Ancient astronaut theory

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Paintings from Val Camonica, Italy, c.10,000 BC, purportedly showing extraterrestrial visitors.
Paintings from Val Camonica, Italy, c.10,000 BC, purportedly showing extraterrestrial visitors.

Ancient astronaut theories are various proposals that the Earth has, at some point in its early history, been visited by intelligent extraterrestrial beings, and that such contact is linked to either the origins or development of human cultures, technologies and/or religion. Indeed, some of these theories suggests that gods from most -- if not all -- religions are actually extraterrestrial beings, and their technologies were mistaken for divine entities by primitive man.[1][2] While no peer-reviewed scientific journal validates such claims, these theories have been popularized, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, by writers Erich von Daniken, Zechariah Sitchin and others.[3]

The Dogū (土偶) is speculated to be an Ancient Astronaut that visited earth during the Jōmon period of Ancient Japan, it shows features resembling a space suit, goggles and a space helmet.
The Dogū (土偶) is speculated to be an Ancient Astronaut that visited earth during the Jōmon period of Ancient Japan, it shows features resembling a space suit, goggles and a space helmet.

Proponents of ancient astronaut theories point to gaps in historical and archaeological records and the corresponding absence of definitive explanations in certain contexts from the archaeological sciences. Advocates of these theories put forward as evidence their interpretations of various archaeological artifacts, which they deem to have been anachronistic or "beyond the (presumed) technical capabilities" attributed to the historical cultures they are associated with (see "OOPArt"). Another common theme relies upon the interpretation of depictions in certain ancient artworks as being representations of actual extraterrestrial visitors as realized by the contacted cultures.

Critics maintain, however, that such gaps in contemporary knowledge of the past do not demonstrate that such alternative accounts are a necessary, or even plausible, conclusion to draw from the (lack of) available data. A number of ancient astronaut claims are made in direct opposition to the consensus scientific interpretation of evidence in situations where there are alternatives supported by more widely accepted theories. The scientific community remains generally skeptical, and the dominant view is that the evidence for ancient astronaut and paleocontact theories is undemonstrated.[4]

Ancient astronaut theories may be considered a subset of paleocontact theory, a hypothesis that intelligent extraterrestrials have visited Earth. Carl Sagan, I.S. Shklovskii and Hermann Oberth are three notable scientists who have seriously considered this possibility.

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[edit] Details

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. Ancient astronauts acted as a “mother culture”. These ideas are generally discounted by the scientific community[5]

[edit] Adherents

Ancient astronaut theories have been advanced by authors such as:-

[edit] Theosophy

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, Charles Fort, and Erich von Daniken.

[edit] 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 was:

  • Certain artifacts and monumental constructions, their purpose or origin unknown, appear to have required a more sophisticated technological ability in their construction than what was presumed by historians for those ancient cultures. These objects and structures are deemed to be beyond the technological capabilities of the associated societies attributed with their manufacture (at least in the eyes of the author and his adherents). 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. (See OOPArt)
  • In ancient art and iconography throughout the world, certain similar themes can be interpreted to illustrate air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, ancient astronauts and artifacts of an anachronistically advanced technology. Von Däniken also identifies certain details that appear similar across the art of geographically-diverse historical cultures, 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 clearly identifies it as a portrait of the ruler himself with the World Tree of Maya mythology.
  • The origins of many religions could be interpreted as reactions to encounters by primitive humans with some alien race. According to this view, humans consider the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. Von Däniken indicates that the oral and written traditions of most religions contain references to alien visitors by 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.

Since the publication of von Däniken's books, no substantial evidence has been found to verify his claims, while much claimed evidence has been disproven.[7]

[edit] Zecharia Sitchin

Zecharia Sitchin's series The Earth Chronicles, began with The 12th Planet, revolves around Sitchin's interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts, mysterious megalithic sites and anomalous artifacts from around the world. He theorizes the gods of old Mesopotamia were actually astronauts from the planet [Nibiru]], which 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. Modern astronomy has failed to find any evidence of this hypothetical planet, though our direct observation of Kuiper belt objects is presently limited.

According to Sitchin, the Sumerians relate how 50 Anunnaki or inhabitants of Nibiru came to Earth approximately 400,000 years ago with the intent of mining raw materials 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.

[edit] Robert Temple

Robert K. G. Temple's 1976 book, The Sirius Mystery presents a case that the Dogon people of northwestern Mali preserved an ancient account of extraterrestrial visitation around 5,000 years ago. He quotes various lines of evidence, including 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.[8]

His conclusions however, have seen criticism by Carl Sagan and Ian Ridpath, who pointed out what they saw as discrepancies within Temple's account, and suggested that the Dogon may have received some of their information recently and probably from European sources.[9][10] In addition, noted anthropologist and ecologist, Walter E. A. van Beek criticizes Temple's sources, mainly Griaule, for misrepresenting Dogon ethnography, imposing his own ideas, and fabricating his account.[11] In direct response to van Beek's rebuttal however, daughter and colleague of Marcel Griaule, Genevieve Calame-Griaule provided a detailed refutation of her own. She dismisses van Beek's charges as being marred by a confusion of esoteric traditions and based almost entirely on speculation.[12]

Temple responded to his critics by pointing out that certain information, like the density of Sirius B, had only been acquired by Westerners but a few years earlier. He also notes the possible detection of a third star in 1995[13], of which had already been documented as being incorporated into Dogon mythology.[14] 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 we will never know for sure and this case may in fact remain a mystery.[15]

[edit] Raëlian religious movement

Raëlism, or Raëlianism, is a religious movement created by Claude Vorilhon (or Raël). Raël, who claims to have encountered extraterrestrials on a number of occasions, and 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.

[edit] Purported evidence

Many authors use ancient mythologies to support their viewpoints, based on theories that basically tenet that nearly all ancient creation myths of a god or gods of having descended from the "heavens" to earth to create man. These myths detail extraordinary adventures of these god-like beings as actually using technologies unseen from the perspective of early man.

For example, flying machines often show up in ancient texts. One classical example is the Vimanas, flying machines that can be found in the Sanskrit epics of India.[16]

In the Biblical Old Testament, God is described as having various attributes that could be interpreted as being advanced rockets or other flying craft. He is described as having an upper "body" of metal[17] (which can also be interpreted as a kind of crown), appearing on a column of smoke and/or fire[18] and making the sound of a trumpet.[19] These descriptions portray the God of the ancient Hebrews as not only having the characteristics of a flying machine, but also quite clearly describe God as a physical presence,[20] not an abstraction. This God follows the Hebrews around and rains lightning[21] and stones[22] down upon their enemies from his position in the sky. However, poetically, descriptions of the Hebrew God have also featured having protecting wings and outstretched arms in the Psalms, features which may be considered contrary to some theories of mechanical manifestations of God, but tellingly refers to the different perceptions of their God given the different eras the stories were writtenTemplate:Fact. Additionally, the characteristics of the Ark of the Covenant[23] and the Urim and Thummim[24] are identified as suggesting high technology, perhaps from alien originsTemplate:Fact.

Other examples include the very detailed descriptions in the Biblical Book of Ezekiel, the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and countless ancient stories from China to Peru.

Physical evidence includes the discovery of ancient "model airplanes" in Egypt and South America, which some believe bear a resemblance to modern planes and gliders,[25] although conventionally these are interpreted as models of birds; the best known bears a painted falcon's face.

More support of this theory draws upon what some have thought to be flying saucers in medieval and renaissance art. Objects in the paintings that cannot be explained with relevance to the art piece are often assumed to be flying saucersTemplate:Fact. 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) bear a resemblance to present day astronauts; quite why ancient astronauts should wear pressure suits familiar in the late twentieth century is not explained. 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.[26]

[edit] Earlier ideas

Earlier sources — while generally not referencing ancient astronauts per se — suggest the creation of some monuments was beyond human means, such as Saxo Grammaticus' suggestion that giants had created Denmark's massive dolmens, or in tales that Merlin had assembled Stonehenge via magic.

Another frequent theme that can be encountered in many mythologies is a person who comes from far away as a god, or as the archetype of a "civilizing hero" who brings knowledge to mankind. Prometheus is the best-known Western example. In Native American lore there are numerous examples, including Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs and Viracocha of the Incas.

The cross-cultural similarities of deities coming from the heavens and the manners in which they speak to humans are explained by some as evidence of visitations by extraterrestrial beings. The myths of Gods and Godesses are supposedly real accounts of these visitations. The extraterrestrials are seen as divine due to their technology, which is superior to the point it can only be explained as the “powers” or magic of the God or Goddess by the creators of the deity myths.

[edit] Criticism

Although there does not seem to be evidence supporting the ancient astronaut speculation, there is evidence against the ancient astronaut idea.

Alan F. Alford, author of “Gods of the New Millennium”, (1996) is an adherent of the ancient astronaut theory. Much of his work draws on Sitchin’s theories. However, he does admit to some faults in Sitchin’s theory after deeper analysis.[27]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).

[edit] Nazca Lines

The Nazca lines of Peru area large group of enormous ground drawings[28] Many supporters of this theory cite the Nazca lines as evidence because the civilization that made them would only have been able to view these from the air. They have been reproduced by scientists such as Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky, using only technology available to them at the time. With this, they were able to reconstruct even the most intricate figures of the lines[29]. What they have been unable to produce, however, are the reasons behind the creation of the Nazca Lines, nor any information relating to who conceived of the project. In a special on the History Channelelating to the possibility of ancient astronauts, the theory was put forth that the Nazca Lines, if they are indeed made by the hands of mankind, were a means of contacting alien beings they may once have encountered in an attempt to entice their return. This theory remains pure speculation, at best.

[edit] Difficulties of building and moving megaliths

Evidence for ancient astronauts often consists of suggestions that ancient monuments and megalithic ruins, such as the pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru, or Baalbek in Lebanon, [30] could not have been built without technical abilities beyond those of people at that time. Such allegations are not unique in history. 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. As well as aliens other candidates for the lost civilizations that taught or provided these skills are the pseudo-historical lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu.

However, modern archaeology has successfully demonstrated that people with stone age technology can create and move megaliths such as the Easter Island Moai.[31]

Also the idea that certain stonework was beyond the technological capabilities of the people who historians attribute it to has been challenged, with for example the Moai and Ahus of the Rapanui of Easter Island put into the wider context of Polynesian Marae by Alfred Metraux and others.


[edit] See also

[edit] References

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[edit] Notes

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[edit] 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.

[edit] External links

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