They found that many of the geoglyphs there have simple one-ring designs, while others are more complex.
One geoglyph they mapped has at least six rings designed in an irregular pattern, with smaller circles embedded inside larger circles so that the overall design looks a little like a swirl. Also, some of the geoglyphs contain rock piles called cairns located beside or within them, the archaeologists said.
The size of the geoglyphs varies considerably. The one ring geoglyphs tend to be between two to four meters (6.6 to 13.1 feet) in diameter while the multi-ring geoglyphs can sprawl over 800 square meters, about the size of two NBA basketball courts put together.
Most of the geoglyphs were made "by removing surface stones to expose the sandy soil below," the archaeologists wrote in a paper set to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
The scientists dated many of these geoglyphs to the Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1050 to 1400). During that time, Quilcapampa supported a 173-acre settlement that was a hub for trade, Jennings said. [Images: 14 Strangest Sites on Google Earth]
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Geoglyphs are not the only art the people of Quilcapampa were creating at that time. Numerous examples of rock art (called petroglyphs) that were etched onto the walls of cliffs have been documented near Quilcapampa in previous studies.
It's still a mystery why the people of Quilcapampa often used circles in geoglyph design; no writing system existed in Peru at that time to offer a possible explanation.
Jennings said that the team's mapping research shows that many of the geoglyphs are located beside or near pathways used in ancient trade.
During the period when Quilcapampa flourished, there was "much more interaction between the coast and the highland," Jennings said. The "circulation" of people and goods (including food) along these pathways was necessary for daily life - something the circular designs might symbolize, he added.
This summer, the researchers will resume their studies at Quilcapampa. The team's work is being supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration.
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Original article on Live Science.