MARCH 24, 2015 5 PM ET // BY PATRICK J. KIGER
The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports that after a landslide in the municipality of San Francisco in Putamayo province, an anthropomorphic scar appeared on a hillside that some are saying is the face of Jesus.
"If you believe in Jesus you will see your image," Ximena Rosero Arango, one of the many people who have come to the site to photograph the mountain, told the newspaper.
Derrumbe de esta montaña en zona rural de San Francisco Putumayo, dejo una imagen que se asemeja al rostro de Jesus. pic.twitter.com/NTYyNsssU9— Jairo Figueroa (@JAIROFIGUEROAG) March 22, 2015
Some landowners are charging as much as 2,000 pesos -- 79 cents in U.S. currency -- for access to the supposedly miraculous phenomenon. It's also causing a sensation on Twitter and in the international media, with everyone from Time to the Irish Mirror and the Malaysia Chronicle picking up on the story.
The hillside joins a list of rock formations and other natural features around the world that at least vaguely resemble human faces. But the Colombian hillside has garnered more media connection because of its religious connection. There's also an underground rock formation in the Philippines that some think suggests the face on the Shroud of Turin. In 2010, the Telegraph, a British newspaper, and other publications reported that Jesus' likeness also could be seen in Google Maps overhead photo of a field on farmland near Puspokladany in Hungary.
Although some see these phenomena as miraculous, there's another possible explanation: Our minds are hard-wired by evolution to see them.
Neuroscientists have found that areas of the brain involved in visual processing -- in particular, the fusiform gyrus, the area that focuses upon facial recognition -- will fire up if a person sees details or shapes that suggest human features, even if they aren't actually human.
Beliefs may also influence perception. A study by Finnish researchers, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2012, found that subjects who were religious or believers in the paranormal are more likely to see a human face in artifacts or scenery than other people were.