The sand dunes of the Western Chinese Taklamakan desert were once filled with caravans traveling the Silk Road.
Though little remains, several kingdoms arose in the desert to support the Silk Road trade
In 2010, physicist and amateur archaeologist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna began looking for traces of these lost kingdoms in satellite images
In the dunes, she found a mysterious grid of dots laid out like a chessboard. The patterns spanned 4.8 miles (8 kilometers) across
By looking at old satellite images and news reports, Sparavigna learned that large nickel reserves had been found in the area. She deduced that the strange dots were drilling holes for geological surveys done before mining
Another Google Earth view of the strange grid patterns found in China's desert.
A closer view of the desert pattern reveals what appears as bands of dots.