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In 2001: A Space Odyssey, how long did the monolith remain on Earth? Did it just influence the one primate and move on to see what happened, or did it stay around and do more over time? Or did it just remain and just watch for a while?

And is it the same monolith that they later unearthed (if that phrase fits) on the Moon?

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    Perhaps the better term is "unmooned"? – Dan Ray Jan 31 '12 at 14:11
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This is really two different questions...

Second question first: I'm pretty sure that it is expressed in later that all monoliths are one and the same, just different representations in our space. Although, that then doesn't fit with the lag of 950 years for communication.

First question: the monolith on Europa in 2061 is evidently a long-lasting feature, providing some kind of shelter for the Europan lifeforms, and also, apparently, guiding them (possibly, ever since the events of 2010). I figured this would be the same for the monolith in 2001 - seems I was wrong.

Thumbing through the book I find the passage:

As he led the tribe down to the river in the dim light of dawn, Moon-Watcher paused uncertainly at a familiar spot. Something, he knew, was missing, but what it was he could not remember. He wasted no more mental effort on the problem, for this morning he had more important matters on his mind.

Like thunder and lightning and clouds and eclipses the great block of crystal had departed as mysteriously as it had come. Having vanished into the non-existant past, it never troubled Moon-Watcher's thoughts again.

A little bit later in the book, there is a reference many such 'crystals' and they seem to appear and disappear at the same time. This would indicate that the monolith(s) disappeared after only hanging around for a few nights.

However, 3001: Final Odyssey describes the discovery of a monolith in Olduvai Gorge (the site of the famous discovery of Lucy by the Leakeys) somewhere around the 26th century. It became labelled TMA-ZERO (since the lunar monolith was labelled Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One). There's even this passage:

For here was an archaeologist's treasure-trove - crudely fashioned flint tools, countless bones - some animal, some human - and almost all arranged in careful patterns. For centuries - no, millennia - these pitiful gifts had been brought here, by creatures with only the first glimmer of intelligence, as tribute to a marvel beyond their understanding.

So - depending on if we are restricting ourselves to the first book/film only - the monolith was only around for a few nights, and affected only one small tribe of proto-homonids (although, other monoliths were also doing this elsewhere at the same time). If we accept ret-cons, then it will still be around after hundreds of thousands of years, although possibly inactive once buried after an unspecified period of activity.

  • I don't see a contradiction. TMA0 was near Moon-Watcher's tribe for a few days, then moved to a different part of Africa - either to affect other tribes, or simply to "be there in storage" for Moon-Watcher's descendents to find and worship – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 31 '12 at 11:14
  • I suppose that's one interpretation - there is actually a line a bit later in the 2001 book about multiple 'crystals' though - indicating that what happened with Moon-Watcher's tribe was happening in parallel. – HorusKol Jan 31 '12 at 12:26
  • D'oh! I couldn't remember Moon-Watcher's name! Thanks for including it. @DVK, did it say anything in the book about TMA0 moving to different places? – Tango Jan 31 '12 at 18:02
  • @TangoOversway - not that I recall. But I don't recall it saying it did NOT move elsewhere – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 31 '12 at 18:07
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    @HorusKol At the end of 3001, at the chapter "Farewell" he says (I am translating from Portuguese, and I am not native English speaker): (...)As I wrote at the introduction of 2061, "In the same manner as 2010: A Space Odyssey II was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, this book is not a linear sequel to 2010, too. All these volumes must be considered as variations over a same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe" – Matemáticos Chibchas Apr 9 '13 at 4:44

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