One of the many new geoglyphs uncovered by the AI. Image Credit: Yamagata University / IBM
Researchers have used an artificial intelligence to identity previously unseen drawings on the desert floor.
Situated on a remote arid plateau in southern Peru, the Nazca Lines are a series of spectacular artistic designs, including images of spiders, monkeys, hummingbirds, fish and lizards, which were etched in to the ground more than 2,000 years ago.
Now researchers from Japan's Yamagata University have revealed the discovery of 143 additional geoglyphs dating back to between 100 BCE and 300 CE.
The team used an IBM artificial intelligence system to analyze large amounts of high-resolution satellite and drone imagery and to look for the telltale signs of man-made markings.
Many of these had mostly worn away and would have been next to impossible to spot otherwise.
"All of these figures were created by removing the black stones that cover the land, thereby exposing the white sand beneath," the team wrote.
While nobody is quite sure exactly why the geoglyphs were created, some researchers believe that they were designed to be seen by deities up in the sky or that they had astronomical significance.
The fact that they had been designed to be seen only from high above has long made them a particularly fascinating phenomenon.