When people think of the Ural Mountains, if they’ve heard of them at all, they think of the generally accepted boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. But there’s a lot more going on in those mountains than a simple geographical border. Here are four fascinating facts about the Ural Mountains.

The Mountains Contain a Geoglyph That Predates the Nazca Lines

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Ancient people drawing lines in the dirt with rocks is generally a practice associated with the Nazca Lines, huge geoglyphs found in southern Peru. But the Ural Mountains contain a geoglyph that could be as much as five and a half thousand years older than the ones in South America, though it was most likely built in the Eneolithic Period (the third and fourth millennia B.C.). It’s in the rough shape of an elk and sits at 900 feet long, with walls and passageways between different sections of the geoglyph. It was most likely built by the same megalithic culture whose structures dot the entire mountain range. Speaking of, the geoglyph’s contemporary megalithic structures are worth checking out, with so many across the mountain range that most aren’t signed or cordoned off.

The Mountain Range is a Hotspot for UFO Enthusiasts

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The first alien encounters in the Ural Mountains, for lack of a better way to put it, were recorded in the 18th century during the development of mountain industry and continue to modernity. The earliest stories were mostly about “strange fireballs” while modern stories include a 1980 crash and the discovery of two biological creatures in the wreckage. UFO reports cover everything you’ve heard before, including standard flying saucers, cigar-shaped aircraft, and flying pyramids. Obviously there are degrees to how seriously people take these stories, but that doesn’t stop thousands of people from traveling there to see for themselves.

The Urals Have Some of the Richest Mineral Reserves in the World

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A common stereotype for Russian aristocracy, especially before the Russian Revolution, is of the women of ridiculously wealthy families wearing huge gemstones. Russian families didn’t have to travel that far to build mineral wealth. Mining the Urals has provided them with the reliable standards of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, though there are a few gems and minerals that have distinct places in Russian culture: Czar Alexander III had his mother’s marble tomb replaced with a tomb cut from a single piece of solid rhodonite, a black and pink stone; there are huge stores of malachite in the mountains, to the point where the Russians almost had a monopoly on global supply; and alexandrite, named in the 1830s for the future czar and a Ural-specific variant of the already rare gem phenacite.

They Contain the Largest Virgin Forest in Europe

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A good bit of Europe was worked over during the age of exploration, with most of their virgin forests turned into the huge wooden ships European nations used to build navies and establish colonies. That makes the Virgin Komi Forests in the Ural Mountains unique among Europeans forests. They haven’t been fully explored and they’re almost untouched by industry. Instead, they help researchers understand the natural processes of an enormous forest that mankind hasn’t exploited. At 3.28 million hectares, they far outstrip the other virgin forests of Europe, and cement the Urals' importance to our understanding of biodiversity.