Explained: The probable reasons for mysterious monoliths of Utah, Romania

Written by Pooja Pillai
, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: January 6, 2021 8:35:11 am

Last month, during a routine survey of bighorn sheep in Utah’s Red Rock Country, the US state’s wildlife agency discovered a 10-12 ft tall, three-sided metal monolith at the base of a canyon. When the helicopter-borne team went down to investigate it, they found that there were no indications of how or when it appeared there. or who had installed it so firmly into the canyon’s rocky floor.

In an official statement issued on November 23, the Utah Department for Public Safety announced the discovery and speculated that it was most likely an art installation by a “new wave artist” or a prank by a “2001: Space Odyssey fan”. The reference is to the 1968 science fiction film by Stanley Kubrick, co-written by Arthur C Clarke, in which a massive black monolith of extra-terrestrial origin appears among a tribe of hominids and influences the course of human evolution.

The Federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office announced that the Red Rock Country monolith had been removed “by an unknown party” on November 27, with rocks left to mark the place where it had stood.

Then, on November 30, there were reports of a similar monolith being spotted in the Batca Doamnei Hill in Romania. The surface of the Romanian monolith, however, is covered in looping scrawls, unlike the Utah monolith. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Popular theories:

Extra-terrestrial origins: The most popular theory which is, perhaps, being bandied about only half-jokingly, is that these monoliths, like the mysterious object in the Kubrick film, are artefacts left on earth by an alien race.

Art: Far more credible is the theory that these objects are artworks, created and installed in the vein of the Land Art movement which emerged in the 1960s and 70s. The movement sought to reject the commodification of art by using materials “of the earth”, such as rocks, sand, water, to make artistic interventions in a landscape. These landscapes were, typically, in remote, inaccessible places. The most famous example of land art is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), a gargantuan sculpture created using rocks and salt crystals in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. It is, in fact, being widely speculated that the Utah monolith is the work of John McCraken, an acclaimed minimalist sculptor, with a love for science fiction. According to a New York Times report, the David Zwirner Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in the US which represents McCracken’s estate, believes that this is either an authentic McCraken installed by the artist himself before his death in 2011 or an imitation made in homage to the late sculptor by a fan. However, based on the photos shared by the Utah authorities, many people have pointed out that the monolith lacks the finesse expected from an artist, and so is most likely created as a prank.

Hoax or prank: Another theory that has found a lot of support is that this is a hoax along the lines of the crop circles that began to mysteriously appear in fields in Wiltshire, England in the 1970s and which gained international notoriety as signs of extraterrestrial activity on earth. While scientists sought explanations in wind patterns for the geometrical designs which would suddenly appear in fields, conspiracy theorists sought to decode the patterns of the circles in order to extract what they believed were alien communications. These circles soon became popular tropes on film and television shows about alien lifeforms, such as M Night Shyamalan’s Signs (2002) and The X-Files (1993-2002). However, in 1991, two Englishmen David Chorley and Doug Bower came forward to claim responsibility for the crop circles, saying they had created them as “joke”, using ropes and a plank of wood.

As yet, of course, no one had come forward to claim responsibility for the monoliths in Utah and Romania.

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