Among the more curious man-made wonders of the world are the huge geoglyphs which appear on nearly every continent. While the most famous of these are the enigmatic Nazca lines of Peru, similar geoglyphs have been found in the Amazon, throughout the deserts of the Middle East, and even in the Ural mountains of Russia. In fact, every continent except Antarctica contains some type of giant geoglyph. Many of these massive works of art are ancient, and modern scientists struggle to explain how ancient peoples could have constructed them using known technologies. Others are thought to be more modern creations, but that in no way makes their origins any less mysterious.
One such modern mystery geoglyph is Australia’s Marree Man, sometimes referred to as Stuart’s Giant in honor of explorer John McDouall Stuart who was the first explorer to traverse the Australian mainland. The geoglyph is thought to have been first discovered in 1998 by charter pilot Trec Smith as he flew over a remote region of northern South Australia near the tiny town of Marree.
The geoglyph consists of a naked presumably Aboriginal man hunting with a throwing stick. The figure measures four kilometers (2.5 miles) across, with the outline stretching for around 28 kilometers (around 17 miles). The figure is composed of a trench dug 30 centimeters (12 inches) into the ground and measuring up to 35 meters (115 feet) across in some places. No tire tracks or footprints were discovered near the site. The Marree Man has deteriorated due to erosion since its discovery, but is still visible on Google Maps.
The discovery became a media sensation, and the mystery grew as several anonymous press releases sent to Australian media outlets. These releases contained references to American geoglyphs and used terms not commonly used in Australia, prompting speculation that the creator might be American. This theory gained traction when a glass jar was found in a freshly-dug hole near the Marree Man containing a satellite photo of the geoglyph and a small U.S. flag. However, many contend that these were all red herrings meant to throw researchers off the scent of the true creator. To date, the identity of the individual or group responsible for the Marree Man remains a mystery.
The late Australian artist Bardius Goldberg is thought to be a possible creator of the Marree Man, as he reportedly once expressed interest in creating a work of art which could be visible from space. Unfortunately, he died before that could be confirmed. Other possible creators include Aboriginal people looking to send a warning to politicians, and aliens. Of course.
One Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist hopes to end the mystery of the Marree Man. Dick Smith, 1986 Australian of the Year and the founder of Dick Smith Electronics, Dick Smith Foods, and Australian Geographic, has put up a $5,000 reward for any information on the creator(s) of the Marree Man. Smith is reportedly an avid researcher of the curious geoglyph, having spent years looking into its creation. Smith recently told The Australian that while there are a wide range of theories about the Marree Man’s creation, he believes it’s likely the work of modern pranksters:
After two years meeting people, I’m realising that probably one or two weren’t telling me the truth. I believe it’s quite a few people who did it. I reckon some blokes were standing around in a university or a government department and said, ‘Hey, we want to test this software, let’s go and put a giant like Cerne Abbas in the desert’.
Will the mystery of the Marree Man ever be solved? It’s likely going to take a lot more than $5,000 to get the creator to spill the beans. Put up or shut up, Dick.