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A mysterious ancient stone circle formation of the Turpan Basin, northwestern China

Mysterious Stone Circles of Turpan Basin May be Bronze Age Sacrificial Sites to Solar Deity

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Approximately 200 mysterious stone circles dot the landscape in the hot and unforgiving Gobi Desert. These man-made stone formations sitting atop the sand near Turpan City in northwestern China may be up to 4,500 years old, suggest experts.

Huffington Post Science notes the stone formations are arranged in various designs of circles and squares, and it is reported that some of the circles are composed of rocks which aren’t native to the area, and may have been brought from far off for this specific purpose.

Lyu Enguo, a local archaeologist who has studied the circles says, “Across Central Asia, these circles are normally sacrificial sites,” reports Huffington Post Science.


Originally located in 2003 by archaeologists, excavations into and beneath the formations were conducted in hopes of finding burials, but no evidence of remains or artifacts were ever found. As a result, the Local Cultural Relic’s Bureau moved to protect the sites in 2013, fearing further excavations would damage the ancient circles.

Similar formations can be found in Mongolia, archaeologist at the University of Bristol, Dr. Volker Heyd tells MailOnline.

Some might have served as surface marking of burial places. Others, if not the majority, might denote holy places in the landscape, or places with special spiritual properties, or ritual offering/meeting places,
Heyd says.

Visible from the surrounding foothills, some of the markings are theorized to date to the Bronze Age, while other, more complex formations are likely to have been made during the medieval period.

Lyu tells Chinese news site CCTV, “Across Central Asia, these circles are normally sacrificial sites.... We could imagine that this was a site for worshiping the god of the sun because we know that the sun is round and the things around it are not round, they are shaped like rectangles and squares. […] In Xinjiang, the main god to worship in Shamanism is the god of the sun.”


As if the ancient stone circles weren’t enigmatic enough, they’re situated nearby the Flaming Mountains of the Turpan Basin. Characterized by blazing and dry heat, the sun makes daytime temperatures reach 50 °C (122 °F) or higher. As such the Flaming Mountains are said to be one of the hottest places on earth.

The red Flaming Mountains of the Turpan Basin, northwestern China.

The red Flaming Mountains of the Turpan Basin, northwestern China. Wikimedia Commons

It is interesting that and area with such a hot and harsh climate would be the location chosen by unknown ancient nomads to create hundreds of elaborate stone formations.

A gallery of images of the stone circles is available at ChinaDaily.

Featured Image:  A mysterious ancient stone circle formation of the Turpan Basin, northwestern China. Credit:

By Liz Leafloor  



I'm not buying the sacrificial idea either. What I see in the stone circles is a possible gathering place, like others noted, for either worship of some kind of function for who knows what purpose. Doesn't matter to me, I think they are very interesting without further explanation.

Circular structures contain energy. All of my vegetable and herb gardens at home are constructed within stone circles for the purpose that energy, the kind we know little about in this age we live in, is retained or amplified in circular structures.

Also, FWIW, Edgar Cayce mentioned in his readings an advanced civilization in the Gobi prior to the last ice age when it had a temperate wet climate and was forested. I don't trust the so-called science based dating methods we have, much of which is conjecture. These stone circles may be much, much older.

What evidence is there that this has anything to do with sacrifice? What evidence is there that the local climate was the same in the Bronze Age? What dateable artefacts link these to the Bronze Age?

wow, amazing find, thanks for the interesting post and photos
Trevor Barre

The scale of this structure is only a few meters, Charlene.

PhotoFr15's picture

I have read this article and looked at the pictures and I find it amazing that these scientiest have jumped in the sacrifical pond. It seems to me anything that is not “Christian” based is automatically thought to be heathern, pagan, or just evil. As a pagan I can tell you that I do not sacrifice any thing other than my time for my craft.

When I see these pictures I see a village that once was a thriving community.  The large circle in the center was a gathering place and that is all. Just because it is it doesn’t mean it was used for an evil purpose.  It just means it was there at one time.




Liz Leafloor is former Art Director for Ancient Origins Magazine. She has a background as an Editor, Writer, and Graphic Designer. Having worked in news and online media for years, Liz covers exciting and interesting topics like ancient myth, history,... Read More

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