Bas Relief

June 3, 2021

When an archaeological team discovered the Palace of Crustaceans there was great celebration back on Earth. The city which was being excavated had been discovered many decades ago, and if it generated excitement now, it was only because it promised to be much larger than the other cities discovered around this planet and on countless other worlds.

Each city was a monument, a ruinous memorial to a long-dead civilisation. Hope resurfaced each time that perhaps this one would teach us more about what had led to the disappearance of the creatures which had created and inhabited it.

An unspoken addendum to this wish was for a demonstration of how unlike our civilisation was with theirs – how slim the changes were of us meeting a similar fate. And yet each time hopes faded. No extraterrestrial civilisation seemed to have left anything – no clues to a history.

That is, until the bas-reliefs in the Palace of Crustceans were excavated. A huge wall of the complex was covered in intricate, if stylised depictions of a battle. The two sides were mismatched, one consisting on tiny, barely depicted figures in great numbers. Towering above their charotic hordes were monstrous ranks of cyclopean might.

Each giant looked for all the world like a bipedal crab, or insect. Were these friezes recounting the legends of the inhabitants? And which side were the artists?

A simple reading saw these carvings as a depiction of the civilisation’s conquering its enemies, but dissenting voices said something else. Were these the last days of the artists’ own downfall? Was the Palace of Crustaceans a record of great battles won, or a warning from the little people, from history? A keep-away danger sign, of the perils to be encountered in this sector of space?