Ronald E. LaPorte, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who helped publicize the finds, called NASA’s involvement “hugely important” in mobilizing support for further research.
The archived images from NASA and dozens more the agency has been working to produce add to the extensive research that Mr. Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.
“I don’t think they were meant to be seen from the air,” Mr. Dey, 44, said in an interview from his hometown, Kostanay, dismissing outlandish speculations involving aliens and Nazis. (Long before Hitler, the swastika was an ancient and near-universal design element.) He theorizes that the figures built along straight lines on elevations were “horizontal observatories to track the movements of the rising sun.”
Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares a border with China, has moved slowly to investigate and protect the finds, scientists say, generating few news reports.
“I was worried this was a hoax,” said Dr. LaPorte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh who noticed a report on the finds last year while researching diseases in Kazakhstan.
With the help of James Jubilee, a former American arms control officer and now a senior science and technology coordinator for health issues in Kazakhstan, Dr. LaPorte tracked down Mr. Dey through the State Department, and his images and documentation quickly convinced them of the earthworks’ authenticity and importance. They sought photos from KazCosmos, the country’s space agency, and pressed local authorities to seek urgent Unesco protection for the sites — so far without luck.
In the Cretaceous Period 100 million years ago, Turgai was bisected by a strait from what is now the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean.
The rich lands of the steppe were a destination for Stone Age tribes seeking hunting grounds, and Mr. Dey’s research suggests that the Mahandzhar culture, which flourished there from 7,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., could be linked to the older figures. But scientists marvel that a nomadic population would have stayed in place for the time required to lay ramparts and dig out lake bed sediments to construct the huge mounds, originally 6 to 10 feet high and now 3 feet high and nearly 40 feet across.
Mr. Dey, who spoke in Russian via Skype through an interpreter, Shalkar Adambekov, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, cited a separate scholarly report linking artifacts from the Mahandzhar culture to other figures, suggesting a date as early as 8,000 years ago for the oldest.
Before the year was out, Mr. Dey had found eight more squares, circles and crosses. By 2012, there were 19. Now his log lists 260, including some odd mounds with two drooping lines called “whiskers” or “mustaches.”
In August 2007, he led a team to the largest figure, now called the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village.
“It was very, very hard to understand from the ground,” he recalled. “The lines are going to the horizon. You can’t figure out what the figure is.”
When they dug into one of the mounds, they found nothing. “It was not a cenotaph, where there are belongings,” he said. But nearby they found artifacts of a Neolithic settlement 6,000 to 10,000 years old, including spear points.
Now, Mr. Dey said, “the plan is to construct a base for operations.”
“We cannot dig up all the mounds. That would be counterproductive,” he said. “We need modern technologies, like they have in the West.”
Dr. LaPorte said he, Mr. Dey and their colleagues were also looking into using drones, as the Culture Ministry in Peru has been doing to map and protect ancient sites.
But time is an enemy, Mr. Dey said. One figure, called the Koga Cross, was substantially destroyed by road builders this year. And that, he said, “was after we notified officials.”
[WEBHeads take note: This corresponds nicely with the nomadic tradition of the Age of Gemini, running from approximately 7000 to 5000 BC. The mythological record seems to suggest a greater deal of activity during this period than archaeology has yet uncovered, but the gap is slowly closing. Yoga, the Tao, astronomy and the observation of the stars, story telling and mythology were all in their heyday, awaiting for later generations to first carry aloft the flame and then to pass it on. ~Don]