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Crop circle overview

A phenomenon present throughout the world

Crop circles appear repeatedly in many countries and on all 5 continents (more than 80 countries) (1). Five were reported in 2008 in France. Although they don't appear in any particular locations in other countries, the UK is very uncommon in this respect. Every year a great proportion of its crop circles appear within a limited territory in South West England.

A “preferred” area: Wiltshire county, UK

  • This is where the oldest crop circle observations took place.
  • This is where dozens of crop circles appear every year in a very limited area around the megalithic site of Avebury (near Stonehenge), in Wiltshire county.
  • There are so many of them in this area that researchers can count on observing a great number of them every year.
  • It is also where the largest, most elaborate and most complex crop circle formations are found.

A long-established phenomenon...

Crop circles have been the object of numerous observations and studies since the early eighties but according to the collective memory of local farmers in the Wiltshire region, the phenomenon goes as far back as the beginning of the 20th century (2). An article published in “Nature” (science journal) in 1880 (more than a century ago) reports a detailed observation of a crop circle in the UK. Moreover, an English wood engraving from 1678 depicts what looks very much like a circle in a field of wheat. It was obviously interpreted in accordance with the religious beliefs of the time, as indicated by the illustration which shows a demon mowing the wheat.

...on all kinds of surfaces

Even if the design is often of much better quality on wheat fields or on barley fields, crop circles also appear on other grains such as canola, rye, corn, grass, beet and even on minerals like snow or ice at the surface of a lake etc. In Europe and in the UK in particular, the patterns carved in fields can stay visible until harvest i.e. from a few hours to several months depending on the farmer's reaction and of course also depending on the date it was created, from April through September.

A clear progression in represented patterns

England - Crawley Downs - July 1990
Photo © Lucy Pringle
England - Alton Barnes - July 1990
Photo © Lucy Pringle

Up until the eighties, crop circles were only circles or a set of circles. In the late eighties the design started to develop from sets of circles and straight lines to more complex patterns (photos 1 and 2).

Leaving aside the issue of those responsible for the crop circles and the techniques used to carve these patterns in fields, at first sight, they look plain and simple which tends to show that the techniques used were “relatively” simple as well.

We still remember the story of two retired men, Dave and Doug, who claimed in 1991 that they had created a number of crop circles and then went as far as to claim that they had created a great number of them. Unlikely as it sounds, the media picked up their story and spread the news that the mystery was solved. The budding interest that readers had shown in the phenomenon disappeared overnight. It was quite a blow and it sowed a great deal of confusion in people's minds for years and still does today.

Because the circular and straight line designs are indeed easy for a human to replicate, (if glanced at quickly and from a distance...) it does make sense for the creators of the “real” crop circles to uphold their originality by making more sophisticated and more complex patterns. This is what happened in the following years and this escalation continues nowadays with patterns ever more spectacular. There’s no doubt about it: the beauty and technical precision of certain patterns are absolutely stunning.

This being said, the evolution in the design was gradual. It is therefore likely that it took a period of time for the creators of these works of art to adjust.


1 :  Colin ANDREWS -

2 :  Colin ANDREWS et Stephen SPIGNESI - Crop Circles, signes et contacts : nouvelles révélations (Ed. Exclusif), p 65.

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