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There’s been no shortage of press coverage in the past week regarding a news story about Scientology’s construction of an ‘space alien cathedral’ near Roswell, New Mexico. The site – which has some resemblance to the Nazca lines with its airstrip and two 360 metre-wide symbols carved into a mountain – came to attention in the press about a new book regarding the controversial religion. But it has actually been known about for some time, and the Church of Scientology say its purpose is more mundane than the press would have us believe:

“As has been covered in the media for years, the facility is a Church of Scientology archival storage for the preservation of L. Ron Hubbard’s scriptural writings and lectures,” church spokeswoman Karin Pouw told NBC News in an email. “Archival sites are common among religions, such as the LDS faith’s large genealogical archive in Utah and the Vatican archives.”

The storage facility, popularly known as the Trementina Base, is about 200 miles north of Roswell, N.M. It’s featured in “The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology,” an e-book by BBC investigative journalist John Sweeney that went on sale today. In an excerpt published last week by The Sun, a British tabloid, Sweeney quotes his sources, including an ex-Scientologist, as saying the circle-and-diamond symbols carved into the mountain were designed to guide church leaders to Hubbard’s works “after a nuclear Armageddon wipes out humanity.”

Pouw said the remarks in The Sun and in Britain’s Daily Mail were “fiction.” The Sun’s headline called the symbols a “giant ‘hello’ to E.T.” — but Pouw said they had a more mundane purpose.

“Because [the facility] is in such a remote area, the most practical way to it is by air,” she wrote. “The corporate logo of the church that operates the facility is carved into the ground to help pilots find the facility. This, too, is commonly done by major corporations.”

While the “E.T. Hello” theory may be overblown, I’d imagine the post-apocalyptic scenario described by Sweeney is not too far from the truth. I actually mentioned this ‘Trementina Base’ in passing in my Darklore article about the ‘survival of knowledge’ aspect of the Georgia Guidestones, “Beyond the Apocalypse“:

Another project to preserve knowledge is the Church of Scientology’s ‘Trementina Base’ in New Mexico. According to the Church, the purpose of the base is as an archive to preserve the writings and recordings of the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. The texts are said to have been engraved on stainless steel tablets and encased in titanium capsules, which reside in an underground bunker on the site. I shall leave it to the reader to decide whether this is knowledge we want to transmit to our post- apocalyptic descendants…