Examples of Desert Kites

Examples of Desert Kites

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Historians believe that the first kites were built in China about 3,000 years ago, using materials, such as bamboo and silk. (Image at right courtesy of clappingsimon.) Kites may have been brought from China to Japan and other Asian countries, historians say, as part of early religious festivals or ceremonies. In fact, the earliest significance of kites was primarily religious. They were widely considered to be useful for ensuring a good harvest or scaring away evil spirits. Throughout the years, as the popularity of kites spread from Asia to Europe and beyond, they became more widely known as children's toys and came to be used primarily as a leisure activity.

Eventually, scientists discovered that kites were also useful for conducting scientific experiments, particularly those involving weather and aerodynamics.

  • In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci discovered how to use a kite to span a river.
  • Leonardo da Vinci's method was later used, by 10-year-old Homan Walsh, in the construction of one of the world's first suspension bridges at Niagara Falls, New York.
  • In 1749, Scottish scientist Alexander Wilson used several kites, attached in a row, to measure and compare air temperature at different altitudes.
  • Benjamin Franklin used kites to pull boats, carriages, and sleds in experiments with traction and to experiment with electrical energy in the atmosphere.
  • In 1901, Gugliemo Marconi used a kite to help transmit the first trans-Atlantic wireless telegraph message.

Kite technology also led to the invention of the airplane, the parachute, and the helicopter. It may even have contributed to the U.S. victory during World War II. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Block used kites built by Lieutenant Paul Garber to practice shooting at moving targets and to pass important papers from ships to flying aircraft.

Even today, kites are not the exclusive province of children or enthusiastic amateur fliers. Adults around the world participate, individually and in teams, in kite-making and kite-flying competitions and in kite-powered buggy races. Those competitions are governed by strict rules and monitored by organizations, such as The American Kitefliers Association. Still other kite enthusiasts are involved in kite aerial photography. And each spring, the Smithsonian Institution holds a Kite Festival on the Mall near the Washington Monument, draws thousands of visitors to our nation's capital.

Diamond Kites In Action

Photo courtesy of Shital Shah

Here's an interesting shot of a train of small Diamonds. Just one of the kites has turned enough to catch the sun, and display its decoration.

Over the centuries since Diamond kites were first popular in Europe, they have been used for many practical purposes.

For example, aerial photography, meteorological observations and the transmission of long-range radio signals. In this regard, their history has a distinct similarity to the history of Box kites. Only Box kites came along much later, since the late 1800s, and did all these things better!

But what are diamond kites used for in the new Millennium? Just having fun, it seems!

Apart from a handful of hobbyists perhaps, the great majority of Diamonds these days are relatively small, colorful kites mainly marketed to children. That doesn't stop a few older kite nuts like yours truly flying them as well!

There is no end to the variety of decoration on the mass-produced Diamond kites. Actually, not all are mass produced.

A small percentage of the market is still supplied by dedicated and skillful kite-makers who offer true flying works of art. These custom kites cost a bit more, of course.

Due to the simplicity of the 2-stick kite, many people still make them from scratch at least once in their lives. One of these kites can be made quite sloppily and yet still be expected to fly, with some experimentation with the bridle attachment point. That's the beauty of a simple Diamond kite.

History of kites

It’s unclear when kites were invented. Many scholars believe that they were developed in China. Other evidence suggests that kites were used by cultures in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the South Pacific as fishing instruments made of natural materials like leaves and reeds. Anthropological evidence suggests that kites may have been independently developed in other areas, but these claims are not well documented.

In 450 BC, famous Chinese philosopher Mo-tse spent three years carefully crafting a wooden bird to fly on a tethered line. There is some debate on whether this reference is considered a kite.

The earliest written account of kite flying is in China in 200 BC, supporting China’s claim to the origin of the kite. The Chinese General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the defenses.

By the 13 th Century, kite flying had spread by traders from China to Korea and across Asia to India and the Middle East. Each area developed a distinctive style of kite and cultural purpose for flying them.

Spread to Europe

In the late 13 th century, European explorer, Marco Polo, describes in his book (1295) kites and their man-lifting capabilities after seeing Chinese merchants using kites to determine whether a voyage would be prosperous or not.

Kite flying spread throughout Europe between 14 th and 15 th Centuries with mentions by Vasco da Gama, Giovanni Della Porta, and William Shakespeare.

Sailors also brought kites back from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Kites were regarded as curiosities at first and had little impact on European culture.


In the 18th century, kites continued to increase in popularity among children. However, it was the use of kites by physicists and meteorologists that spurred the development of kites for scientific purposes. Some of the most famous are Alexander Wilson & Thomas Melville (U-Glasgow), who made the 1st recorded weather experiments using kites in 1749, Benjamin Franklin (USA), and De Romas (France) begin conducting electrical experiments with kites in 1752-3. It wasn’t until late in the 1800s that kites were used regularly for meteorological observation.

During the 19 th century, kites were used not only for scientific purposes like studying weather and understanding the atmosphere but for lifting (lifting objects like cameras, thermometers, and people) and traction (using kites to pull things like carriages).

One of the strangest uses of kite power was developed in 1822 by George Pocock, a U.K. schoolmaster. Pocock created a carriage pulled by a pair of arch-top kites. His “char-volant” was capable of speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. The kites were flown in tandem and steered by four independent lines. Since the road toll was based on the number of horses pulling a carriage, this horseless rig was ruled exempt from road tolls because no animals were used.

In 1903, Samuel Franklin Cody, using a train of his patented Cody Kites and a collapsible 14-foot canoe, crossed the English Channel from Calais France to Dover, England, in just under four hours.


Many of the experiments and developments during the 1800s led directly to the eventual development of the powered airplane and transatlantic wireless communications in the early 20 th century.

The Wright Brothers were skilled at kite flying, and it was their years of kite flying that directly led to the invention of their airplane. One day while flying box kites at Kitty Hawk, the brothers discovered that the kites provided enough lift to be able to lift a man off the ground.

In August of 1899, they built a biplane kite, also known as a warping kite. They discovered that by varying the position of the four lines attached near the kite’s extremities, they could simulate the twisting of the wings of a soaring bird. This twisting they called wing-warping lateral control, a method that was to characterize Wright’s airplane for years to come.

In 1901, Alexander Graham Bell developed a prototype of his tetrahedral kite, a three-dimensional rigid kite that, when connected together, can be built to any size without having to have thicker and stronger sticks as the kite grows bigger.

Bell’s tetrahedral kite would eventually be used to lift as much as 288 pounds and would be the basis of future powered “aerodromes.”


The invention of the powered airplane is not the end of the use of kites. During World War, I (1914-1918), the British, French, Italian, and Russian armies all had kite units for enemy observations and signal corps. In World War II (1939-1945), the U.S. Navy found uses for kites such as Harry Saul’s Barrage Kite (anti-aircraft), the Gibson-Girl Box Kite (air rescue), and Paul Garber’s Target Kite (target practice and aircraft recognition).


Since World War II, two kite innovations, Francis Rogallo’s flexi-wing (1948) and Domina Jalbert’s parafoil (1964) kites, have helped develop the modern hang-gliders and sports parachutes respectively.

Rogallo had originally invented the Flexi-wing (also referred to as the Rogallo wing) with the idea to create an aircraft that would be simple enough and inexpensive enough that anyone could have one. In 1952, he used the newly developed Mylar material and created the five-dollar toy “Flexikite.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Rogallo worked with NASA to utilize his design (renamed the Parawing) as an alternative recovery system for the Gemini space capsules. NASA ultimately went with round parachutes, but Rogallo’s design has inspired numerous hang-glider designs.

Another design developed during the 1960s was by Domina Jalbert, who invented a ram-air double-surfaced fully flexible airfoil. This invention would profoundly change kiting, parachuting, and hang-gliding. All parafoils owe their roots to Jalbert’s “Multi-cell Wing Type Aerial Device.”


Until the early 1600s, kites were typically used for the amusement of adults. But illustrations started emerging of kids playing with pear-shaped kites around 1618, and kites continued to increase in popularity among children until today.

In 1972, Peter Powell introduced a toy dual-line stunter, and the public began to fly kites not only for fun but also for sport. Millions of his kites were sold, and flying steerable kites became a craze in the mid-󈨊s. The popularity of all types of multiple-line kite flying today can be attributed directly to Powell’s development of a modern dual-line kite.

Enthusiasts experimented with new designs for the stunt kite, based in part on the work of Rogallo and Jalbert. These kites could fly precise maneuvers, go faster, or perform intricate tricks.

Being able to do precise maneuvers with a controllable kite gave birth to sport kite competitions. Starting in the early 1970s and continuing today, sport kite competitions are held all over the world. Kite pilots compete in areas of discipline such as ballet, precision, and also together as a team.

In the 1980s, sport kite development utilized new materials such as carbon/fiberglass tubes and rip-stop nylon. Two of the most influential kite developments during this time can be attributed to Don Tabor, who introduced the “Hawaiian” team kite in 1982, and Joseph Hadzicki, who developed and patented the quad-line controllable kite in 1988.


In the mid-1980s, the modern kite field began to transform with large themed kites and traction sports.

One of the most influential kitemakers and designers during this time is Peter Lynn of New Zealand. Starting in 1985, Peter began developing large inflatable theme kites and developing the first practical three-wheeled kite buggy. Along with his C-Quad single-skin semi-rigid traction kite, this helped launch a whole new traction sport such as buggy races and cross-country events. Peter Lynn has also been credited with producing the world’s largest kites numerous times.

Throughout the 1990s and continuing today, Kite Surfing has become a legitimate extreme sport. Combining kite flying and surfing skills, kite pilots take to the water with specifically designed airfoils that provide tremendous lift and enable their fliers to perform amazing acrobatics.

Kites of the Desert

Where would you go if you invented a time travel machine? In the desert of western Saudi Arabia, you can visit the past without leaving the present. There you’ll find a collection of ancient rock structures. Called “the works of old men” by native Bedouins, these geoglyphs (large designs on the ground) serve as reminders of mysterious yesteryears.

Formed by dry-stone walls, these designs are so huge that they can be seen only from a bird’s eye view. Although they’ve been around for millennia, it wasn’t until the 1920s that airplane pilots first brought these structures into public awareness. The recent availability of aerial photos through Google Earth has created renewed interest.

Two common motifs are a wheel and a kite. They are thought to date back as far as the Neolithic Era (approximately 15,200 to 2,000 BCE). Their age makes them hundreds of years older than the Nazca lines in Peru, which were formed by the removal of stones rather than the careful placement of them.

We may know how old these desert kite structures are, but what purpose did they serve? A popular theory is that they played a role in hunting wild game, probably the extinct Persian gazelle. Because the tails of the kites can be several kilometers long, gradually narrowing into smaller triangular enclosures, scholars believe that the shapes at the end of the funnels could have trapped moving herds.

Interestingly, 95 percent of the kites found further north in Jordan narrow from southeast to northwest, which would have been the seasonal migration path for most animals. Some enclosures also had circular attachments several meters across called blinds that might have held hunters or their prey.

Historic Significance

An intriguing theory that explains why each kite had several blinds also highlights a turning point in human history. Possibly, the circular structures were pens for holding captured animals until the family needed to eat them. This imprisonment would mark the first step toward domesticating animals. Perhaps several families each had its own pen, signifying organized collaborative effort among a community that settled for a length of time in one location.

Counting Kites

The location of these kites across the Middle East is extensive. Numbering over 2,000, they can be found from northern Syria all the way through the Arabian peninsula to Yemen. One scholar who has studied those in Jordan estimated that their total length is 3,780 kilometers (2,849 miles), which adds up to half the stone volume of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

In Saudi Arabia, they are concentrated in the ancient lava-field region known as Harrat Khaybar, located in the western half of the country. Now an arid landscape of hardened basaltic lava, the wetter climate would have supported vegetation during the time of the kites’ construction.

Perhaps the stones formed a foundation for the insertion of poles and branches. The resulting fence could therefore have secured large animals using readily available materials.


A fear among those who study these mysterious structures is that they will disappear before we can truly understand them. For example, comparing aerial photographs of the Jordanian landscape of the 1950s with the present day reveals that agricultural development has destroyed dozens of kites. As a result, scientists are working diligently to catalog as much information as possible.

New Discovery

In 2017, this research effort led to the discovery of an entirely new motif in the Harrat Khaybar, a long rectangle, called a gate. Totaling almost 400 in number and ranging from 13 to 518 meters long, these gates could be as old as 9,000 years. Although many details can be explored through Google Earth, archaeologists are going to need to examine them in the field in order fully to decipher their secrets.

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The Keimoes kite landscape of the trans-Gariep, South Africa

Here we present the recently discovered desert kites of South Africa in terms of landscape-based data derived from LiDAR scanning that enable us to compare the morphometric and topographic characteristics of the individual kite funnels. We report on a least-cost-path analysis, and use both older and younger ethno-historical and ethno-archaeological observations to help understand possible animal and human interaction with the Keimoes kite landscape. Our results highlight the hunters’ understanding of animal behaviours and migration patterns, and the minimum requirements for funnel construction. We show that all the sites were constructed within 2 km of seasonal water pans, and that elevation relative to the surrounding landscape was key to the placement of the kites. We further found that the Keimoes kite landscape was probably one of complex inter-connectedness, with dynamic human land-use patterns interlaced with concepts of inheritable custodianship across generations. The Keimoes kite funnels are most similar to those of the Negev Desert in the Levant, and demonstrate (against long-held opinion) that southern African hunter-gatherers in arid regions intentionally modified their landscape to optimise the harvesting of ungulates such as migrating gazelle—in this case the local, desert-adapted Springbok. Our landscape approach provides a nuanced understanding of these features within the southern African context.

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Addressing the Desert Kites Phenomenon and Its Global Range Through a Multi-proxy Approach

This paper argues that the wide geographical distribution of desert kites, which are huge archaeological structures of stone visible from satellite images, must be more broadly acknowledged as a momentous factor in the study of their variability and function. This is important so that researchers can more accurately understand and interpret their impact on biodiversity, landscapes and subsistence patterns. The first results and perspectives of the Globalkites research project are discussed and presented. Often considered as hunting traps, the kites could have also been used for animal husbandry. In a broader archaeological context, where kites seem to have been operating from the Neolithic to recent historical times, we propose an interdisciplinary approach at the crossroads of anthropology (archaeology and ethnology), geomatics and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geostatistics, mathematics and computerized data processing and geoarchaeological and bioarchaeological sciences (isotope studies, paleoclimatology, archaeozoology…). The principal aims of the project are to clearly articulate the variability of the structures and their relationship with the function and chronology of the kites. It is also crucial to discuss the wide distribution of these structures across the Middle East and Central Asia as a global phenomenon and the ideas that explain the dispersal and movements of people and/or traditions must be addressed.

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The Middle East Is Dotted With Thousands of Puzzling Kite-Shaped Structures

Saudi Arabia

In late 2017, it was announced that 400 elongated, stone-built structures, some the size of football fields, had been seen within Saudi Arabia’s inhospitable Harrat Khaybar, one of several volcanic fields (harrats) scattered throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The identification of these so-called “gates,” some of which may be up to 9,000 years old, generated significant media coverage. According to the New York Times, “Google Earth has unlocked the gates to ancient mysteries around the world,” with these recently discovered structures, largely classified via satellite imagery, being the latest example of the power of archaeology from above.

These gates, however, are just one chapter of a far grander tale, one involving wild animals, climate change, volcanic eruptions, and a society of people whose identities are still highly elusive. “What’s really fascinating to me,” says Michael Petraglia, professor of human evolution and prehistory at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, “is that structures like these occur throughout the Middle East.” In other words, the gates aren’t the only notable ancient constructions of this ilk in the region. These other enormous stone structures, comparable in size to the famous Nazca lines in the Andes, are known as “kites.”

Harrat Khaybar, as seen from the Expedition 16 crew aboard the International Space Station in March 2008. NASA

Thanks to aerial surveys, satellite imagery, and reports by those on the ground, researchers know that there are thousands of kites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and even as far afield as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Over time, it has emerged that the origin story of the kites stretches across many thousands of years of ancient human history, but three major questions remain: What were they used for, how old are they, and who built them?

Although these structures have been spoken of for some time by people who still live in the region, one of the first known written descriptions of them comes courtesy of the British Royal Air Force’s Flight-Lieutenant Percy Maitland, who serendipitously saw them a few years after the end of the First World War.

By the 1920s, much of the Middle East had been carved up in an agreement between the British and the French. While attempting to fend off revolts and revolutions in Iraq and Egypt, the RAF continued to fly between Baghdad and Cairo, to both chart the region and to deliver the post.

In an aerial surveillance report from 1927, Maitland describes seeing stone walls, both in lines and in radiating, more circular patterns, around 120 miles east of the Dead Sea in old lava fields. The nomadic Bedouin, he says, call them “The Works of the Old Men.” Maitland says that the structures are “very complicated and difficult to understand.” He mentions that the Arabs attribute them to Christians, which implies they are pre-Islam. “They certainly have the appearance of being of great antiquity,” he writes. The RAF came to call these structures “kites, because that’s what they looked like from above.

The Globalkites team working on the ground near a kite. Globalkites Project, R. Crassard

Over time, archaeologists began probing these kites up close. It became clear that they came in all shapes and sizes, and are often found with artifacts, ranging from cattle-depicting rock art to stone tools. Some feature cairns, which are potentially funereal structures. Describing many of them as “substantial,” Petraglia explains that there’s been a lot of time and effort dedicated to them. “There’s a real community-level feel to all these kites,” he says.

Rémy Crassard, an archaeologist at the French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences in Kuwait, explains that in the 1990s, just a few hundred kites were estimated to exist. Now, we know that there are at least 6,000, from Saudi Arabia to the Sinai Peninsula. This is thanks to not just aerial surveys, but initiatives like the Globalkites project, of which Crassard is the leader, which studies the structures using both satellite imagery and fieldwork.

It turns out that the densest concentration of kites can be found in the Syrian and Jordanian part of the Fertile Crescent, a once-wet and vegetation-dense part of the region where some of humanity’s first civilizations arose. The density of kites decreases as you head into Armenia and Turkey, and up through Central Asia, although it’s not clear why this is the case.

The ages of the kites have long been ambiguous, but volcanic activity may provide a clue here. Károly Németh, an associate professor of geology at New Zealand’s Massey University, explains that the slow tearing apart (or rifting) of the region has fueled much of the volcanic activity in this part of the Middle East, and has produced numerous harrats which are home to many of the kites.

A kite from above. Globalkites Project, E. Regagnon

Today, seen from space, the harrats look positively Martian. They are pockmarked with small volcanic hills named scoria cones, frozen lava lakes, and explosively-generated pits named maar craters. Geochemical compositions vary, meaning the fields can be as dark as night or near-perfectly white.

Some harrats date back 30 million years, long before humanity made its debut. Conversely, in gate-riddled Harrat Khaybar, lava was still flowing until just 1,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that people lived alongside these later eruptions, with some of these structures having actually had lava flow over them. This means that loose ages of some of them could be ascertained.

Crassard and his colleagues, considering this option, hoped to nevertheless get a more precise chronology. To wit, they dug around in some of the pits found within these kites, and uncovered plenty of animal remains.

Using multiple dating methods, they found that some of the kites in Jordan date back to the Neolithic period, maybe as early as 9,000 years ago. They are “much older than we expected,” Crassard explains. He adds that, as these kites get further away from the Fertile Crescent, they also appear to get younger.

These pits also hinted at what may be, in many cases, the kites’ purpose. In Arabia, Crassard’s team found gazelle remains in Armenia, donkeys and goats and in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, saiga. They suspected that these kites were used by hunters to corral and trap herds of animals, and when they got stuck in those pits, they couldn’t get out, and were slaughtered en masse.

This idea has been suggested before by other researchers, based on other archaeological evidence. For example, kites in Jordan seem oriented in such a way in which to intercept animal migration toward Syria. There are also eyewitness accounts of explorers, including the adventurer John Burckhardt, who in an 1831 tome describes a gazelle hunt in what was probably Syria. The people scared the gazelle into these kites, he wrote, sometimes by the hundreds. It’s also possible that cattle were simply confined within these kites, much like they are on farms today.

Petraglia, however, notes that the region’s kites aren’t all designed to one specification. Some have a very standardized function, while others are quite superficially distinct. Crassard agrees, explaining that his Globalkites team has used statistical and mathematical models to map things the kites do or do not have in common with each other. Details will be revealed in upcoming publications, but it’s clear that although many are idiosyncratic, similarities in their designs are frequent.

A kite from above, taken from a balloon with a camera attached. Globalkites Project, O. Barge

Clues to their design may reside in the shifting climate, which changed dramatically while the kites were built.

Petraglia is part of the Palaeodeserts project, which is documenting one million years of environmental change in the Arabian Desert. He explains that from 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, humans there lived in the Early Holocene Wet Phase. Back then, the area was peppered with oases. It was more humid, a time marked by more rainfall, more lakes, and, says Petraglia, a “whole network of rivers across Arabia.” Vegetation was a common sight, and agriculture and animal husbandry were practiced by pastoralists and sedentary people. “It was a much richer environment, in terms of resources,” he adds.

Hugo Murcia, a geologist at the University of Caldas in Colombia, notes that the volcanic debris left behind here clearly shows magma interacting with water—another clear sign that the area was once flowing with the stuff. “You can only imagine how beautiful these volcanoes would have been during the wet periods, with rivers and animals weaving around them,” says Petraglia.

More significantly, previous archaeological work has revealed that these kites are at least as old as the transition period from this wet phase to the contemporary hyper-arid phase. That suggests that the function of these structures may have changed over time as humans adapted to the changing environment—but at present, it’s extremely difficult to say how.

“We haven’t told that story at all,” Petraglia says.

Volcanic cones and lava flows made from basalt. Károly Németh

It doesn’t help, of course, that we still have no real idea who built the kites in the first place. Although it’s a huge misconception that people simply disappeared when the sand dunes arrived—people have always been living in Arabia, Petraglia emphasizes—the identities of the “Old Men” that Maitland referenced remain unknown.

Lava tubes, underground caverns formed by lava flows, also criss-cross throughout the region, and Petraglia hints that human remains might be found in some of them. These potential tombs are going to be excavated by Petraglia and his colleagues for the first time in early 2019, possibly shedding some light on this archaeological gap.

When asked who may have lived near the oldest kites, Crassard suggests that perhaps they were nomads, who came to these increasingly arid regions when animal prey migrated through the area. Alternatively, those hunters may have lived there all the time. “We have no idea,” he says.

Volcanic landforms being slowly eroded over time through wind and rain. Karoly Nemeth

The gates are perhaps even older than the kites: Although they remain segregated from the kites, there is at least one instance of a kite tangled up and perhaps sitting atop a gate. Like the kites, the gates are clearly visible from space they were initially spotted by the Desert Team, a group of Saudi amateur archaeologists, via satellite imagery. This was then followed up by work led by David Kennedy, a professor of archaeology at the University of Western Australia, who wrote in his November 2017 paper that these gates were found exclusively within “bleak, inhospitable lava fields.” Little else is known about them.

Huw Groucutt, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology, calls the gates both “very interesting” and “very strange.” He says he “cannot see any clear ‘functional’ purpose, so surely they are some kind of site where ritual activities of some kind took place,” but adds, “who knows what those could be.”

The only way forward for both the gates and kites is to conduct more systematic fieldwork of all kinds. “The area is one of the most amazing archaeological, volcanological, and cultural sites in the world,” Németh says. “It’s also under-researched.”

Important advances about the kites have certainly been made over the last few decades but compared to the hundreds of archaeological endeavors taking place in, say, Europe at any one time, there’s a pitiful amount happening in Arabia, says Petraglia. “The media might like to call the structures ‘mysterious’,” he explains, “but that’s just because archaeologists haven’t done their work yet.”

The Roller Kite

Not a super-popular design now, but there are people out there who really love their Rollers!

The Roller kite has its roots in pre-War Germany. It's an efficient light wind kite that can be adjusted for flying in stronger winds.

With its tail-less design and steep flying angles, this kite is handy for flying in confined areas.

Our MBK Rollers are reliable fliers, based on the Pearson Roller, with the 2-Skewer one quite capable of going overhead on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. Despite its very modest size. The even smaller 1-Skewer design once caught the eye of a German blogger who marveled at how a Roller could be so cheap!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Roller kites are more liked and well known in Germany and other parts of Europe than elsewhere on the planet. After all, that's where the basic concept originated.

Sahara Desert Was Once Lush and Populated

At the end of the last Ice Age, the Sahara Desert was just as dry and uninviting as it is today. But sandwiched between two periods of extreme dryness were a few millennia of plentiful rainfall and lush vegetation.

During these few thousand years, prehistoric humans left the congested Nile Valley and established settlements around rain pools, green valleys, and rivers.

The ancient climate shift and its effects are detailed in the July 21 issue of the journal Science.

When the rains came

Some 12,000 years ago, the only place to live along the eastern Sahara Desert was the Nile Valley. Being so crowded, prime real estate in the Nile Valley was difficult to come by. Disputes over land were often settled with the fist, as evidenced by the cemetery of Jebel Sahaba where many of the buried individuals had died a violent death.

But around 10,500 years ago, a sudden burst of monsoon rains over the vast desert transformed the region into habitable land.

This opened the door for humans to move into the area, as evidenced by the researcher's 500 new radiocarbon dates of human and animal remains from more than 150 excavation sites.

"The climate change at [10,500 years ago] which turned most of the [3.8 million square mile] large Sahara into a savannah-type environment happened within a few hundred years only, certainly within less than 500 years," said study team member Stefan Kroepelin of the University of Cologne in Germany.

Frolicking in pools

In the Egyptian Sahara, semi-arid conditions allowed for grasses and shrubs to grow, with some trees sprouting in valleys and near groundwater sources. The vegetation and small, episodic rain pools enticed animals well adapted to dry conditions, such as giraffes, to enter the area as well.

Humans also frolicked in the rain pools, as depicted in rock art from Southwest Egypt.

In the more southern Sudanese Sahara, lush vegetation, hearty trees, and permanent freshwater lakes persisted over millennia. There were even large rivers, such as the Wadi Howar, once the largest tributary to the Nile from the Sahara.

"Wildlife included very demanding species such as elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, and more than 30 species of fish up to 2 meters (6 feet) big," Kroepelin told LiveScience.


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