A mysterious metal monolith found in remote desert that prompted international intrigue over its emergence has reportedly disappeared.
Officials in the US state of Utah announced on Saturday (local time) the 12-foot (3.7-metre) structure had been removed less than two weeks after it prompted wild speculation over its origins.
The Bureau of Land Management said it had received “credible reports” the object had been removed “by an unknown party” on Friday evening.
The bureau “did not remove the structure which is considered private property”, it said in a statement.
“We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff's office.”
Images of the site began to appear on social media revealing only a stack of stones and the monolith’s triangular top remained.
The shiny, triangular pillar that sat among the red rocks of southern Utah was spotted on November 18 by baffled officials counting bighorn sheep from the air.
The "monolith" obelisk met a swift fate before we arrived. Only the triangular top remained as well as parts of the below-ground base. If I ventured a guess, it was probably dismantled by someone determined to prevent careless curiosity that tends to ruin alluring sites. pic.twitter.com/kXP5KypmlS
— Jack Waters 🌹🇸🇪 (@h2oetry) November 29, 2020
After landing their helicopter to investigate, Utah Department of Public Safety crew members found “a metal monolith installed in the ground” but “no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there”.
News of the discovery quickly went viral, with many noting the object’s similarity with strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Stanley Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
Although officials had refused to disclose the object’s location out of fear that hordes of curious sightseers would flock to the remote wilderness, some explorers had been able to track it down.
One was explorer David Surber who shared several images and videos of the monolith on his Instagram, revealing the structure was located near the city of Moab.
In one video he shows the monolith is not magnetic and is three sheets of aluminium riveted together.
“Regardless of who built it or where it came from, it was a positive escape from today’s world,” he said on one of his posts.
Some observers pointed out the object’s resemblance to the avant-garde work of John McCracken, a US artist who lived for a time in nearby New Mexico and died in 2011.
Daviz Zwirner, who has exhibited McCracken’s work at his New York Gallery since 1997, said he was convinced the monolith was the work of the artist however opinion was divided at the gallery, The New York Times reported.
McCracken’s son Patrick told the publication he had a conversation with his father in 2002 where he said he “would like to leave his artwork in remote places to be discovered later”.
He also said his father was inspired by the idea alien visitors would leave objects that resembled his work.
Reddit users noted the satellite images from Google Earth indicate it could have been standing since as early as 2015.
Mr Zwirmer said he had no idea how McCracken had installed the monolith if he was responsible.
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