'Desert Monkey King:' Is this Las Vegas mystery art or vandalism?

‘Desert Monkey King:’ Is this Las Vegas mystery art or vandalism?

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A newly discovered geoglyph on a bluff overlooking the valley could be considered old in Las Vegas terms, but new compared to other large human-made rock formations found in southern California and around the world. It’s a discovery that has locals and the government asking questions.

A geoglyph is loosely defined as “large line drawings that appear, from a distance, to be etched into Earth’s surface,” according to Britannica encyclopedia online. The most famous geoglyphs are the Nazca Lines in Peru, believed to have been made 2,000 years ago.

Here in the Las Vegas valley, the geoglyph creating buzz was created no more than five years ago. It is a large outline of what might be described as a human or monkey head wearing a turban-style hat, connected to a yin-yang symbol by a triangle outline.

The rock structure has even earned a name on Google maps from an anonymous contributor. It has been labeled as the “Desert Monkey King.”

A large geoglyph has been made on a bluff in the southwest Las Vegas valley overlooking the city. Feb. 28, 2023 (KLAS)

At least one person who lives less than a mile from the rock art told 8 News Now they had no idea it was there and no idea who created it. From its size, approximately 90 feet across and 60 feet tall, it took someone or several people a long time to make. Upon examining satellite images of the area it’s clear work on the structure began between January and March of 2018.

However, a satellite photo taken in Dec. 2022 shows the head with a sad face with downturned lips. But the new images 8 News Now took Monday now show a smiling face.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, better known as BLM, manages this public land. In Nevada, 67% of the land (48 million acres) is public and managed by BLM. The bureau’s mission is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

BLM did confirm the rock art is on land it manages. “Land art can be an important use of BLM-managed lands,” Kristen Cannon, BLM Public Affairs Specialist told 8 News Now. “The key is working with BLM first so that analysis can be done to ensure damage to natural and cultural resources doesn’t happen in the creation of art. Also, land art can increase visitation to an area, so proper site location and a permit are important.”

When asked what could be done by BLM to prevent this from happening in other locations Cannon said, “To meet our multiple use and provide resource protection, permits are issued for land art such as this.” Cannon added that “land art without permits has not been a major issue in Southern Nevada to date.”

In this instance, it is not known who made the geoglyph. “Since we can’t currently pinpoint who did this, we will add this to our workload queue to determine if/how the area will be reclaimed,” Cannon said.

There are other massive geoglyphs in the southwest United States. The ones that are best known are called the Blythe Intaglios and the Mojave Twins.

Blythe Intaglios

The Blythe Intaglios are located about 50 miles south of Lake Havasu City along the Colorado River. There are three sites where the large rock art can be seen. Each site has a human figure where rocks have been cleared away and two of them also have animal figures.

Blythe Intaglios (Images: Google Maps)

BLM manages the land where the Blythe Intaglios are located and even has a page on its website dedicated to them. BLM has built a fence around the three sites to protect them.

The largest human figure measures 171 feet from head to toe and it’s not known how old it is, only that its age is between 450 and 2,000 years old. “According to the Mohave and Quechans, natives to the lower Colorado River area, the human figures represent Mastamho, the Creator of all life,” BLM said on its website. “The animal figures represent Hatakulya, one of two mountain lions/persons who helped in the Creation. In ancient times, sacred ceremonial dances were held in the area to honor the creation.”

Mojave Twins

Mojave Twins (Images: Google Maps)

Bordering the town of Fort Mohave, Ariz. is the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, home to two large human figures drawn out in the rocks above the Colorado River. This is known as the Mojave Twins.

The Twins are not on BLM land or managed by the U.S. government. The land where the twins are located is the property of the tribe and is protected by a fence line marking the area off-limits.

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times Fort Mojave tribal elder Nora McDowell said the ancient figures are “a reminder of who we are.”

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