Photographic detection of the Martian Stone Age items




Martian objects have been measured utilizing geometry recovery software, and their physical models were built.

Being Stone Age tools is the most likely interpretation of these objects.



Issues of remote sensing and photometry have come up in a dramatic way in the Martian exploration. The available Martian imagery apparently has stone tools pictured. Has been the life on Mars [3,4] as advanced as to produce a civilization?


A Sol 14 PANCAM object 2P127604438EFF0309P2543L3M1/R3M1 [1], with apparent “square” hole, has attracted attention right away. The average object distance from the camera is 2.1 m. Here are the red-cyan anaglyph and a stereo pair.

Figure 1. Anaglyph of the axe



Map of the object based on its left side, have been recovered by the MARSOMETRY program [4].

Figure 3.  Position map, based on the left side of stone axe. Each point adornment has: point number on the left, left eye pixel position on the right, relative position in millimeters at the bottom, and height at the top.


A half-size model of the object has been built, reflecting the measurements and images.

Figure 4. Model of the axe

The object appears to be a stone axe of 140x120x100 mm, with almost square hole for the handle of about 20x30 mm.

The lower part of its edge has been damaged, apparently by chopping too hard on plants or stones.


A second example is Sol 165 Spirit PANCAM object 2P141007949EFF6938P2377L7M1/R1M1. The average object distance from the camera is 2.1 m. Here is a red-cyan anaglyph of the object.

Figure 5. Anaglyph of the digging tool


A map, based on the plane of the triangle - has been recovered by MARSOMETRY program [4].

Figure 6. Altitude map of the digging tool


A full-size model of the object has been built, reflecting the measurements and images.

Figure 7. Model of the digging tool


The object appears to be a digging tool with almost equilateral shape of its blade, 85 mm side, and with 30x50x210 mm handle. It apparently was not properly cleaned and stored.


Precision of recovered geometry is critical for the credibility of modeling and interpretation. The MARSOMETRY produces distribution of possible point position errors, resulting from granularity and resolution of the processed pixel image [5]. Method used to produce these is digital experiments, with picture measurement error assumed to be 0.5 of the pixel size.

Figure 8. Probability distributions of the position errors, having same average position error 1.5 mm; max error is 4 mm for the axe, 4.5 mm for the digging tool.


The error distributions are practically the same due to same distance to and similar size of the objects.

The precision is sufficient for the purpose of modeling. 




Yet greater analytical challenge is represented by group of the incredible images of apparent mysterious creature, taken by Spirit around Sol 87. The data granularity and resolution do not allow in this case for full recovery of the object’s geometry, since pictures has been taken by NAVCAM from distances 14 m and above. However, the stereo pair 2N134093154EFF2300P1846L0M1/R0M1 provides pretty convincing overview, showing figure in a trench, clearly separated from its environment, while itself being tightly held together.


Figure 9. Anaglyph of the mysterious figure


The measurements made using MARSOMETRY, show that this figure is at a distance of 14–15.5 m from Rover, which translates into diameter 17-19 cm for the 16 pixel head, and the height 45-50 cm for the 42 pixel visible upper body of the figure. Whether it is a real Martian or a statue, one can’t opine at this point. It did not move for 2 Sols, enough for that movement to be easily detectible.

What is important in context of this discussion, the dimensions of figure are consistent with the dimensions of stone tools that we analyze.




Author is extremely grateful to the team of Stereo Photo Maker [2], the stereo pictures being critical for ability to go beyond pure guessing about Martian images.

Deep gratitude goes to NASA for making this work and much more possible - by taking magnificent pictures of the Mars surface, and generously providing full public access to them.



1. NASA image gallery,

2. Stereo Photo Maker,

3. Zeltsman, A. (2005) Visual Detection of life on Mars? Marsbugs, 12(20):2-3

4. Zeltsman, A. (2005) Searching For the biological objects on Mars.  Marsbugs, 18(26):10-11

5. Bell III J. F. et al.  (2003) The Mars Exploration Rover Athena Panoramic Camera (Pancam) Investigation, J. Geophys. Res., Special issue on the Mars Exploration Rover mission, 73,83