Satellite and air surveys have opened up many doors to archaeologists, enabling them to discover new Egyptian pyramids and map the origins of human settlements. And in 2006, it also led to an astonishing discovery by an Australian grandmother. Now, that descriptor sure doesn't sound like she's a credible expert on ancient civilizations, but honestly, we don't know enough about Australia to make that blanket statement. Or grandmothers, for that matter. So let's see what she found:
A Mesoamerican iPod ad?
This is the Google Maps view of some mountains in Alberta, Canada, spookily shaped to resemble a Native American complete with headdress ... and rockin' out to earbuds, apparently? While the discoverer herself never implied it was anything but a natural formation, it was a big hit with fellow "Google explorers" and received national attention, sparking the imaginations of the Native American Hillface conspiracy theorists, of which there are so many.
David Sacks/Photodisc/Getty Images
The Alberta face is just a quirky twist of erosion, and as unromantic as it sounds, those earphones are not evidence of time-traveling Native Canadian rock-sculptors. They're a road leading to an oil well. From the ground, it looks like what it is: a regular, unimpressive hill.
Now that looks more like the thrilling Canadian landscape we know.
It's a prime example of pareidolia: seeing seemingly meaningful images (in this case, a face) in abstract forms. Software has even been designed to search Google Maps for images that look like faces. Seriously, plug the right algorithm in and the whole world is full of mysterious giant faces.
And, famously, on Mars:
Aww. Poor guy got ditched by the other giant rock monsters.
So either there's a race of planet-hopping titans who are way into the hip new trend of geo-selfies, or we as a people just habitually read too much into everything.
In 2012, Russian scientists, whom we unfairly assume to be drunk, declared that they'd found an ancient relic embedded in rock that appeared to be a series of interlocking cogs and some kind of gear mechanism. The most unusual thing about this was that they were some 400 million years old, so, obviously, aliens.
Hmm. Maybe our earlier assumption wasn't so unfair after all.
Steampunk aliens. Finally.
Sure, they really look like a clock exploded, but these are actually the remnants of an animal called a crinoid, which conveniently leaves little circular indentations when it fossilizes.
F. Lamiot, via Wikimedia
Apparently the niche evolution was filling with this was "animal that fucks with people on message boards."
See, it's usually a good idea to be skeptical when someone claims to have found a machine that predates the human species as we know it. Well, unless it's suspiciously shaped like a DeLorean. But even so, controversy erupted again earlier in 2013 when various publications reported the discovery of a 300 million-year-old "UFO tooth wheel" inside a piece of coal in Vladivostok.
Only extraterrestrial hands could've crafted this.
If, for just one brief moment, we entertain the possibility that it is not a scrap of somebody's ancient interstellar hooptie, then we can at least consider the alternative: That it's just a broken piece of modern-day mining equipment. Or possibly iron pyrite, a mineral known to assume bitchin' shapes of its own volition, such as this pugilistic robot:
JJ Harrison, via Wikipedia
"Come at me, Bromide!"
We guess what we're saying is, if nature can make her own Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots any ol' day of the week, maybe you don't call the papers the next time you find something that kind of looks like a stair if you squint at it funny.
N. Christie is currently traveling the world to determine once and for all what the Seven Wonders of the World really are.
Related Reading: Mother Nature's also a pretty fair hand at special effects. Check out Yosemite's fiery waterfall. And if you think that's impressive, check out these wasps who can hack trees. If you'd like to see some advanced technology mother nature has bested, click this link here.