Ancient astronaut theories

Ancient astronaut theories or paleocontact are various proposals that intelligent extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth and that this contact is linked to the origins or development of human cultures, technologies and/or religions.

Some of these theories suggests that the deities from most — if not all — religions are actually extraterrestrial beings, and their technologies were taken as evidence of their divine status. [cite book |last=Lieb |first=Michael |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, Ufos, the Crisis of Race, and the Advent of End Time |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=1998 |month= |publisher=Duke University Press |location= |language= |isbn=0-8223-2268-4 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=p.250 |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] [cite book |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=Cithara |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=1961 |month= |publisher=St. Bonaventure University |location= |language= |isbn= |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=p.12 |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ]

Ancient astronaut theories have not yet received support within the scientific community, and have garnered little attention in peer-reviewed studies from scientific journals. These theories have been popularized, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, by writers Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin and Robert K.G. Temple [cite book |last=Von Däniken |first=Erich |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=Chariots of the Gods |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=1984 |month= |publisher=Berkley Pub Group |location= |language= |isbn=0-4250-7481-1 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] .

Ancient astronaut theories have been widely used in science fiction.


Ancient astronaut adherents often claim that humans are either descendants or creations of beings who landed on Earth millennia ago. An associated theory is that much of human knowledge, religion and culture came from extraterrestrial visitors in ancient times, in that ancient astronauts acted as a “mother culture”. These ideas are generally discounted by the scientific community. [cite web |url= | title= Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize | accessmonthday= May 18 | accessyear=2007|format= |work=]

Ancient astronaut theories also may include the idea that civilization may have evolved on earth twice, and that the visitation of ancient astronauts may reflect the return of descendants of ancient humans whose population was separated from earthbound humans.Fact|date=November 2007

Proponents of ancient astronaut theories point to what they perceive as gaps in historical and archaeological records, and to what they see as absent or incomplete explanations of historical or archaeological data. Ancient astronaut proponents cite evidence that they argue supports their assertions, notably, archaeological artifacts that they argue are anachronistic or beyond the presumed technical capabilities of the historical cultures with which they are associated (sometimes referred to as "Out-of-place artifacts"); and artwork and legends which are interpreted as depicting extraterrestrial contact or technologies. Examples of such "Out-of-place artifacts" include the Baghdad Battery and the Antikythera mechanism.

Scientists maintain that any gaps in contemporary knowledge of the past do not demonstrate that such speculative ancient astronaut ideas are a necessary, or even plausible, conclusion to draw from the available data. [Sagan, Carl. "Broca's Brain." 1979] [cite web |url= | title= Winners of the Ig Nobel Prize | accessmonthday= May 18 | accessyear=2007|format= |work=] Additionally, a number of ancient astronaut claims contradict consensus scientific interpretations of evidence. The scientific community remains generally skeptical, and the dominant view is that there is no evidence to support ancient astronaut and paleocontact theories.

cientific consideration

In their 1966 book "Intelligent Life in the Universe" [ Shklovski, I.S and Carl Sagan. "Intelligent Life in the Universe". San Francisco: Holden-Day, 1966] astrophysicists I.S. Shklovski and Carl Sagan devote a chapter ["The Possible Consequences of Direct Contact," authored mostly by Sagan, according to line-by-line indications of individual or collaborative sections. ] to arguments that scientists and historians should seriously consider the possibility that extraterrestrial contact occurred during recorded history. However, Shklovsky and Sagan stressed the idea that their ideas were speculative and unproved.

Shklovski and Sagan argued that sub-lightspeed interstellar travel by extraterrestrial life was a certainty when considering technologies that were established or feasible in the late '60s; ["civilizations, aeons more advanced than ours, must be plying the spaces between stars." Shklovski and Sagan, p. 464] that repeated instances of extraterrestrial visitation to Earth were plausible [Even allowing for millions of years between visits from a hypothetical "Galactic survey ship", Sagan calculated ~10ˆ4 such visits could have occurred "during [Earth's] geologic time". Shklovski and Sagan, p. 461;] and that prescientific narratives can offer a potentially reliable means of describing contact with outsiders. [Sagan cites the 1786 expedition of French explorer Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse, which made the earliest contact between European and Tlingit cultures. This contact story was preserved as an oral tradition by the preliterate Tlingit, and was first recorded by anthropologist George T. Emmons over a century after its occurrence. Though framed in a Tlingit cultural and spiritual paradigm, the story remained an accurate telling of the 1786 encounter. According to Sagan, this proved how: :…under certain circumstances, a brief contact with an alien civilization will be recorded in a reconstructable manner. The reconstruction will be greatly aided if (1) the account is committed to written record soon after the event; (2) a major change is effected in the contacted society; and (3) no attempt is made by the contacting civilization to disguise its exogenous nature." Shklovski and Sagan, p. 453] Additionally, Shklovski and Sagan cited tales of Oannes, a fishlike being attributed with teaching agriculture, mathematics and the arts to early Sumerians, as deserving closer scrutiny as a possible instance of paleocontact due to its consistency and detail. ["stories like the Oannes legend, and representations especially of the earliest civilizations on Earth, deserve much more critical studies than have been performed heretofore, with the possibility of direct contact with an extraterrestrial civilization as one of many possible alternative explanations". Shklovski and Sagan, p. 461]

In his 1979 book "Broca's Brain", Sagan [ Sagan, "Broca's Brain", p. 67] suggested that he and Shklovski might have inspired the wave of '70s ancient astronaut books, expressing disapproval of "von Daniken and other uncritical writers" who seemingly built on his and Shklovksi's ideas and evidence not as guarded speculations but as "valid evidence of extraterrestrial contact." Sagan argued that while many legends, artifacts and purported OOPARTs were cited in support of ancient astronaut theories, "very few require more than passing mention" and could be easily explained with more conventional theories. Sagan also reiterated his earlier conclusion that extraterrestrial visits to Earth were possible but unproven, and perhaps improbable.


Infobox Pseudoscience
claims=Intelligent extraterrestrials visited the Earth in ancient times and profoundly affected the development of human civilization.
origprop=Charles Fort, Erich von Däniken
currentprop=Robert K. G. Temple, Zecharia Sitchin, Richard C. Hoagland, Burak Eldem, Ellen Lloyd
Ancient astronaut theories have been advanced by authors such as:
*Matest M. Agrest (1959)
*Alan F. Alford
*Jacques Bergier & Louis Pauwels in their (1959) book, "The Morning of the Magicians"
*Charles Berlitz (in his 1974 book "The Bermuda Triangle")
*Robert Charroux (1969)
*Maurice Chatelain (1978)
*Erich von Däniken (1968)
*W. Raymond Drake (1964)
*Burak Eldem
*Charles Fort (1919)
*Richard C. Hoagland
*Morris K. Jessup (1955)
*Peter Kolosimo (in his 1957 book, "Il pianeta sconosciuto")
*Henri Lhote (1958), [ [ Lhote, Henri (1903-1991) ] ]
*Ellen Lloyd
*S. Lunskaya with Bartopian Theory (1970)
*Rod Serling in his (1974) documentary "In Search of Ancient Astronauts"
*Zecharia Sitchin (1978)
*Brad Steiger (1967) in his book, "The Flying Saucer Menace"
*Robert K. G. Temple (1976)
*Brinsley Le Poer Trench (1960)
*George Hunt Williamson (1957)


Theosophical writings of the 19th and early 20th centuries contain many precursors to the ancient astronaut theories. Theosophy influenced authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, [At the Mountains of Madness#Plot summary] Charles Fort, and Erich von Däniken.

Erich von Däniken

Erich von Däniken was a leading proponent of this theory in the late 1960s and early 1970s, gaining a large audience through the 1968 publication of his best-selling book "Chariots of the Gods" and its sequels. Von Däniken's evidence for his vision of paleocontact consists of:
*Certain artifacts 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 artifacts were constructed either directly by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from said visitors. These artifacts and monuments include Stonehenge, the Moai of Easter Island, the Antikythera mechanism and the Ancient Baghdad Electric Batteries.
*Von Däniken claims that ancient art and iconography throughout the world illustrates air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, ancient astronauts and artifacts of an anachronistically advanced technology. Von Däniken also claims that geographically separated historical cultures share artistic themes, which he argues imply a common origin. For one such example, refer to von Däniken's interpretation of the sarcophagus lid recovered from the tomb of the Classic-era Maya ruler of Palenque, Pacal. Von Däniken claimed the design represented a seated astronaut, whereas the iconography and accompanying Maya text identifies it as a portrait of the ruler himself with the World Tree of Maya mythology.
*The origins of many religions are interpreted by von Däniken as reactions to encounters with an alien race. According to his view, humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. Von Däniken claims that the oral and written traditions of most religions contain references to alien visitors in the way of descriptions of stars and vehicular objects travelling through air and space. The author maintains that these should be seen as literal descriptions from eyewitnesses that have been interpreted by primitive peoples as supernatural events, or changed during the passage of time to become more obscure, rather than symbolic or mythical fiction. One such is Ezekiel's revelation in the Old Testament, which Däniken interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft.

Erich von Däniken's theories became popularized in the United States of America after the NBC-TV documentary In Search Of Ancient Astronauts hosted by Rod Serling and the movie Chariots of the Gods (film).

Since the publication of von Däniken's books, critics have argued that he misrepresented data, that many of his claims were unfounded, and that none of his core claims has been validated. ["Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods: Science or Charlatanism?", Robert Sheaffer. First published in the "NICAP UFO Investigator", October/November, 1974.]

Zecharia Sitchin

Zecharia Sitchin's series "The Earth Chronicles", beginning with "The 12th Planet", revolves around Sitchin's interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts, megalithic sites, and artifacts from around the world. He theorizes the gods of old Mesopotamia were actually astronauts from the planet "Nibiru", which Sitchin claims the Sumerians believed to be a remote "12th planet" (counting the Sun, Moon, and Pluto as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit our sun on a 3,600-year elongated orbit. Sitchin also suggests that the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the shattered remains of the ancient planet "Tiamat", which he claims was destroyed in one of Niburu's orbits through the solar system. Modern astronomy has found no evidence to support Sitchin's claims.

According to Sitchin, the Sumerians relate how 50 Anunnaki, the inhabitants of Nibiru, came to Earth approximately 400,000 years ago with the intent of mining raw materials, especially gold, for transport back to Nibiru. With their small numbers they soon tired of the task and set out to genetically engineer laborers to work the mines. After much trial and error they eventually created "homo sapiens sapiens": the "Adapa" (model man) or Adam of later mythology. Sitchin claims the Anunnaki were active in human affairs until their culture was destroyed by global catastrophes caused by the abrupt end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago. Seeing that humans survived and all they had built was destroyed, from that point he says, "kingship was lowered from heaven to Earth" and the Anunnaki left Earth after giving humans the opportunity and means to govern themselves.

Robert Temple

Robert K. G. Temple's 1976 book, "The Sirius Mystery " argues that the Dogon people of northwestern Mali preserved an account of extraterrestrial visitation from around 5,000 years ago. He quotes various lines of evidence, including supposed advanced astronomical knowledge inherited by the tribe, descriptions, and comparative belief systems with ancient civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Sumer. His work draws heavily on the studies of cultural anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. [Temple, Robert K. G., "The Sirius Mystery", 1976. ISBN 0 09 925744 0]

His conclusions have been criticized by Carl Sagan and Ian Ridpath, among others, who pointed out discrepancies within Temple's account, and suggested that the Dogon may have received some of their astronomical information recently and probably from European sources. [Sagan, Carl, Broca’s Brain, published by Random House, Inc. in 1974] [ [ Investigating the Sirius "Mystery"] - Skeptical Inquirer (1978) Ian Ridpath] In addition, noted anthropologist and ecologist Walter E. A. van Beek criticizes Temple's sources, mainly Griaule, for misrepresenting Dogon ethnography, imposing their own ideas, and fabricating their accounts. [Walter E. A. van Beek: "Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule." "Current Anthropology", 32 (1991): 139-167.]

Responding to van Beek's article, Genevieve Calame-Griaule, daughter and colleague of Marcel Griaule, dismissed van Beek's charges as being marred by a confusion of esoteric traditions and based almost entirely on speculation. [ Genevieve Calame-Griaule: "On the Dogon Restudied." Current Anthropology, Vol. 32, No. 5 (Dec., 1991), pp. 575-577] van Beek continues to maintain that Griaule was wrong and cites other anthropologists who also reject his work. [van Beek, Walter E.A., "Haunting Griaule: Experiences from the Restudy of the Dogon" History in Africa, Vol. 31. (2004), pp. 43-68.] Temple responded to his critics by pointing out that certain information, like the density of Sirius B, had only been acquired by Westerners a few years previously. He also noted the possible detection of a third star in 1995, [Benest, D., & Duvent, J. L. (1995) [ "Is Sirius a triple star?"] . Astronomy and Astrophysics 299: 621-628] which had already been documented as being incorporated into Dogon mythology. [Temple, Robert K. G. The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago. New York: St. Destiny Books (1998)] Skeptic and space journalist James Oberg was cautious in his approach to the information, stating that enthusiasts of Temple's claims have neither been proven or disproved in their assertions, and while Temple was not able to establish unquestionably the antiquity of most of the information in question, speculative notions of recent attainment from Europeans is "entirely circumstantial", and concludes that it is likely that this case may in fact remain a mystery. [James Oberg, " [ Chapter 6, The Sirius Mystery] ", in "UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries", (1982) Donning Press]

Raëlian religious movement

Raëlism, or Raëlianism, is a religious movement created by Claude Vorilhon, better known as Raël. Raël claims to have encountered extraterrestrials on a number of occasions. On one such occasion, he claims that he was informed that humans were created by an advanced extraterrestrial humanoid race, the Elohim, using their knowledge of DNA & Genetics. The Raëlian movement also argues against evolution and supports human cloning.

Evidence cited by proponents

Religious texts

Proponents cite ancient mythologies to support their viewpoints based on theories that hold that ancient creation myths of a god or gods who descend from the heavens to earth to create or instruct man are actually representations of alien visitors, whose superior technology accounts for their reception as gods. Proponents attempt to draw an analogy to occurrences in modern times when isolated cultures are exposed to Western technology. In the early 20th century, "cargo cults" were discovered in the South Pacific: cultures who believed various Western ships and their cargo to be sent from the Gods as fulfillment of prophecies concerning their return. [ [ The Cargo Cults ] ] As Arthur C. Clarke surmised in his 1961 book "Profiles of the Future", "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". [ [ Quote Details: Arthur C. Clarke: Any sufficiently advanced technology... - The Quotations Page ] ] Flying machines are sometimes mentioned in ancient texts; one example is the Vimanas, flying machines found in the Sanskrit epics of India. These tales range from fantastic aerial battles employing various weaponry, to the mundane relating simple technical information, flight procedure, and flights of fancy. (See also "Vaimanika Shastra", a text on Vimanas supposedly "channeled" in the early 20th century.) [David Hatcher Childress (" [ The Anti-Gravity Handbook] ")]

In the Biblical Old Testament, the Book of Ezekiel tells of a flying object seen as a fiery whirlwind which when descended to the ground gave the appearance of being made of metal. It is described among other things as a wheel within a wheel containing four occupants, "living creatures", whose likeness was that of man. The passage goes on to say that wherever the wheels went the creatures went, and when the living creatures were lifted up the wheels were lifted up. [King James Red Letter edition 1944, Ezekiel 1:1–28] The apocryphal Book of Enoch tells of similar flying objects and beings, but goes further in that Enoch is taken on journeys to various corners of the Earth in the object and at one point even travels to the heavens. [Book of Enoch Together with a Reprint of Greek Fragments (1912) ISBN 1-56459-523-4] In several chapters of the Old Testament the Hebrew God Yaweh is depicted as traveling as a column of smoke and/or fire [ [;&version=31; Exodus 13:21] ] and making the sound of a trumpet. [ [;&version=31; Exodus 19:16–19] ] These descriptions also describe Yahweh as having a physical presence, [ [;&version=31; Numbers 35:34] ] rather than an abstraction. Yahweh is described raining lightning [ [;&version=46; 2 Samuel 22:10–16] ] and stones [ [;&version=31; Joshua 10:10–11] ] down upon the enemies of the Hebrews. However, descriptions of the Hebrew God have also featured protecting wings and outstretched arms in the Psalms, features which may be considered contrary to theories of mechanical manifestations of God. [God: a Biography, Jack Miles 1996 ISBN-10: 0679743685]

Additionally, the characteristics of the Ark of the Covenant and the Urim and Thummim are identified as suggesting high technology, perhaps from alien origins. [ [ AncientDimensions Mysteries: De-Coded: The Ark Of The Covenant ] ]

Artifacts and artwork

Alleged physical evidence includes the discovery of artifacts in Egypt and Peru, which are claimed to be similar to modern planes and gliders, [ [ World Mysteries - Strange Artifacts, Ancient Flying Machines ] ] although these have been interpreted by archaeologists as stylized representations of birds and insects.

More support of this theory draws upon what are claimed to be flying saucers in medieval and renaissance art. Objects in the paintings that cannot be easily explained with relevance to the art piece are assumed by adherents to be flying saucers. [ [ Art and UFO - Part 5 ] ] This is used to support the ancient astronaut theory by attempting to show that the creators of humanity return to check up on their creation throughout time.

Other artistic support for the ancient astronaut theory has been sought in Palaeolithic cave paintings. Vondijina in Australia and Val Camonica in Italy (seen above) are claimed to bear a resemblance to present day astronauts. Supporters of the ancient astronaut theory sometimes claim that similarities such as dome shaped heads, interpreted as beings wearing space helmets, prove that early man was visited by an extraterrestrial race. [ [ UFO Evidence ] ]

Nazca Lines

The ancient Nazca lines comprise hundreds of enormous ground drawings etched into the high desert landscape of Peru, which consist primarily of geometric shapes, but also include depictions of a variety of animals and at least one humanoid. [ [ Nazca Lines and Culture - Crystalinks ] ] Many supporters of this theory cite the Nazca lines as evidence because the figures created by the lines are most clearly depicted or only able to be seen when viewed from the air. Writing professor Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky, using only technology he believed to be available to people of the time, was able to recreate one of the larger figures with a reasonable degree of accuracy [. [ The Mysterious Nazca Lines ] ]

Monumental architecture

Evidence for ancient astronauts is claimed to include the existence of ancient monuments and megalithic ruins such as the Giza pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru, or Baalbek in Lebanon. [ [ Baalbek, Lebanon ] ] Supporters contend these stone structures could not have been built with the technical abilities and tools of the people of the time and further argue that many could not be duplicated even today. They suggest that the large size of the building stones, the precision in which they were laid, and the distances many were transported leaves the question open as to who constructed these sites. These contentions are categorically rejected by mainstream archeology. Such allegations are not unique in history, however, as similar reasoning lay behind the wonder of the Cyclopean masonry walling at Mycenaean cities in the eyes of Greeks of the following "Dark Age," who believed that the giant Cyclopes had built the walls.

Baalbek, Lebanon

The three largest megalithic stones at Baalbek which together are referred to as the "Trilithon", are the largest stones quarried by man and are estimated to weigh 500 tons each with an even larger fourth stone left lying in the quarry over 1/2 of a mile away. [Coulton, J. J., "Lifting in Early Greek Architecture" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 94. (1974), pp. 1-19.] The three stones sit on top of a wall nearly 26ft high, slightly lower than the quarry, comprised of similar stones weighing between 50-500 tons.Fact|date=April 2008

Moai of Easter Island

Challenging the idea that the transporting of huge megaliths by ancient man was beyond their capabilities, archaeologists at Easter Island have attempted to demonstrate how people with stone age technology could have moved small megaliths short distances like some of the Easter Island Moai. [ [ NOVA Online | Secrets of Lost Empires | Easter Island ] ] The poured concrete Moai used in the demonstration weighed approximately 6 tons and was lifted onto the sled by modern crane, but was able to be moved with rollers several meters and erected upright. [ [ NOVA Online | Secrets of Lost Empires | Easter Island ] ] Actual Moai, however, weigh on average 12.5 metric tons with the largest erected being 74.4 metric tons. [ [ ] ]


Other than the proponents' own interpretations of ancient writings and artifacts, there has yet to be found any hard evidence to support the ancient astronaut hypothesis.

Alan F. Alford, author of “Gods of the New Millennium”, (1996) was an adherent of the ancient astronaut theory. Much of his work draws on Sitchin’s theories. However, he now finds fault with Sitchin’s theory after deeper analysis. [ [ Ancient Astronauts ] ] “"I am now firmly of the opinion that these gods personified the falling sky; in other words, the descent of the gods was a poetic rendition of the cataclysm myth which stood at the heart of ancient Near Eastern religions".” (Alford)(see Fermi Paradox)

ee also

* Pseudoarchaeology – pseudoscientific archaeology
* List of pseudosciences and pseudoscientific concepts
* Xenoarchaeology – archaeology of the physical remains of past alien cultures, mainly in science fiction




Further reading

* Avalos, Hector (2002) "The Ancient Near East in Modern Science Fiction: Zechariah Sitchin's "The 12th Planet" as Case Study." "Journal of Higher Criticism," vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 49-70.
* Harris, Christie (1975) "Sky Man on the Totem Pole?" New York: Atheneum.

External links

* [ UFOs and Art - article written from a critical perspective]
* [ Center for Ancient Astronaut Research]
* [ Pre-Incan Airplanes on a New Age website]
* [ Erich von Däniken Homepage]
* [ "Von Daniken's Maya Astronaut" article from a Mayan astronomy website]
* [ Robby D. Duncan's "12th Planet"]
* [ addressing flaws in the writings of Zecharia Sitchin]
* [ Statements about Flying Saucers and Extraterrestrial Life] made by Hermann Oberth.
* [ 'Fringe' or 'cult' archaeology examined by professional archaeologist Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews]

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