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A huge Hindu meditation symbol has been mysteriously plowed into a remote dry lake bed in the southeastern Oregon desert, a spokesman for the Idaho Air National Guard said Thursday.

The symbol, known as a sriyantra, measures about a quarter-mile across and is oriented to true north. It is precisely laid out in the Alvord Desert along a training run often used by Air Guard pilots, said Capt. Michael Gollaher of the 124th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Boise."Nobody is really saying this is a UFO-type thing," Gollaher said. "The word out at this time is that this is some type of manmade object.

"Most of the speculation is this is probably some sort of cult thing," he added. "Nobody can figure out why somebody would go to such effort to do this out in . . . nowhere."

The pictograph was first reported Aug. 10 by Lt. Col. Bill Miller, who returned Aug. 24 and photographed it from his RF-4C Phantom jet, said Gollaher. He said it's unlikely the design was built before the middle of July because pilots would have spotted it.

"The people in the photo-interpretation facility process the film and they say, `What is this, a hoax?"' Gollaher said. "And we say, `No, it isn't.' "

No one recognized it immediately, but one of the photo interpreters took a copy of the photograph home, where his wife, Alicia Gloeckle, identified it in her series of Time-Life books on the occult, Gollaher said.

The design is a square with T-shaped appendages on all four sides. Inside are three concentric circles. Inside those are two concentric circles of lotus leaves. Inside those are nine graduated triangles, four pointing one way and five pointing the opposite, all overlapping. At the very center is another circle.

"It's a focusing device in meditation," said Gollaher. "This particular one symbolizes the continuing of generations. It's a fertility type of thing, the continuation of the species and the Earth."

Sgt. Charlie Swindell, the non-commissioned officer in charge of photo quality assurance for the 190th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Boise, drove out to the site on U.S. Bureau of Land Management range land.

"It's beautifully done," Swindell said. "I would love to meet the person that did this."

Swindell said he measured the sriyantra to be 1,563 feet square.

"The circle in the center is 9 foot, 3 inches, with a one-inch deviation, which I consider to be a pretty doggone good circle," Swindell said.

Swindell said he found a number of surveying stakes at corners driven deep in the ground, with nails and pink plastic ribbons on them.

"Some of the architects around here said it would take $75,000 to $100,000 to survey it and lay it out," Swindell said.

He theorized that someone used a garden tractor or rototiller to plow the furrows. Such a machine could have folded over the earth to cover the tire tracks.

There was one motorcycle track through the design, apparently left by someone who never noticed what he was riding through, he added.