The phenomenon of “crop circles” became widely known in the 1980s, but the eerie Old Crop Circles site collects similar reports and references from earlier periods — in some cases, far earlier. The oldest is a woodcut news pamphlet titled “The Mowing Devil”, from Hertfordshire, England, 1678. It tells how a farmer refused to pay a laborer to tend his field, and swore that he would rather have the Devil himself mow it. The following morning, a strange, large-scale pattern had been cut into his field:
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The artifact pictured left is a pamphlet dated August 22, 1678, entitled The Mowing-Devil: Or Strange NEWS out of Hertford-shire. It takes the form of a primitive news report, which started life as a woodcut — a type of early printing plate created by carving into a wooden block and then inking it.
The image depicts a demon, scythe in hand, felling crop stems in what seems like a systematic fashion.