I read this short story in the early 2000s and would really like to track it down. It was included in the text book for my 8th grade literature class. It's about a group of humans exploring another planet and coming across a statue (just the head) of a human woman. Apparently it's really old and they start to wonder how it came to be since the aliens on that planet didn't look like humans.


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    Can you remember any other details?
    – Adamant
    Aug 5, 2016 at 7:29
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    Did they find out how the statue came to be? By the way, what did the aliens look like?
    – user14111
    Aug 5, 2016 at 7:33
  • If it was in a text book, maybe you could do a google image search on "8th grade literature textbook" or something and see if you can find a cover you recognize... then someone might be able to track down the specific stories in that book and help narrow it down, and find anywhere else the story is published. Aug 5, 2016 at 11:45
  • This sounds very familiar... not familiar like a story I've read, but familiar like a story I've been told about. I almost want to say there was another question on it - but I am currently unable to find that question...
    – Ghotir
    Aug 5, 2016 at 14:01
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    It ended without them knowing how it came to be. Don't remember what the aliens looked like but the people never encountered them (the explorers did know what they looked like though and it wasn't human in appearance). It may have been an alien civilization that had died out and the expedition was archaeological in nature on the humans' side. It seemed like the statue of the woman's head may have been thought of as a goddess but they were puzzled because it was very old and the technology would not have allowed for human travel to that planet (at the time).
    – Rachel
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


"Crime on Mars" aka "Trouble With Time", a short story by Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

It matches with the head and the non-humanoid aliens:

Although I'd never seen the original, like most other departing tourists I had a replica in my baggage. It bore the certificate of the Mars Bureau of Antiquities, guaranteeing that "this full-scale reproduction is an exact copy of the so-called Siren Goddess, discovered in the Mars Sirenium by the Third Expedition, A.D. 2012 (A.M. 23)."

It's quite a tiny thing to have caused so much controversy. Only eight or nine inches high—you wouldn't look at it twice if you saw it in a museum on Earth. The head of a young woman, with slightly oriental features, elongated earlobes, hair curled in tight ringlets close to the scalp, lips half parted in an expression of pleasure or surprise—and that's all.

But it's an enigma so baffling that it has inspired a hundred religious sects, and driven quite a few archeologists out of their minds. For a perfectly human head has no right whatsoever to be found on Mars, whose only intelligent inhabitants were crustaceans—"educated lobsters," as the newspapers are fond of calling them. The aboriginal Martians never came near to achieving space-flight, and in any event their civilization died before men existed on Earth.

No wonder the Goddess is the Solar System's Number One mystery. I don't suppose we'll find the answer in my lifetime—if we ever do.

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    This seems like it could be the answer to the question (I Googled it), but it would definitely improve your answer to explain why it's a plausible answer. Something like a plot summary or a list of things it has in common with the description would improve your answer a lot!
    – Obsidia
    Jul 11, 2017 at 1:06

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