A steel monolith that mysteriously appeared, and then quickly disappeared, in southeastern Turkey last week was revealed to be a government publicity stunt to promote its new space program.
A local farmer discovered the 10-foot structure last Friday, February 5, in a field in Sanliurfa province. It was located near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gobekli Tepe, home to 11,000-year-old megaliths.
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The metal slab featured an ancient Turkic script reading: “Look at the sky, you will see the moon.”
Those were the same words uttered by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a televised address on Tuesday announcing the country’s new space program, which will include missions to the moon. An image of the monolith was projected on a screen behind Erdogan.
“I now present to you Turkey’s 10-year vision, strategy, and aims, and I say: ‘Look at the sky, you will see the moon,’” the Turkish president said.
The fact that the metal slab was guarded by members of the Turkish army police when it first emerged pointed to its propagandistic origins.
Mustafa Varank, Turkey’s minister of industry and technology, later revealed that the idea came from young staffers at his office.
“My young colleagues who closely follow current developments had such a suggestion,” Varank said. “They said, ‘Those monoliths are emerging all around the world. How about we do such a thing, inscribe such a message on it, and do it in the Gokturk language, increase the mystery a bit more?’”
Fuat Demirdil, the owner of the field where the monolith was discovered, told the state-run Anadolu Agency that locals were puzzled by the pillar’s appearance and disappearance.
“We do not know if the metal block was put on my field for publicity or advertisement purposes,” he said.
Local resident Hasan Yildiz told the agency that the slab was still in place Monday evening, but had disappeared by the morning.