Researchers from Knoxville’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, inspired by a recent discovery around Knoxville of an early wheel prototype, decided to study the Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville. The Sunsphere is a monument believed to be built by early settlers of the Tennessee Valley. Some theorize it could have been built as early as 1980, but no researcher has ever proved this scientifically.

Theories abound as to the purpose of the huge gold ball on a stick. Some scientists argue it was a monument to a game, popularized in Scotland, called “golf.” Others claim it was erected as a tribute to Steve, the god of energy.

Recently, a tree fell, revealing about seven steps ascending the Sunsphere that everyone had ignored up to this point. Researcher John Beckstein, who has studied the monument extensively in the past, jumped at the opportunity to study some new stairs.

“We had no idea what we would find on these stairs,” Beckstein explained. “All the other stairs only had gum on them at best. But when we got to these new stairs, we were amazed at what we found. Some ancient writing, resembling hieroglyphs, were written all over the stairs.”

Beckstein assembled a team of his best researchers to try to crack the markings on the stairs.

“We had to read the steps several times to be sure, but they tell the tale of a great festival, a party spanning the globe. People came from all around, for miles, to enjoy themselves and eat Petros. They held aloft the round globe of flame, the symbol of Steve the energy god,” Beckstein enthusiastically explained. “The tower, this ‘Sunsphere,’ was their beacon. It directed them to the center of the party, right in this very park. The people ascended the tower and ate things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beheld the city from on high.”

Inspired by these findings on the stairs, Beckstein’s team contacted the people at iRobot, who provided a robotic probe to explore a Great Pyramid in Egypt. They rushed a robot to Knoxville by FedEx second-day delivery. Beckstein hoped to use the robot to find out exactly what is in the Sunsphere.

“It’s been so many years since anybody has actually been inside the gold ball, nobody knows what is in it. People theorize, but nobody really knows,” said Beckstein.

Armed with a new robot, the team ascended, treading lightly on the seven stairs with the hieroglyphs, and set to work getting the probe ready to enter. “I suppose we could have put the robot on the elevator, but we found what appears to be an ancient air duct the robot fits just inside of, and we know even less about what’s in the duct,” said Randy Ayn, a member of the research team.

The day of the robotic insertion arrived. The team booked time on the local public access channel to broadcast live. Geraldo Rivera was reporting from the top step.

Beckstein released the robot into the duct. It crept slowly upward. It encountered a door. They had not expected to find a door at the top of the shaft. The robot’s drill was still in Egypt, and since they didn’t have another one, they had to withdraw the robot.

“It’s disappointing,” said Beckstein. “We really wanted to know what was up there. I guess in another year, we may be ready to try it again. Once Geraldo showed up, I should have expected disappointment, but it just didn’t seem possible.”

The team is already in the initial planning stages of next year’s attempt. They have located several other promising ancient ducts that they might use the robot to explore. The robot is now exploring an ancient sewer in Venice and will not be available for at least six months.