Various threads over at the DISboards got me thinking about how we may be looked at several thousands of years from now, and my brain came up with the following story:

Scene: Aliens are conducting an archaeological dig on the southeastern peninsula of one of the major land masses of a long dead planet…

“So, Glorp’thik’huck, what do you have to report?”

“A very interesting find, My Slitheriness. As near as I can tell, this was a place of worship.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, this site, although it encompasses a large area, is all centered around what obviously was once a temple, which was built to be taller than any of the surrounding land, as a beacon calling all to worship. It was surrounded by many lesser buildings, of various shapes and sizes.

“The puzzling part is that there seems to be several distinct areas surrounding the temple, each with widely differing architectural styles, few of which match the temple itself.”

“Why would that be?”

“Well, we’re not sure, but we suspect that several different species may have gathered in this place. To the east was a somewhat technologically advanced species. They had concepts of space travel, slow and high speed local transport, and perhaps were even studying teleportation. But to the west, it was more barbaric – and they celebrated their barbarism by creating three dimensional representations of themselves wielding primitive sharp implements and slow solid projectile emitters.”

“Projectiles? They had no concept of Fzzzt’thirk weaponry?”

“No, My Bulbousness. Although the Eastern dwellers did show remarkably more advanced systems, there was little evidence of weaponry, aside from some simply photonic systems we surmise may have been used to develop younglings’ skill – perhaps to help defend against the Westerlings.”

“If they were enemies, why would they gather at the same place?”

“It was perhaps a tenuous relationship, and perhaps hostilities were forbidden on this holy ground. But it stands to reason that if one had possession of more advanced technology, the others would seek to claim it. However, my Enormousness, you might find this even more interesting. There is evidence that the Westerlings were perhaps not without some skill – the large hills in their territory appears to not be natural, but in fact was engineered by hand or machine. We are unsure as to their purpose – perhaps as a statement of skill, or minor temples.

“To the north was a third culture, perhaps at a level between the two. However, they seemed to be interested in or had skills more in the fantastical and mystic – they have depictions of both water and land creatures, show themselves flying, and appear to have domesticated a number of strange creatures. And to the northeast of them, there was a smaller group that I can only describe as bizarre…

“And even outside this site, there are several dwelling areas, although they don’t show signs of being permanent residences. It is likely that people made pilgrimages to this place. And nearby to the south and southwest, there are three similar sites, although the central temples differ remarkably. To the southwest especially, they seem to be a druidic culture, erecting a temple in the shape of a giant tree…”

“I still don’t understand what unifies all these cultures to this spot.”

“It’s a symbol, My Oozance.”

“A symbol, of what sort?”

“A very simple one, but we’ve found it everywhere, at all 4 sites. It’s on the structures, in the ground, on the sculptures…”

“But what IS it?”

“Circles, sir.”

“Circles? I’ve got circles on my bluth’con’chak, but they have an ointment for that. I certainly don’t expect everyone to worship them.”

“Yes, but these are three circles, arranged in a very distinct way. There is one larger circle in the center, with two smaller but identical circles connected to the circumference of the first, offset from each other at about 90 degrees along the larger circle. We are certain this symbol was of some import, as there is evidence that the natives even frequently wore the symbol on their heads – in fact, these headdresses may have been required within the temple grounds, as we see little evidence of it outside.”

“What do you suppose it represents?”

“We’re still analyzing, but one of the scientists has hypothesized that it could be a molecular representation. Specifically, Hydrogen hydroxide, known by the slang term ‘water’.”

“Why would they worship a molecule?”

“Not the molecule itself, but what it represents. This planet was once covered in it – as much two thirds at one time, perhaps more. Several of the structures show evidence that it was incorporated into their designs. In fact, that barbaric pictorial I mentioned earlier has a channel through it where we believe that the worshipers were meant to wade though water, perhaps as a form of penance, or a right of passage.

Even stronger evidence of the worship of water is to the immediate south, just outside the perimeter. The large basin not only contained a large amount of water, but it appears that it was not a natural construct, but in fact engineered by the worshipers!”

“So, of all these water-worshipers, what happened to them?”

“War, My Gluteousness.”

“War? Between cultures that worshiped a common icon?”

“Yes. Even among the major groups, there were several subfactions. We found inscriptions that we have been able to translate that indicate one of the subfactions, known only by the symbol “DVC”, had made unreasonable demands at the central temple, and the gluk’shin really hit the fan…”