Last week, government officials discovered a mysterious monolith in the Utah desert. To make matters even more mysterious, it has now disappeared. No-one knows who took it, no-one knows where it has gone, and no-one knows what it was doing there in the first place.
The monolith was first discovered during a routine helicopter inspection of the area’s sheep. Silver in appearance, it stood at 10 feet tall and was situated against a dramatic vista of red rocks. The precise location was initially kept a secret, in order to prevent tourists from descending on Utah, but last week several eager hikers managed to figure out its location.
Once this was revealed, the monolith’s days were numbered. On Saturday, a Facebook post by Utah Bureau of Land Management announced that it had vanished the night before. The statement read: “We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands by an unknown party. The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property. We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office.”
One of the pilots who first discovered the monolith, Bret Hutchings, gave an interview to local radio the same day. He said: “We were joking around that if one of us suddenly disappears, I guess the rest of us make a run for it…[it’s] been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.”
He then explained that it was another member of his team, a biologist, who actually spotted it: “He was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around!’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he’s like, ‘There’s this thing back there — we’ve got to go look at it!’ We were thinking, is this something NASA stuck up there or something? Are they bouncing satellites off it?”
Hutchings believed that the monolith was either some kind of art object or else a tribute to the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which features a similar structure on the moon. Many critics have theorised that monolith in 2001 represents progress and intelligent life. Throughout the film, it appears at in pivotal moments in evolutionary history; for example, when the apes comes across it at the beginning, they figure out how to use bones as weapons.
However, legendary film critic Robert Ebert dismissed this interpretation. “Audiences don't like simple answers, I guess;” he wrote in 1968, the year of the film’s release. “They want the monolith to "stand" for something. Well, it does. It stands for a monolith without an explanation.”
Maybe this, too, is a monolith without an explanation. But its origins still haven’t been revealed, and no-one has conclusively ruled out “it was put there by aliens to guide us to a higher plane of existence”. What its disappearance means for the future of humanity is anyone’s guess.