|This article, Middangeard, is currently under active construction.|
Discovered in 2513, Middangeard is an anomaly that UNSC analysts have reconciling with established historical and scientific fact. Seemingly home to a once great civilisation that had reached a post-industrial pre-atomic level, the planet now lies abandoned, the vast sprawling concrete cities and criss-cross of roads all that remains of its inhabitants. Colonial authorities have been hesitant to begin colonisation, preferring instead to maintain only a very limited presence, and even then mostly consisting of scientific researchers and military escorts - reasoning that planets don't simply become abandoned on their own. Middangeard has largely been forgotten in recent history - it lacked sufficient infrastructure to harbour refugees during the war, and was on the opposite of UNSC space to Earth as the Covenant wiped out the UNSC's colonies. Afterward it became a diplomatic point of contact between the UNSC and Sangheili, and was witness to the Battle of Middangeard. Researchers have so far been unable to determine what, if anything, caused its inhabitants to abandon the planet, or even who they were in the first place. Sangheili researchers have proposed that they were the ancestors of the Kaaranese Sangheili, but the question then becomes; "how did a pre-atomic civilisation reach a planet thousands of lightyears away, and what were Sangheili doing on Middangeard in the first place?"
Dispatched in 2511, the UNSC survey ship Thessaly arrived in-system on October 27th. After initiating and completing a long-range wide-sweep scan of the system, the ship moved inwards, conducting a close-range short-sweep scan for more detailed results. Scans of the system's three gas giants proved fruitless, with all of their moons deemed unsuitable for colonisation, though there were some potential prospects for mining corporations. Stumbling upon the single terrestrial planet on January 3rd, 2513, the ship discovered what they believed to be signs of a flourishing non-human civilisation - artificial geometric patterns on the planets surface, trace elements in the air, and limited orbital clutter from rockets and satellites. Not eager to make First Contact themselves, the Thessaly immediately jumped out of the system, arriving at Reach on March 11th, alerting FLEETCOM to their discovery. Deciding to take a cautious approach, FLEETCOM dispatched a full planetary survey battlegroup, consisting of the scientific research vessel Renault, the destroyers Regulus and Napoleon Bonaparte, and the prowler Lacrimosa to the system to better assess the situation.
Arriving first, the Lacrimosa engaged its active camouflage systems, making passive sweeps in low planetary orbit, acquiring detailed photographic and video imagery for better analysis. These images of sprawling cities, vast road networks, and smaller settlements dotted around the planet, but the lack of any higher-than-background alpha, beta, gamma, ultraviolet or X radiation convinced the commander of Battlegroup Renault that there was little threat in making contact, and that the presence of three UNSC warships would be enough to scare off any threats against an exploratory team. Touching down on the planet on June 16th, the Renault sent out teams of researchers, escorted by UNSC Marine teams, to investigate the area.
What the explorers found was not what had been expected. The towns, what was left of them, lay empty and broken down. The cities were abandoned, massive concrete and steel monoliths remaining long after less durable wooden structures had long ago rotted away. The roads, though detectable from space, had become overgrown with grass. Testing was conclusive - while the planet showed signs that it had been inhabited in the past, at least 200,000 years ago, all such evidence stopped after that point, indicating that it had suffered a massive and unprecedented depopulation. The inability of the explorers to find any remains, despite extensive sensor sweeps conducted by the Lacrimosa and Renault in tandem, led the researchers to conclude that the planet had been abandoned by the population, which had left - how they left, or why, remained a mystery. Likewise, the lack of biological material meant that they had little idea of what kind of creatures had once inhabited the planet - bipedal omnivores sufficiently intelligent to progress past the industrial revolution stage of cultural development, but sufficiently advanced to develop nuclear technology, with a strongly urbanised cultural centre and outlying agricultural offshoots, can all be inferred by the remains of their civilisation, but that in itself does not say much.
Middangeard is an anomaly, one which UNSC analysts have trouble reconsiling with established scientific fact. Upon its discovery in 2513, initial reports indicated that the planet was already occupied, with satellite imagery showing sprawling cities and towns dotted across the planets surface. Though these would prove to be abandoned, the planet was deemed suitable for colonisation. Cursory investigations were made on the suitability of disclosing such a find to the public, and the potential risk of tourist damage, but the destruction of Harvest meant that colonisation was put on hold as the UNSC brought its full military might to defend human colonies. A small xenoarchaeological outpost was set up, and after the war interest in colonising the planet increased again.
- Main article: Species 4427-F
Exactly who build the Middangeard ruins is a mystery. They were certainly not built by the Forerunners - they predate the early Forerunner civilisation by more than thirty thousand years, and are nowhere near as technologically or even architecturally sophisticated. Xenoarchaeologists are still poring over the ruins, cataloguing and studying all personal items they can find in order to learn whatever can be gleaned about their makers. What is known is that their scientific level was at approximately the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution. For whatever reason, the species that inhabited Middangeard disappeared approximately 250,000 years ago, leaving behind their entire civilisation virtually intact. Much of it is estimated to be lost forever - materials such as wood would have decomposed long ago, exempting unusually well-preserved specimens, though much of their "grand" architecture remains, constructed of stone or primitive concrete. Exactly what happened to them remains unknown - a series of craters in the northern hemisphere leads some to conclude that the civilisation was destroyed by a "nuclear winter" from the hits. Biologists have speculated that they may have been wiped out by a planet-wide supervirus. Some fringe scientists claim that the civilisation may have simply advanced to the point where they left their home world behind, without bothering to posit what may have forced an entire species to leave its home world en mass. So far, no grave sites have yet been found - their culture seems to have preferred ritual cremation over burial, leaving little behind for study.
- "It's haunting. All the infrastructure is still there, like the day it was left - the streets, the buildings, even the rooms still have some personal artefacts in them. Its an archaeologists dream, studying a dead civilisation preserved so well - now if only we could find out what happened to them."
- "The architecture is strange. One moment you're looking at what looks suspiciously like Heian period Japanese rooftops, next thing you see are Classical Roman columns, and then medieval embrasures, merlons and buttresses. And they're all made of stone or a type of concrete - these things were built to last."
- "What we're left with is just the pinnacle of whatever civilisation lived here. Anything made of wood or other organic compounds would have rotted away long ago, so we have little left of the normal, everyday life of their builders."
- "It's named after the Anglo-Saxon word for the world - the place where all earthly creatures lived. Ironic, considering the whole planet is dead."