“The ancient ones have come!” one user commented in Lovecraftian pastiche." - or why this year's cropmarks have captured our imaginations?

Surveying people’s responses on social media shows the variety of readings of these strange hieroglyphs. Some people saw omens of impending doom, connections with the increasingly apocalyptic feel of the current news cycle: Brexit, the rise of the far right, the changing global climate. 

“The ancient ones have come!” one user commented in Lovecraftian pastiche. “On their lips a single phrase, an ill wind rustling through a field of wheat.… ‘Brexit means brexit but it still means brexit.’”

Others read a strange kind of hope. These lines and rings showed the landscape to be a palimpsest, the page of a book written and erased and rewritten over and over, a mess of crosshatches and scribbles. These signs remind us of the complexity of the landscape we inhabit and the overlaying nature of history. 

Prehistoric ceremonial landscape near Eynsham, Oxfordshire
Prehistoric ceremonial landscape near Eynsham, Oxfordshire © Damian Grady, Historic England


The ruin, the philosopher Max Pensky writes, “is rune: a cipher or mark.” Its “enigmatic character qualifies it both for occult significance and as a sign of the constant threat of an insignificant social world threatened at all moments with the omnipresence of guaranteed oblivion.” This oblivion has felt closer than ever over the past few years, and this perhaps explains how firmly this year’s cropmarks have taken hold of people’s imaginations. A repeated comparison I saw people draw was to the landscape as a starved body, how in the later stages of scurvy old scars on the body are said to reopen. ....  The apparition of these traces has caused the same questions to be asked over and over: What do these strange signs mean? Are they signs of hope or omens of doom? Are they ruins or runes? When we’re gone, how will the land remember us?