe that the blast zone was created by the explosion or a small meteor or comet – commonly called an air-burst – almost 3 miles above the Earth’s surface. Yet, some believe that the Soviet government was quick to cover-up this “Russian Roswell” and that the blast was caused by an alien spaceship, either exploding above the surface or even testing a weapon in the remote Siberian wilderness.
Arecibo Observatory and the SETI Project – worldwide
For every unexplained event like the Roswell UFO Incident or unsolved mystery like how the pyramids could be constructed in such a precise way, we as humans aren’t just looking to Earth for answers; we’re also looking toward the stars. The largest radio telescope in the world has helped do just that; listening to the skies in search of signals from extra-terrestrial beings. The Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico worked with the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) program in order to scan the skies for signs of radio signals created by intelligent beings.
If you’re having trouble traveling to all of the wonderful places above, or just don’t have the time or the money to launch a research project by yourself, then let your computer do the work for you until you can drum up the funds. The SETI@home is a volunteer home-computing project that taps into SETI projects and uses your computer’s idle time to help observe and record data in the search for life beyond our Solar System. Just download the application, and when your computer goes idle, the software will start up and begin to analyze incoming data from the Arecibo Observatory. Who knows? One day you might come home and find a surprising report that someone – or something – has tried to contact you through the vastness of space via the internet.