The massive sculpture in the middle of the Chilean desert respectively called the Hand of the Desert. Credit: DepositPhotos

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Massive Hand Protruding From The Chilean Desert

Art surrounds us and connects us in various ways but sometimes, we see artworks in the most peculiar locations. What better example than a single massive sculpture in the middle of the Atacama Desert, many kilometers away from civilization?


What do people usually associate the desert with? Most often with an endless surface devoid of hills, bushes, and trees. Logically, you wouldn’t expect to see a massive statue in the middle of the desert, right? 

In the vastness of the dunes in the Atacama desert, where there is nothing but sand, rises the impressive sculpture called “Mano del Desierto.” The name literally means “the Hand of the Desert.”  Its 11 meters causes waves of emotions in everyone who sees it. The nearest city is more than 60 km away, and the hand is the only sign proving human presence in the region for visitors who have deviated from the Pan American Highway.

Mano del Desierto in the middle of the Atacama desert. Credit: DepositPhotos
Mano del Desierto in the middle of the Atacama desert. Credit: DepositPhotos

1. The person behind the spectacular sculpture in the Atacama Desert is the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarazabal.

2. Its creator Mario Irarazabal is a well-known artist in the field of sculpture. His works are perceived worldwide because of their originality and the emotion they express.

3. This strange work of art, rising from the sand in the middle of the Chilean desert, is called Mano del Desierto – “The Hand of the Desert.”

4. The sculpture is located more than 60 kilometers south of the closest city in any direction, Antofagasta.

5. The hand rises 11 meters above the ground as if a giant is drowning in the endless sands, praying to the last for help in this dry, barren, and scarce desert.


6. People comment that this exaggerated size of the hand emphasizes human vulnerability and helplessness.

7. Driving through the desert can be disorienting, and initially, some weary travelers confuse this unusual monument as a mirage.

8. However, the sculpture is extremely realistic and is basically made of iron and cement.

9. Its official opening was on March 28, 1992, and although the road to this impressive sculpture is long, it now attracts visitors from all over the world and is a favorite destination for many lovers of strange art.

10. Since then, the sculpture has survived hostile weather conditions, but it is more difficult to resist human intervention. Often unscrupulous visitors climb on it or paint graffiti.

The Hand of the Desert sculpture is reminiscent of something left by an ancient civilization. But, the reality is that this is a project of modern art with a very deep design. As the author explains, his work is the personification of loneliness and helplessness. I think we can easily connect the idea behind the sculpture with the fate of the buried person. That is why its location and size were chosen. Its remoteness from civilization and its colossal size definitely reinforce these feelings of human helplessness.

Among the theories about its creation is that the sculpture is in honor of the victims of the military dictatorship between 1973 – 1990. We can only say that this theme is present in all the works of the creator, which is one of the reasons his sculptures are so highly valued worldwide. Art comes in all forms, but it does not always manage to create a connection with people like the Hand of the Desert.


If one day you decide to visit the remote location of the sculpture, remember that the Atacama Desert is considered one of the hottest places on the planet, and you need to be prepared for the hostile weather conditions.

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Lees, W. (2017, December 22). 10 Things to Know Before Visiting The Hand of the Desert, Chile.
Morton, E. (2014, April 29). The Half-Buried Hand of the Atacama Desert.
Ugc. (2014, November 10). Hand of the Desert.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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