In June 1998 a local pilot flying over the remote South Australian desert discovered an enormous drawing of an Aboriginal man hunting with a throwing stick made on the desert floor, about 60 km west of the town of Marree. The figure is 4.2 km tall with a perimeter of 28 km, making it one of the single largest geoglyph in the world. The figure is so huge it can only be seen in its entirely from above 3,000 feet.
Etched into the dry sand of Australia’s barren outback is the world’s largest geoglyph, known as “Marree Man,” an enormous figure of an Aboriginal man hunting birds or wallabies with a throwing stick. Unlike other anthropomorphic geoglyphs found around the world, which were constructed by ancient civilizations, Marree Man was carved into the landscape only 16 years ago. However, its very existence presents one of the greatest mysteries Australia has ever seen; the geoglyph is so large that it is viewable from space, yet not a single witness can attest to its creation and to this day, its creator and the reason for its construction remain unknown.
The Marree Man geoglyph lies on a plateau of arid land, approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the tiny township of Marree (population = 60) in South Australia. Trevor Wright, a charter pilot, was flying between the townships of Marree and Coober Pedy on June 26, 1998, when he spotted the towering figure in the landscape below.
In the weeks following the discovery, several anonymous press releases suggested that the Marree Man was created by people from the United States. The releases quoted measurements in miles, yards and inches, instead of the metric system usually used in Australia. When the site was discovered, several items were found in a small pit near the figure. Officials discovered what appeared to be a satellite photo of the Marree Man, a jar containing a small flag of the US, and a note which referred to the Branch Davidians, a religious group infamous for the Waco raid in 1993.
These were the only man-made items found at the site. In January 1999, pubic officials received a strange fax from a hotel in Oxford, England. The fax discussed a plaque buried five meters south of the nose of the figure. The fax also said that the plaque was intended to have been dug up by a “prominent U.S. media figure” shortly before the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Similar clues were said to be buried near the Cerne Abbas giant near Dorset and the Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex, in England.
The plaque was discovered in the suggested location. It has a small American flag on it, with an imprint of the Olympic rings. The plaque reads: “In honor of the land they once knew. His attainments in these pursuits are extraordinary; a constant source of wonderment and admiration.” The quote on the plaque comes from a book, The Red Centre, by H.H. Finlayson, in a section describing the hunting of wallabies. The Red Centre also has photographs of hunters without loin cloths, which is the same depiction as the Marree Man.
The archeological site was closed shortly after the discovery of the figure, when some members of the Dieri tribe complained of harm and exploitation of the land. Certain people do believe that the geoglyph was created by an ancient civilization. The hand of the figure which is not throwing has the correct posture for the normal Aboriginal technique for throwing. The initiation scars on the chest were also placed perfectly. The creation of the Marree Man remains a mystery.
“There are so many aspects about it which are just mind boggling. The size, its shape, where it’s located, how it was done. On top of those things it was just an absolute herculean task, a major effort and it produced an extraordinary work of art.
“The most incredible thing is, we don’t know who did it.” Phil Turner, a local publican and vocal campaigner for the preservation of Marree Man, tells news.com.au.
Along with the mystery of who created Marree Man is the question of why.
Of course, there’s not a solid answer to this either but it’s certainly served its purpose over the years.
It’s widely recognised as the second largest geoglyph — a large design produced on ground — in the world.
Now, 18 years later, the Marree Man can no longer be seen on Google Earth.
Time and weather have taken their toll on the famous figure which has been gradually eroding.
According to The Advertiser, about 70 per cent of the geoglyph can still be seen on the ground.
But that’s not expected to last and it’s predicted the Marree Man will completely disappear within a year.
Before it started fading, it was a star attraction of charter flight tours around the region.
The region’s native title owners, the Arabana people, took ownership of the man with the Arabana Aboriginal
Corporation trademarking the term “Marree Man” for use on souvenirs, though the trademark was given up earlier
this year the Advertiser reports.