Twentieth Century Geoglyphs - Military Training Targets of World War II

Author(s): Jeffrey Wedding; Susan Edwards

Year: 2015


For archaeologists, the term geoglyph typically conjures up images of enormous carved landscapes such as the Nazca Lines in Peru or the Blythe Intaglios in California’s Mojave Desert. But the creation of earth drawings is not restricted to people of the distant past. Modern populations have also been known to produce their own geoglyphs. Like their prehistoric predecessors, many contemporary geoglyphs have spiritual or ceremonial significance, but others were generated for purely functional purposes.

During WWII thousands of U.S. airmen trained stateside before being sent to the various theaters of the global war. Evidence of the military exercises has survived embodied in the large target configurations on the former precision bombing ranges attached to Army Air Corps training fields. These altered landscapes share many characteristics in common with the gigantic glyphs attributed to prehistoric groups. An informal study of online aerial imagery revealed "military geoglyphs" located in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and other western states. The authors present examples of both aerial imagery and ground-level photographs for various target types examined during field projects in Nevada.

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Twentieth Century Geoglyphs - Military Training Targets of World War II. Susan Edwards, Jeffrey Wedding. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397653)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -122.761; min lat: 29.917 ; max long: -109.27; max lat: 42.553 ;