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Students of the corn?

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

If the campus around Iowa City seems a bit stranger or more foreboding this week, there's a good reason for that: the corn monument has returned.  What's the corn monument, you ask?  It's an old, nearly-forgotten Homecoming tradition that current Iowa students have elected to revive, with striking results:

The Press-Citizen dug a bit deeper into the history of the corn monuments:

Members of the Campus Activities Board and College of Engineering have constructed a 26½ foot monument lined with 1,200 ears of corn on the west side of the Old Capitol - a homecoming week tradition that had faded away in recent decades.


According to [late local historian Irving] Weber, the monuments became increasingly elaborate over the years, including some years when it became an arch over Washington Street near the Engineering Building. After the homecoming game, students would often set fire to the monument in celebration, though Weber said that was banned for a time.

A 2010 article in University of Iowa Spectator said the tradition waned in 1960s before enjoying an off-and-on revival in the 1980s. Dawson said the last monument was constructed in the early 1990s.

This year's model takes its direct inspiration from the 1919 version of the corn monument, but obelisks (and block I imagery) have been staples of past corn monuments, as you can see in this collection of images on Pinterest from the Iowa Digital Library.  I particularly like the ones that break away from that mold, though, like the 1932 incarnation (a precursor of the Lombardi Trophy?), the stacked boxes of the 1935 version (or the similar 1946 version), the rocket ship of the 1952 model, or the giant football of the 1980 version.  (And I have no idea what's going on with the 1961 edition -- a satellite dish?!)

Though it's fun to see an old tradition dusted off and given new life, there's also something a bit eerie -- and possibly foreboding -- about this newest Iowa corn monument.  It feels like a harbinger of... something.

Corn Monolith

Corn Monolith Hawkeyes

Look, if these things jumpstart human evolution or open a stargate that transports someone across the cosmos... don't say we didn't warn you.