On a ridge in B.C.'s Chilcotin Range lies a 50-metre-wide circle formed of white stones, some of which weigh several tonnes each. Postmedia News describes the rock ring as the sort of discovery that sparks theories of prehistoric ritual, or perhaps more amusingly, as a placeholder for extra terrestrial navigation.
The mystery was enough to inspire a British and a Canadian geologist to investigate. The pair's findings have just been published in the latest Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
And though proof of Martian architecture would have been a gripping read, the truth is a little more science than fiction.
As the article notes, Geological Survey of Canada emeritus scientist Andrew Okulitch and Open University's Michael Czajkowski concluded that the circle was formed the natural way — left behind 10,000 years ago by a retreating glacier.
"Although I expect a lot of people would be disappointed or even reluctant to learn that the circle was a natural feature and not built by aliens or lost unknown cultures," Okulitch told Postmedia News, "what I find exciting are the strange and wonderful ways in which nature can work, and the challenges we are confronted with in trying to figure them out."
The team first learned about the formation thanks to a tipoff by Czajkowski's writer and wilderness guide sister, Chris Czajkowski.
Czajkowski stumbled upon the unusual stone pattern and took an aerial photograph of the area, an image that immediately piqued the curiosity of her geologist brother and his colleague.
Though a number of "smaller stone rings" around B.C. have been linked to ancient aboriginal ritual, the scientists soon dismissed this possibility as there was no evidence of "stacking" — a phenomenon often linked to anthropogenic origin.
Neither was there evidence that human life could sustain itself in the area at that time.
"The harsh climate and absence of sustenance at 2,000 metres elevation in post-glacial times likely discouraged occupation or even travel in the region," the co-authors wrote, adding they could not imagine any "obvious astronomic or spiritual reason for such a structure" and that there were no evident markings from man-made tools.
The likeliest explanation, they said, is that the rocks were deposited on an isolated glacial mass after the last Ice Age, and slid off piece by piece around it until the ice melted away, leaving a near-perfect circle of white stones.
And while no alien or human activity appears to be involved, nature provides a pretty incredible narrative as well.