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Russia's mysterious 'Nazca Lines' revealed by Google Earth

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The existence of the "Nazca Lines" of southern Peru have baffled archaeologists for nearly a century now. Many are still wondering why were they built? And for what purpose?

While the experts are still formulating their theories, another puzzling animal-shaped structure has just been discovered. This time the site was found at an undisclosed location in Russia, somewhere near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan.

An aerial photograph captured through Google Earth's satellite camera in 2007 shows what appears to be a creature with four legs, a tail and an elongated muzzle. At first glance, it can be a depiction of anteater, except the contours at the top also seem to form a pair of antlers. It can be an elk or possibly a moose. An in-depth examination of building methods suggests it may even pre-date the famous Peruvian sites by several thousand years.

The 900-foot long "geoglyph" was initially spotted by Alexander Shestakov, who reported the finding to researchers who would later dispatch a hydroplane and paraglider to probe the site. Eventually, Stanislav Grigoriev of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology conducted a ground level excavation, which turned up about "40 stone tools, made of quartzite, found on the structure's surface. Most of them are pickaxe-like tools called mattocks, useful for digging and chopping," according to a report on LiveScience.

Based on the way the stones were fashioned, the researchers suggest that Russia's Nazca Lines were erected during the Neolithic or Eneolithic period, which dates back to sometime between 3000 or 6000 B.C. Grigoriev told LiveScience that the remains of the hoof and muzzle were comprised of "crushed stone and clay," arranged in a manner that indicated the structure featured narrow passageways and low walls.

So who were these construction workers? Grigoriev and his partner Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection, suspect that the geoglyphs were the handiwork of a "megalithic culture," a term used to describe pre-historic societies that used carved-stone to create elaborate monuments, often as tombs and burial sites. They speculate that the animal structure in question is somehow connected to what they say are hundreds of megalithic sites scattered throughout the Urals region.

"[M]any megalithic sites with features in common with European megaliths have been located: Some 300 are known but have not yet been studied in detail," Grigoriev and Menshenin wrote in the spring issue of the journal Antiquity.

More great mysteries on SmartPlanet:

— By on October 15, 2012, 9:40 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure