Taklamakan Desert Dunes
The sand dunes of the Western Chinese Taklamakan desert were once filled with caravans traveling the Silk Road.
China's Taklamakan Desert
Though little remains, several kingdoms arose in the desert to support the Silk Road trade
Taklamakan Desert From Space
In 2010, physicist and amateur archaeologist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna began looking for traces of these lost kingdoms in satellite images
Sand Dune Pattern
In the dunes, she found a mysterious grid of dots laid out like a chessboard. The patterns spanned 4.8 miles (8 kilometers) across
Sand Dune Pattern Up Close
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.
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Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.