11 April 2022
Bedruthan Steps: another “face” in a landslide scar
Over the years I have collected a set of stories in which a “face” apparently appears in a landslide scar (and other examples of landslide weirdness). For example, in 2015 an image of Jesus apparently appeared in the scar of a landslide in the San Francisco area of Putumayo in Colombia.
In reality of course this is the fascinating phenomenon know as face pareidolia, in which the human brain is programmed to identify faces rapidly. At times this mechanism identifies faces in inanimate objects – the theory is that the disadvantages of doing so are outweighed by the advantages of rapid facial recognition. Interestingly, recent research has indicated that we are biased towards seeing male rather than female faces in such situations.
Most rockfalls are defined by pre-existing joints or other discontinuities in the rock mass, meaning that the scar contains strong linear features. In many cases, the discontinuities are not random, meaning that patterns emerge. It is unsurprising that these occasionally show similar features to faces.
In the case of Bedruthan Steps, the discontinuities have defined two inverted wedges that form the angular “eyes” of the face. There is a less well-defined wedge with a similar form that has created the “nose”. These joints can be seen in other locations across the rock mass.