Over the years I’ve written on a wide spectrum of topics, some more popular than others. Among those varied subjects I have endeavoured to keep my personal opinion out the mix, with some pointed exceptions. Some subjects beg for impartial treatment, while others lend themselves to a more personal critique. In those cases where I’ve presented the information in a more even-handed manner, often it’s because my own thoughts on the subject at hand are somewhat disorganized, but today’s topic suffers no such fate.
I give you…Ancient Alien Theory.
Tracing the origin of the Ancient Alien Theory –also known as Ancient Astronaut Theory and the Paleocontact Hypothesis- one is led inexorably to a list of several infamous authors, such as the late Zecharia Sitchin and Erich von Däniken, both considered to be the fathers of the theory, followed by their disciples David Childress, Georgio Tsoukalis and the late Philip Coppens, among several others.
A line of reasoning which gained much of it’s popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, theories put forward by Sitchin and von Däniken suggest, in the broadest sense that extraterrestrials visited and influenced the early development of man, meddling with our cultural and even genetic progress.
Both men have their own pet theories, Sitchin claims that the Anunnaki, a supposed race of aliens who call the fictitious planet Nibiru home, are charged with interfering with human development in the era of pre-history, to make a hybrid race of beings called the Nephilim, for, shall we say, commercial means.
Von Däniken, however, is much less specific in his hypotheses. He claims that ancient art and iconography throughout the world illustrates air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, ancient astronauts, and artefacts of an anachronistically advanced technology. Von Däniken also claims that geographically separated historical cultures share artistic themes, which he argues imply a common origin. Certain artefacts and monumental constructions are claimed by von Däniken to have required a more sophisticated technological ability in their construction than that which was available to the ancient cultures who constructed them. Von Däniken maintains that these artefacts were constructed either directly by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from said visitors. These include Stonehenge, Pumapunku, the Moai of Easter Island, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the ancient Baghdad electric batteries.
Von Däniken and Sitchin are both prolific writers, and both are most famously known for their original works titled Chariots of the Gods (1968) and The 12th Planet (1976) respectively. Through those books, both men have amassed a huge following of die hard fans, most of whom are utterly convinced that the two are almost infallible, which unfortunately is not true.
I have written about Sitchin’s shortcomings in the past (hereand here) and I’m not about to duplicate that work, other than to say that Sitchin, who taught himself to decipher ancient Sumerian cuneiform, is widely regarded as having mistranslated certain ancient Sumerian texts, which ultimately formed the basis of his theory. He is also widely criticised for his erroneous astronomical and scientific interpretations and literalism of myths. Having died in 2010 at the age of 90 with more than 14 books under his belt, Sitchin’s legacy is bound to live on for many years, in spite of the fact that the scientific community views his theory as far more fiction than fact.
Von Däniken has suffered similar scientific criticism and is actually more prolific with an amazing 32 books published in multiple languages, though critics are quick to point out that much of his written work is unfounded pseudoscience. Von Däniken has travelled the globe on so-called archaeological expeditions, supposedly giving him unique insight into the cultures and artefacts of many parts of the world. In 1973, von Däniken claimed to have stumbled upon a vast underground cave network under the small South American country of Ecuador. He claimed that the tunnels covered an area spanning the length of the country and that within the caves was an ancient alien library complete with books made of metal. This proof of an extraterrestrial presence in the distant past garnered von Däniken a good deal of celebrity, but in 1974 he admitted, under fire, that he had fabricated that evidence, calling it poetic license.
In addition to his scientific credibility woes, von Däniken has come under fire for plagiarising a good portion of his work in Chariots of the Gods (as well as other work), eventually succumbing to a lawsuit wherein he agreed to a legal settlement to give credit to Jacques Bergier, Louis Pauwels, Robert Charroux, and other authors who accused him of stealing their work without credit.
The ancient alien world is no stranger to these kinds of shenanigans, what with people like Georgio Tsoukalis proclaiming that he’s the publisher of a magazine called Legendary Times, when that “magazine” is actually just the news letter for the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association, now called the Ancient Alien Society. Of which he is the current director and claims to be the founder (which is also in dispute as von Däniken is thought to be the actual founder).
These people are self-congratulating, self-appointed experts, whose knowledge of ancient history and science is at best flawed, if not completely fabricated. Of those mentioned, only Sitchin has any real post-secondary education, even though his degree from the University of London was in economics and not archaeology or ancient languages. They do tend to be well travelled, but visiting a place no more makes you an expert on its history and nature than looking up makes you an astronomer.
As I’ve mentioned before, I find it insulting that most of their theories reduce the real history and science of many archaeological sites to a steaming pile of wild speculation and conjecture. They diminish the achievements of our ancestors and demean our long lived legacy. I don’t deny that the idea of extraterrestrials visiting our ancestors is an attractive one, hell, I’m prone to believe that aliens are visiting us now, but if we’re accepting the flawed and often times fraudulent opinions of people who’s own past is peppered with plagiarism and “poetic license”, we’re accepting a lowered standard of evidence that can only lead to embarrassment.
In the future, I plan to do a series of pieces on the various ancient alien theories that have been proffered by these people, paying close attention to the facts of the matter, rather than the conjecture that we’re typically asked to believe.
What do you think of the ancient alien theory? Voice your opinion in the comment section below.