Back in 1998, a local pilot flying over South Australia’s isolated desert region got the surprise of his life when he looked down and spied a gigantic Aboriginal man holding a throwing stick, apparently out hunting.
The giant just happened to be a geoglyph – a large design created on the desert floor. It measured 4.2 kilometers tall and 28 kilometers at its perimeter, making it the largest single geoglyph in the world.
Just how large is it? It can be seen from the air above 3,000 feet!
The humongous hunter is located 60 kilometers just west of the town of Marree, earning it the moniker, the Marree Man.
The question is, where did the Marree Man suddenly come from?
Other geoglyphs discovered around the world have been dated as being created by various ancient civilizations. The Marree Man is a recent artwork, however.
The outline was formed by scraping the vegetation and soil to reveal the darker striation of land underneath. Experts surmise the Marree Man may have taken between four to eight weeks to complete and was created using a GPS-assisted bulldozer.
Unfortunately, no one witnessed its creation – not with the remoteness of the vast South Australian desert! Also, neither has anyone come forward to admit they’re the artist.
This makes the Marree Man one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century.
When the site was investigated, a number of items were discovered in a shallow pit near the geoglyph: a satellite photo of the figure, a jar containing a small U.S. flag, and a note referencing Branch Davidian, a cult infamous for figuring in the 1993 Waco raid.
Police further discovered one track entering and another track exiting the site.
Just after the discovery, someone sent several anonymous press releases to the media hinting the Marree Man was created by people from the United States. The press releases pointed out the use of certain measurement units, like “feet” and “inches,” not used in Australia.
It also indicated phrases such as “local Indigenous Territories,” “Queensland Barrier Reef,” and “your State of SA” that showed they were written by non-Australians. However, the press releases may also have been a ploy to redirect suspicion.
Someone, suspected as the artist, sent a fax naming the geoglyph as “Stuart’s Giant,” giving the Marree Man another moniker.
A.k.a. Stuart’s Giant.
In 1999, an anonymous tipster faxed officials directing them to a plaque buried just five meters south of the figure.
When it was dug up, the resulting plaque embossed with an American flag, the Olympic rings had a quote on it taken from “The Red Centre,” an H.H. Finlayson book.
The quote referenced Finalayson’s description of Aborigines hunting wallabies with throwing sticks:
In honour of the land they once knew. His attainments in these pursuits are extraordinary; a constant source of wonderment and admiration.
Was the Marree Man created by a group of activists protesting the marginalization of Australian Aborigines?
Aerial view of the Marree Man in 2002.
So many theories exist surrounding the Marree Man. Some say the Australian Defence Force created it with a bulldozer allegedly seen around the area, an allegation the ADF denies.
Some say it was created as a goodbye gift by American servicemen deployed at the Australian Space Research Institute at Woomera.
Still others suspect Northern Territory artist, Bardius Goldberg, who was known for expressing interest in creating artworks visible from space.
An image from NASA showing Marree Man from space.
Goldberg neither confirmed or denied this. Even when a close friend said the artist was paid $10,000 to create the Marree Man.
Unfortunately, Goldberg passed away before this could be confirmed.
The local government has since closed the site after the Dieri tribe with lands east of Marree called for the geoglyph’s erasure.
The Dieri claimed it harmed and exploited the Dreamtime. They took legal action to prevent vehicles and charter flights to the area.
Meanwhile the Environment minister declared the work to be “environmental vandalism,” and the South Australian chief of Aboriginal affairs called it “graffiti.”
The Marree Man remains an outstanding piece of artwork, despite its detractors.
The hunting figure is etched 20 to 30 centimeters deep and 35 meters wide into the topsoil.
Using a 2.5 meter wide bulldozer, the unidentified artist may have made 14 passes which would total up to 400 kilometers and use more than 300 liters of fuel.
The gigantic Marree Man is a work of art that took herculean effort!
Beautifully rendered and well-proportioned, experts believe the artist used a computer to superimpose the drawing over an aerial or satellite map of the desert, and used the most ideal flat location for the geoglyph.
This would involve mapping out latitude and longitude coordinates and using proficient surveying skills to plot the outline over the desert terrain aided by a hand-held GPS device.
The artist may also have used stakes every hundred meters or so to plot where the bulldozer would dig.
Despite this meticulous planning, the artist or artists didn’t dig that deep into the outline they created. The bulldozer they used only gauged up the desert’s red soil but didn’t reach the white chalky layer found underneath.
He simply faded away, slowly.
The white chalk layer would have made the image last longer. By 2015, the Marree Man’s slowly eroding outline couldn’t be detected via Google Earth.
In 2016, locals undertook work to restore the fading Marree Man. They labored for five days in August, ploughing back the sand to expose the original outline, and bring “Stuart’s Giant” back to life while rekindling tourist fascination for this mysterious Aboriginal hunter.
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