The Case Against Ancient Aliens Part Eight Easter Island, The Piri Reis Map and Ancient Art

(This is the final of a series of articles which were intended to be published in the Australian magazine Ufologist. Unfortunately, the magazine was cancelled after the first four were published.)

Easter Island

Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean contains over 800 large statues or moai, about half of which are unfinished. The documentary Chariots of the Gods? says that “many of those stone colossi stand 65 feet high and weigh nearly 400 tons.” [1]

Actually, the average weight of a statue was about 10 tons. The heaviest completed statue weighs 87 tons and there is an unfinished statue which weighs about 270 tons [2].

Von Daniken doubts the Easter Islanders could have created them,

“No trees grow on the island, which is a tiny speck of volcanic stone. The usual speculation, that the stone giants were moved to their present sites on giant wooden rollers, is not feasible on this case, either. In addition, the island can scarcely have provided food for more than 2000 inhabitants. (A few hundred natives lives on Easter Island today.) A shipping trade, which brought food and clothing for stonemasons, is hardly credible in antiquity. Then who cut the statues out of the rock, who carved and transported them to their sites? How were they moved across country for miles without rollers?” [3]

In the Ancient Aliens episode “The Monoliths” von Daniken says, “They look like robots.”[4] Really?

In 1958 Thor Heyerdahl published Aku-Aku, an account of his investigation of Easter Island. This book appears in the bibliography of Chariots of the Gods? [5]. Von Daniken writes,

“Heyerdahl discovered hundreds of unfinished statues near rock faces and on the edges of craters, thousands of stone implements, simple stone axes, lay around as if the work had been abandoned quite suddenly.” [6]

Von Daniken does not tell his readers how Heyerdahl asked the Easter Islanders to show how their ancestors carved, transported and raised the statues. Heyerdahl writes,

“To tackle the problem at its root we first studied the numerous uncompleted figures which lay on the ledges in the quarry itself. It was clear the work had been broken off suddenly; thousands of primitive unpolished stone picks still lay in the open-air workshop, and as different groups of sculptors had worked simultaneously on many different statues, all stages of carving were represented.” [7]

The Easter Islanders showed him how they carved the statues using stone tools. They estimated it would have taken six men about a year to carve a statue [8]. Twelve men were able to raise a fallen 25 to 30 ton statue using stones and wooden levers in 18 days [9] and 180 men were able to drag a 12 ton statue without any sled or rollers [10]. They did not need any help from aliens.

The Easter Islanders believed the moai “walked” to their locations, rather than being dragged along the ground. In a 2011 National Geographic sponsored expedition 18 people with three ropes were able to move an upright five ton moai replica, compared with Heyerdahl’s 180 men dragging a 12 ton statue [11]. If the original moai had bene moved upright, this could explain the belief that they walked.

Furthermore, while there are no trees on Easter Island today, this was not the case in the past, Jared Diamond writes,

“However, several methods for recovering remains of vanished plants have shown within the last few decades that, for hundreds of thousands of years before human arrival and still during the early days of human settlement, Easter was not a barren wasteland but a subtropical forest of tall trees and wooden bushes.” [12]

Diamond also writes that estimates of Easter Island’s earlier population range from 6000 to 30,000 [13]. They clearly had the population resources to carve, transport and raise the statues.

In his book In Search of Ancient Gods von Daniken suggested,

“Alien cosmonauts supplied the original islanders with sophisticated technical tools that priests or magicians could use. They freed the masses from the lava and shaped them. Then the alien visitors disappeared.” [14]

The natives tried to keep making the statues using stone tools but they could not. Von Daniken continues,

“In opposition to Heyerdahl’s theory I consider the discovery of hand-axes as proof that the work could not have been carried out with these tools.” [15]

Finding stone tools near unfinished statues somehow proves the statues were not carved by these stone tools, but by imaginary alien technology which has not been found.

It was not the case that the Islanders tried to carve some statues, but gave up. For some reason their construction process just stopped, including statues which were nearly finished. They even stopped transporting some finished statues [16].

The Piri Reis Map

In Chariots of the Gods? von Daniken writes.

“At the beginning of the eighteenth century ancient maps which had belonged to an officer in the Turkish Navy, Admiral Piri Reis were found in the Topkapi Palace … The maps were absolutely accurate” [17] and showed Antarctica under the ice.

Von Daniken writes.

“The latest studies of Professor Charles H. Hapgood and the mathematician Richard W. Strachan give us more shattering information. Comparison with modern photographs of a globe taken from satellites showed that the origins of Piri Reis’s maps must have been aerial photographs taken from a very great height.” [18]

He suggests they were taken by a spaceship hovering high above Cairo [19].

There is only one Piri Reis map which was discovered in 1929 and it is not “absolutely accurate” as von Daniken claims. In his book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings Charles Hapgood, whom von Daniken cited, points out that half of Cuba, which is misidentified as Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) is missing, the Amazon River has been drawn twice, there were two equators and about 900 miles of South America is missing [20].

In spite of the impression, which von Daniken gives, Hapgood did not believe the map was the product of aerial photography. He writes that “the drawing of the mountains indicates that they were observed from the sea – from coastal shipping – and not imagined.” [21]

Hapgood did believe the map showed Antarctica under the ice. However, the Piri Reis map does not appear to show Antarctica at all. The 800 kilometre wide Drake Passage, which separates Antarctica from South America, is missing. What Hapgood and ancient aliens believers claim is ice-free Antarctica is the south east coast of South America which has been bent ninety degrees [22].

Ancient aliens in rock art?

Unusual looking beings can be seen in ancient rock art found around the world. Ancient aliens believers claim they are portrayals of alien visitors in the distant past. Some of these beings are wearing what are supposed to be space helmets with antenna [23].

Von Daniken’s In Search of Ancient Gods [24] and the documentary Chariots of the Gods? [25] reproduce what they claim is rock art from Uzbekistan clearly showing a being in a spacesuit with two antenna holding a gun with a flying saucer overhead. This is not ancient rock art. It is copied from an illustration from an article about ancient aliens in the June 1967 issue of the Soviet magazine Sputnik [26] .

Ancient rock art of aliens according to Erich von Daniken
The original picture

Moreover, antenna may stick out of space helmets in juvenile science fiction and cartoons, but not out of the helmets of real life astronauts. They would probably get in the way and break off.

In The Space Gods Revealed and Guardians of the Universe? Ronald Story suggests that authentic rock paintings show people wearing animal masks and costumes for ritual dances [27]. The so-called antenna would only be the antlers or horns of local animals which the masks they are wearing represent. Australian Aboriginal rock art sometimes portray strange beings which ancient aliens believers claim are aliens [28], but they rarely, if ever, have “antenna” because there are no native animals with antlers.

Most anthropologists now believe that ancient rock art portrays what tribal shamans or medicine men saw during trance states which were often drug induced. In his book Supernatural Graham Hancock describes how he experimented on himself with hallucinogenic plans. (Don’t try this at home!) His visions included lots of snakes, grey beings with black eyes similar to those seen by UFO abductees, flying saucers and a man with the head of a crocodile resembling the Egyptian god Sobek [29].

Half-human, half-animal beings, which are called therianthropes, are common in rock art, appearing in Africa, Asia, Europe and America. They also appear in Greek, Egyptian and other myths.  The Ancient Aliens episode “Aliens and Bigfoot” claims that the Egyptian gods Anubis, who was portrayed as a jackal’s head on a human body, and Thoth, an ibis head on a human body, were real and were created by aliens [30]. In the episode “Mysteries of the Sphinx” they say Anubis was an alien, not one of their creations [31] .

People in the 21st century are taking the absurd idea of a man with a dog’s head literally and assume it to be true. The ancient Egyptians may have portrayed their gods as having animal heads, but they did not believe the gods really looked like that, Erik Hornung writes,

“No thinking Egyptian would have imagined that the true form of Amun was a man with a ram’s head. Amun is the divine power that may be seen in the image of a man, among many others, as Horus showed himself in the image of a hawk whose wings span the sky and Anubis in the image of the black canine (“jackal”) … None of these images shows the true form of a god, and none can encompass the full richness of his nature – hence the variable iconography of Egyptian gods, which is seldom reduced to a fixed, canonical form.”[32]

The producers of Ancient Aliens would have us believe these are representations of aliens or hybrids created by aliens. Hancock’s experiments and the research of anthropologists suggest it is more plausible that they are representations of what ancient humans saw during trance states.

[1] Chariots of the Gods, Terra-Filmkunst, 1970, 67 min

[2] Jared Diamond, Collapse, Allen Lane, Victoria, 2005, p 96

[3] Erich von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods?, Corgi, London, 1971, p 114

[4]  “The Monoliths”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2013, 26 min

[5] Chariots of the Gods?. op cit., p 182

[6] Ibid., p 114

[7] Thor Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1958, p 87

[8]  Ibid., p 135-136

[9] Ibid., p 145-148

[10]  Ibid., p 150-151

[11] Hannah Bloch, “Easter Island Quest’, National Geographic, Vol. 222, No. 1, July 2012, p 47-48

[12]  Collapse, op cit., p 102-103

[13]  Ibid., p 91

[14]  Erich von Daniken, In Search of Ancient Gods, Corgi, London, 1975, p 113

[15]  Ibid., p 114

[16]  Aku-Aku, op cit., p 92

[17]  Chariots of the Gods?. op cit., p 29

[18]  Ibid., p 30

[19] Ibid

[20] Charles Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 1996, p 30, 61

[21] Ibid., p 68

[22]  Cuoghi, D., The Mysteries of the Piri Reis Map,

[23] In Search of Ancient Gods, op cit., p 59

[24]  Ibid., p 64-65

[25] Chariots of the Gods?, op cit., 85 min

[26] Jason Colavito, “Faking Ancient Art in Uzbekistan”,

[27] Ronald Story, The Space Gods Revealed, New English Library, London, 1978, p 287, Ronald Story, Guardians of the Universe?, New English Library, London, 1981, p 85-87

[28]  In Search of Ancient Gods, op cit., p 62, 178, 189

[29] Graham Hancock, Supernatural, Arrow Books, London, 2006, p 58-75

[30] “Aliens and Bigfoot”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2012

[31] “Mysteries of the Sphinx”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2014

[32] Eric Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, New York, 1996, p 124-125


The Case Against Ancient Aliens Part Seven Central and South America

(This post was originally intended to be part of a series of articles which were published in Ufologist Magazine in Australia, but unfortunately it ceased publication after the first four were published.)

The Ecuador Tunnels Hoax

In his 1973 book The Gold of the Gods von Daniken claims that he and Juan Moricz  explored an underground tunnel system which ran for hundreds of miles in Ecuador. He wrote,

“To me this is the most incredible, fantastic story of the century. It could easily have come from the realms of Science Fiction if I had not seen and photographed the incredible truth in person. What I saw was not the product of dreams and imagination, it was real and tangible.”[1]

Von Daniken described entering the cave,

“We switched on our torches and the lamps on our helmets, and there in front of us was the gaping hole which led down to the depths. We slid down a rope to the first platform 250 feet below the surface. From there we made two further descents of 250 feet. Then our visit to the age-old underworld of a strange unknown race really began.” [2]

Anyone, who reads this and von Daniken’s use of the first person, would conclude that von Daniken is saying he went into the cave and saw these things himself.

He described how they entered “a hall as big as the hangar of a Jumbo Jet … Galleries leading in different directions branched off it.”[3] They went down a side passage to another hall which measured 153 feet by 164 feet where there was a library comprising 2-3000 metal plaques, about three feet high and one foot wide with writing upon them [4].

However, Juan Moricz  later said that von Daniken never entered the caves. In a 1974 interview with Playboy, he was asked, “Which of you is telling the truth?”

Von Daniken replied, “I guess we both are telling half the truth.” He went on, “In German we say a writer, if he is not writing pure science, is allowed to use some dramaturgisch effekte – some theatrical effects. And that is what I’ve done.”

The interviewer asked, “Did you, in fact, see things you describe? Seven chairs made of a plastic like material, a zoo of solid-gold animals, a library of gold plates?”

Von Daniken replied. “Definitely. No doubt. I must say I am not sure, anymore, if the so-called zoo is made of gold. It could be something different.” [5]

In his 2009 book History is Wrong von Daniken quotes his description of the metal library from The Gold of the Gods, but it is edited in such a way that he now does not claim to have it himself [6]. He now says the description of the metal library came for Juan Moricz [7] who only took von Daniken into a side cave,

“Afterward, we crawled a few meters into the cave. From deep within the dull depths we could hear the rumbling of water … Apart from a few strange figures and stone sculptures that stood out in the scampering torchlight, there was little to see. Certainly no metal library.”[8]

Von Daniken is contradicting himself. The 1974 Playboy interview also reports how von Daniken has three convictions for embezzlement and court psychiatrists said he displayed “a tendency to lie” and was “a liar and a criminal psychopath.” [9]

The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are a series of lines in the Nazca Desert in Peru. Many are straight lines which run for hundreds of metres. Others form drawings of animals. They can only be appreciated from the air.

In Chariots of the Gods? von Daniken writes, “The archaeologists say they are Inca roads. A preposterous idea!” [10]

No archaeologist thinks the Nazca Lines are roads.

He continued. “Seen from the air, the clear-cut impression that the 37-mile -long plain of Nazca had on me was that of an airfield!” [11]

The 1970 documentary Chariots of the Gods? says. “There’s no doubt. They were landing fields. The Plain of Nazca is a gigantic abandoned airport.” [12]

In his 1977 book According to the Evidence, von Daniken writes. “So it was a landing-ground for the extra-terrestrials.” [13]

The Ancient Aliens episode “The Evidence” asks, “Could the complex set of lines covering Peru’s Nazca plain …. be evidence of runways for a worldwide air transportation system?” [14]

In The End of Days Zecharia Sitchin suggested Nazca was the last spaceport of the Anunnaki and the lines were the product of spaceships taking off when the aliens left Earth [15].

The Nazca Lines may look like runways but some are over 8 kilometres long. One is 60 kilometres long. They are too long to be runways unless the aliens had invented interplanetary travel but not brakes.

Furthermore, the ground is too soft for any aircraft to land there. The German archaeologist Maria Reiche, who began studying the Nazca Lines in 1940, commented. “I’m afraid the spacemen would have gotten stuck.” [16]

In his book The Ancient Aliens Question Philp Coppens writes,

“Today, owners of local airplanes offer tourists the experience of making an “aborted landing” on the lines: The pilots prepare for a landing as if the lines were an airport, and just before the landing, the plane pulls up again.” [17]

This may give the impression of landing fields but it actually proves they were not, because if they did try to land, they would crash in the soft ground. Coppens also points out that if aircraft did land there, they would have blown the lines away,

“The problem is simple: If a plane ever did manage to land on the lines, on the rough terrain, the sheer displacement of air would result in the lines being blown off. The top soil would once again cover the scraped-off areas, and the white lines of the soil underneath would disappear.” [18]

In History is Wrong von Daniken denied ever saying the Nazca Lines were landing strips for aliens,

“Finally, just to hammer it in a bit more for those who still cottoned on: I never wrote in any of my books that aliens built the “landing strips”, or that the site is some kind of “spaceport!”[19]

The Palenque Sarcophagus

Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque

In the Temple of the Inscriptions in the Mayan city of Palenque in Mexico lies the sarcophagus of King Pakal I (615-683 AD). Erich von Daniken says the carving on the sarcophagus lid shows a man in a rocket,

“There sits a human being, with the upper part of his body bent forward like a racing motor-cyclist: today any child would identify his vehicle as a rocket. It is pointed at the front, then changes to strangely grooved indentations like inlet ports, widens out and terminates at the tail in a darting flame. The crouching being himself is manipulating a number of undefinable controls and the heel of his left foot on a kind of pedal. His clothing is appropriate: short trousers with a broad belt, a jacket with a modern Japanese opening at the neck and closely fitting bands at arms and legs. With our knowledge of similar pictures, we should be surprised if the complicated head gear were missing. And there it is with the usual indentations and tubes, and something like antenna on top. Our space traveller – he is clearly depicted as one – is not only bent forward tensely, he is also looking intently at an apparatus hanging in front of his face. The astronaut’s front seat is separated by struts from the rear portion of the vehicle, in which symmetrically arranged boxes, circles, points and spirals can be seen.” [20]

Admittedly, this does look like a rocket, but von Daniken is reading too much into this image. The hands are not manipulating controls or anything else. David Hatcher Childress, who now appears on Ancient Aliens, pointed out in his 1992 book Lost Cities of North and Central America, he is bare-chested and barefoot,

“It was a bizarre scene, though von Daniken’s explanation didn’t make sense to me. The man was barefoot and wore no shirt, a typical dress for the Maya, but is this how one dresses when one is in one’s spaceship? Maybe tomorrow’s astronauts will wear surfer shorts and rubber flip-flops.” [21]  

If it is a rocket, it would be about four metres long. Where are the fuel tanks?  Childress further argues that interplanetary travellers would not use rockets,

“Lastly, it seems unlikely that any sort of rocket power was ever used in the past or will be ever be used in the future, by visiting astronauts or ancients returning to earth. That other civilizations (of other planets or from earth) would have ever travelled via rocket power is unlikely considering the nature of flying saucers, conventional airships and the science of anti-gravity, gravity control and electro-magnetic space craft.”[22]

Then, there is the problem of the bird on the tip of the “rocket”.

Archaeologists believe the “rocket” is a representation of the Mayan World Tree which viewed the universe as consisting of three planes, the underworld, this terrestrial world and the upper world or heaven. The roots of the World Tree went down into the underworld or Xibalba, which ancient aliens believers interpret as the flames of the rocket, while the top of the tree reached into heaven, symbolized by the Celestial Bird. The soul of Pakal is travelling along the World Tree, rising out of the jaws of the underworld, which ancient aliens believers interpret as the back of the rocket, rising towards heaven. Other interpret it as Pakal falling backwards into the underworld.

This makes sense when we see similar iconography on other temples at Palenque, the Temple of the Cross and the Temple of the Foliated Cross built by Pakal’s son Kan Balam (684-702 AD).

Wall panel showing the Maya World Tree in the Temple of the Cross
Wall panel showing another version of the Maya World Tree in the Temple of the Foliated Cross

Other Mayan claims

Erich von Daniken has made some other strange claims about the Maya. In his book Chariots of the Gods? he suggests the Sacred Cenote (“sacred well”) at Chichen Itza was possibly made by a meteorite [23]. However, the documentary Chariots of the Gods? says,

“It is a perfectly round crater in the rock. It couldn’t possibly have been formed naturally, nor could human hands alone have scooped it out. It resembles a crater made by the exhaust gases of a very powerful rocket engine.” [24]

Since the well is about 65 metres deep and 40 metres wide, it would have been a very big rocket, too big to lift off. The well is not a meteorite crater either. It is a sinkhole created by underground water dissolving the limestone.

Erich von Daniken thinks a rocket made this sink hole at Chichen Itza

Von Daniken asks, “How did the Maya know about Uranus and Neptune?” [25]

There is no evidence the Maya knew about Uranus and Neptune [26]. Like other ancient civilizations, they were only aware of the planets which could be seen with the naked eye. In fact, the Maya believed the world rested on the back of a crocodile, which suggests they did not receive any astronomical knowledge from aliens [27].

Tiwanaku and Puma Punku

The Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco

The ruins of Tiwanaku or Tiahuanaco are located near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Part of the site includes the temple complex of Puma Punku. The Ancient Aliens episode “The Mystery of Puma Punku” says that the archaeologist Arthur Posnansky dated Puma Punku to 15000 BC [28]. Posnansky believed that the Kalasasaya temple down the road at Tiwanaku was meant to be aligned so that the sun would rise over the cornerstones at the summer and winter solstices. It doesn’t, but it did 15000 years ago, so, according to Posnansky, this meant Tiwanaku was built 15000 years ago. That would be 13000 BC, not 15000 BC. Or maybe it was not meant to align at all [29].

In contrast, conventional archaeologists date Puma Punku to around 600 AD.

Erich von Daniken says that the Incas told the Spanish Conquistadors that they did not build Puma Punku, but said that “This was made by the gods in one single night” [30]. The first part is true. The Incas did not build Puma Punku. Their empire was founded around 1300 AD. However, Puma Punku was not built overnight, but in three stages [31]. Moreover, it looks like Puma Punku was not even finished.

As I mentioned earlier when it came to Stonehenge and Baalbek, local people do not necessarily know who built older monuments in their area. Outside archaeologists can have a better idea. Just because the locals attribute them to the gods or giants does not mean we should take their legends seriously.

Ancient aliens believers usually claim that the Great Pyramid and other ancient structures were built by humans using alien technology. However, they believe Puma Punku was actually built by aliens. Giorgio Tsoukalo says, “Puma Punku is the only site on planet Earth that, in my opinion, was built by extraterrestrials.” [32]  

Puma Punku is not as impressive as the Great Pyramid or Baalbek. The definitive proof for ancient aliens is supposed to be rectangular recesses which have been cut into the blocks, particularly the large H-shaped blocks. The Ancient Aliens episode “The Mystery of Puma Punku” shows a CGI light going over some of the carvings, suggesting that they must have been cut by lasers [33].

Ancient aliens believers are a bit confused about what these blocks are made of.  In Knowledge Apocalypse Jason Martel says they are made of granite and diorite [34] .  In the episode “The Mystery of Puma Punku” David Hatcher Childress repeatedly says the blocks are made of granite [35]. It would be difficult for people to carve right angles in hard granite with primitive tools, however, in the same episode the narrator says the blocks are andesite [36].

In The Enigma of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku Brien Foerster correctly says the blocks are made of andesite and sandstone [37]. Foerster even appears with Childress at Puma Puku in “The Mystery of Puma Punku” [38]. It is a pity he did not tell him what the blocks are really made of.

I do not see how being able to carve rectangular recesses into a block of andesite is more impressive than the ancient Egyptians being able to carve lifelike statues out of granite.

Childress is also shown holding a steel square against a block, saying, “You can see with this block of granite that it’s really been cut at very accurate right angles” [39] . Actually, you can see from the gap between the square and the surface that it is not a perfect right angle.

The Ancient Aliens episode “Chariots, Gods and Beyond” suggests that the Puma Punku blocks were made from moulds [40]. However, in an article “The Engineers of Puma Punku” in Atlantis Rising Christopher Dunn describes how he measured four of the H-blocks and found they were not identical. They could not have been made for moulds [41].

In the episode “The Mystery of Puma Punku” stone from Puma Punku is taken to Christopher Dunn in his workshop who cuts it with a laser and a diamond saw and compares these modern cuts with the original cut surface under a microscope. The narrator says that “the comparison reveals distinct differences” [42]. Dunn says that “whatever they used to cut the ancient surface must have been a different method.”[43] In other words, it does not look like they used machine tools. This would appear to discredit their claims that some sort of advanced technology was used to cut the stones.

Dunn also dismissed the theory that the H-blocks were cut by lasers; “There is only word for such notions: Impossible.” [44]

In the Ancient Aliens episode “The Mystery of Puma Punku” the interviewees have different theories about what Puma Punku was. Erich von Daniken suggests it was an “alien base camp” [45]. Brien Foerster suggests it was a factory [46]. David Hatcher Childress suggests it was a “granite spaceport” [47]. in an episode of another series In Search of Aliens, “The Mysteries of Puma Punku” Childress suggests that Tiawanaku and Puma Punku were “mining centres” [48].

An alien spaceport would presumably need a landing pad, hangars, a power generator, storage areas, living quarters and a command and communications centre. The Puma Punku complex consisted of an unwalled wet court, an unwalled esplanade leading to a terraced platform, which included a sunken court and a walled east court on the other side [49]. The evidence does not support their speculations. Likewise, there is no evidence the area was an alien mining centre, such as a big hole in the ground.

Map of Puma Punku from William Isbell, “Palaces and Politics in the Andean Middle Horizon”, in Susan Toby Evans and Joanne Pillsbury (editors), Palaces of the Ancient New World, Harvard Unviersity, Wahington DC, 1998, p 230

In the 1950s the Feunta Magna bowl was purportedly discovered near Lake Titicaca. This is a stone bowl inscribed with what appears to be Sumerian writing. In the In Search of Aliens episode “The Mysteries of Puma Punku” David Hatcher Childress says, “The Feunta Magna Bowl is basically proof that the Sumerian Anunnaki came to South America.” [50]   

Writing on the inside of the Fuenta Magna Bowl

Archaeologists assume the bowl is a hoax [51], but even if it authentic, it hardly proves that aliens from Sumer visited South America. People, capable of intercontinental and interplanetary travel, do not use stone bowls. If it is authentic, it only proves that the Sumerians reached South America, which would appeal to the likes of Graham Hancock, but it is not evidence for ancient aliens.


[1] Erich von Daniken, The Gold of the Gods, Corgi, London, 1975, 1973, p 1

[2] Ibid., p 6

[3]  Ibid., p 7

[4]  Ibid., p 9-10

[5] “Playboy Interview: Erich Von Daniken”, Playboy, August 1974, p 58

[6]  Erich von Daniken, History is Wrong, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2009, p 91

[7]  Ibid., p 99

[8] Ibid., p 109

[9]  “Playboy Interview: Erich von Daniken”, op cit, p 51-52

[10] Erich von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods?, Corgi, London,1972, p 31

[11]  Ibid., p 32

[12] “Chariots of the Gods”, Terra-Filmkunst, 1970, 90 min

[13]  Erich von Daniken, According to the Evidence, Souvenir Press, London, 1977, p 336

[14] “The Evidence”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2010, 23 min

[15]  Zecharia Sitchin, The End of Days, Harper, New York, 2007, p 244

[16]  Loren McIntyre, “Mystery of the Ancient Nazca Lines”, National Geographic, May 1976, p 718

[17] Philip Coppens, The Ancient Aliens Question, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2012, p 146

[18]  Ibid., p 147

[19]  History is Wrong, op cit., 191

[20]  Chariots of the Gods?, op cit., p 123-124

[21] David Hatcher Childress, Lost Cities of North and Central America, Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 1992, p 196

[22]  Ibid., p 198

[23] Chariots of the Gods?, op cit., p 127

[24]  “Chariots of the Gods?”, op cit., 59 min

[25] Chariots of the Gods?, op cit., p 126

[26]  Ronald Story, Guardians of the Universe, New English Library, London, 1980, p 56

[27] Clifford Wilson, Crash Go the Chariots, Master Books, San Diego, 1976, p 98

[28]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2012, 3 min

[29] Jason Colavito, “Review of Ancient Aliens S04E06: The Mysteries of Puma Punku”, www,

[30] “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, op cit., 22 min

[31]  William Isbell, “Politics and Palaces in the Andean Middle Horizon”, in Susan Evans and Joanne Pillsbury (editors), Palaces of the Ancient World, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, Washington DC, 2004, p 229-230

[32]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, op cit., 1 min

[33] Ibid., 29, 43 min

[34] Jason Martel, Knowledge Apocalypse, X-Facts, USA, 2012, p 44

[35]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku” op cit., 3, 10, 12, 28 min

[36]  Ibid., 5, 9, 10 min

[37]  Brien Foerster, The Enigma of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, USA, 2015, p 12

[38]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, op cit., 5, 7, 10-11, 20, 30 ,42-43 min

[39]  Ibid., 5 min

[40] “Chariots, Gods and Beyond”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2009, 48 min

[41]  Christopher Dunn, “The Engineers of Puma Punku”, Atlantis Rising, No. 103, Jan-Feb 2013, p 64

[42]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, op cit., 8 min

[43]  Ibid., 9 min

[44]  “The Engineers of Puma Punku”, op cit., p 64

[45]  “The Mystery of Puma Punku”, op cit., 24 min

[46]  Ibid., 29 min

[47] Ibid., 28 min

[48]  “The Mysteries of Puma Punku”, In Search of Aliens, History Channel, 2014, 34 min

[49] “Politics and Palaces in the Andean Middle Horizon”, op cit., p 230

[50]  “The Mysteries of Puma Punku”, op cit., 34 min

[51] “10 Amazing discoveries That Won’t Make You Question Everything”,

The Case Against Ancient Aliens Part Six Vimanas and Nuclear War in Ancient India

(This post was originally intended to be published as an article in Ufologist Magazine, but unfortunately they have ceased publication.)


Ancient aliens believers claim there are descriptions of flying machines called vimanas and nuclear warfare in ancient Indian texts. These claims first appeared in the 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski [1].

In a blog articles “Vimana Aircraft of India: More Sloppy Scholarship from David Childress”, Jason Calovito explains the origin of the word “vimana”,

“The word vimana means “that which was measured out”. The word was first applied to the palace of the monarch, and from that to temples. Because temples are the houses of the gods, the Hindu gods’ palaces could also be called vimanas. In the oldest texts the Vedas, these were drawn by flying horses, like the chariot of the sun god in most Indo-European cultures (see, for example, the myth of Phaethon.)  In later epics, beginning with the Ramayana (c. 500 BCE), the chariots lost their horses and were flying on their own. The very first of these is the flying chariot of the earthly king Ravana called Pushpaka. By the time of the Mahabharata (c. 400 BCE), these flying machines had grown in size – one was now described as 12 cubits in circumference – but they never lost the large wheels that marked them as derived from earthly horse-drawn chariots.”[2]

Because vimanas came to mean both Indian temples and the flying palaces of the gods, the flying vimanas were usually portrayed as having the same tall trapezoid shape as Indian temples, which do not appear at all aerodynamic.

As mentioned before, historians tend to regard earlier sources as more reliable because they have not become embellished over time, but ancient aliens believers tend to rely on the later sources which are less reliable and bear less resemblance to the original events if they happened at all.

The Ancient Aliens episode “The Evidence” claims that there are “ancient Sanskrit texts dating back as far as 6000 BC describing in vivid detail flying machines called vimanas.”[3]

Actually, there were no Sanskrit speakers in India in 6000 BC. Instead of showing us any of these supposed 8000 year old texts, Ancient Aliens proceeds to show us illustrations from the Vimanika Shastra [4]. This is not an ancient text. It was channelled by Pandit Subraaya Sastri between 1918 and 1923 [5]. One would not learn this from Ancient Aliens who give their audience the impression this is an ancient text.

A vimana from an ancient Indian text written around 1920

In 1974 the Indian Institute of Science published a study of the Vimanika Shastra and concluded that the aircraft described in the text could not have flown and it was apparently written by someone who did not understand aerodynamics;

“None of the planes has properties or capabilities of being flown; the geometries are unimaginably horrendous from the point of view of flying: and the principles of propulsion make them resists rather than assist flying.” [6]

In Weapons of the Gods Nick Redfern comments,

“There’s no doubt, however, that everything that ahs been circulated about vimanas – as fast-flying vehicles equipped with atomic bombs – does not come from the pages of the Mahabharata, even though that is clearly the assumption of many. It is an outgrowth and expansion on the words of an Indian mystic who, in the early 20th century, received messages in his mind from paranormal entities.” [7]

An authentic Indian text which mentions vimanas is the Samarangana Sutradhara, an 83 chapter treatise on Indian architecture and engineering, which was written by King Bhoja of Dhar (1010 -1055 AD). Chapter 31 discusses yantras, which can be translated as mechanical contrivances or machines, including two types of vimanas. The Laghu Dharu vimana was made of wood and shaped like a bird and had a pilot. It was powered by heating mercury which caused its wings to flap and fly. The Alaghu Dharu vimana was also made of wood and shaped like a temple, with a wooden car flying alongside. It was also powered by heating mercury and was used to scare war elephants

Bhoja assumed that an aircraft would fly by flapping its wings, much in the same way some people before the Wright Brothers assumed it was possible to fly by imitating birds and flapping man-made wings. This suggests they had no real experience with actual flying machines. Likewise, if the ancient Indians really did use vimanas for military purposes, they would surely do more than just scare elephants, such as dropping bombs.

The episode “The Evidence” also suggests that there was a “worldwide transportation system” and vimanas flew around the world in ancient times and landed at Nazca in Peru and on top of Masada in Israel [8]. (The Nazca lines which some ancient aliens believers claim are runways, will be discussed in the next issue.) However, accounts of tall trapezoid-shaped flying machines can only be found in India, where they resemble the local temples. If they did fly around the world, surely we would expect there to be similar descriptions from elsewhere in the ancient world.

Likewise, Ancient Aliens do not explain why vimanas would need runways to land in Peru, but not in India.

In 2010 there were reports that a vimana had been discovered in Afghanistan and eight American soldiers had disappeared trying to remove it. Even David Hatcher Childress described these claims as “dubious” [9]. In fact, this story seems to be based on a 2007 film The Objective about a patrol of America soldiers which disappears while looking for vimanas in Afghanistan. The Objective was directed by Daniel Myrick who co-directed The Blair Witch Project which also confused some people about what was real.

Nuclear war in the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is an ancient Indian epic which is about 1.8 million words long and divided into 18 parvas or books. It tells the story of the struggle between two branches of a family, the Kaurava and the Panndava, for the throne of Hastinapura in northern India. This culminated in the Battle of Kurukshetra around Haryana which lasted for 18 days. Ancient aliens believers claim that the Mahabharata described the use of nuclear weapons during this battle.

In his book Vimanas, Flying Machines of the Ancients, David Hatcher Childress claims this is a passage from Karna Parva (Book 8) of the Mahabharata which describes a nuclear explosion,

“Gurkha, flying in his swift and powerful vimana, hurled against the three cities of the Vrishnis and Andhakas a single projectile charged with the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and fire, as brilliant as ten thousand suns, rose in all its splendour … it was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, …The corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. The hair and nails fell out; Pottery broke without cause; And the birds turned white .. after a few hours all foodstuffs were infected … to escape the fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment.” [10]

However, in Ancient Atom Bombs Jason Colavito shows that his passage is a combination of three separate passages. One passage is a vision which did not come true. The reference to hair and nails falling out is meant to sound like the effects of radiation poisoning, but it takes place three decades after the battle and actually says that rats and mice ate their hair and nails. This invented passage has been quoted by numerous ancient aliens believers who clearly have not checked the original source [11].

In Chariots of the Gods? von Daniken quotes another passage from the Mahabharata which he claims is describing a nuclear explosion,

“It was as if the elements had been unleashed. The sun spun round. Scorched by the incandescent heat of the weapon, the world reeled in fever. Elephants were set on fire by the heat and ran to and fro in a frenzy to seek protection from the terrible violence. The water boiled, the animals died, the enemy was mown down and the raging of the blaze made the trees collapse in rows as in a forest fire. The elephants made a fearful trumpeting and sank dead into the ground over a vast area. Horse and war chariots were burnt up and the scene looked like the aftermath of a conflagration. Thousands of chariots were destroyed, then deep silence descended on the sea. The winds began to blow and the earth grew bright. It was a terrible sight to see. The corpses of the fallen were mutilated by the terrible heat so that they no longer looked like human beings. Never before have we seen such a ghastly weapon and never before have we heard of such a weapon.” [12]

His account is admittedly unusual, but it does not sound like a description of a nuclear explosion. There is intense heat, but there is no blast wave. If elephants were close enough to the explosion to be set on fire, they would not be able to run around.  They would also have been crushed by the blast wave and the trees, which caught fire, would have been knocked down by the blast wave.

Moreover, von Daniken left out part of this passage which reads,

“From all points of the compass, cardinal and subsidiary, from the firmament and the very Earth, showers of sharp and fierce arrows fell and issued, with the impetuosity of Garuda or the wind. Struck and burnt by the shafts of Acwatthamn that were all endued with the impetuosity of the thunder, the hostile warriors fell down like trees burnt by a raging fire.” [13]

This is not an account of a nuclear warhead exploding. It is describing a mass of flaming arrows raining down from all directions. They burn things, but there is no explosion or blast wave [14].

The ancient aliens movement would have us believe that aliens gave nuclear weapons to primitive humans to settle a family feud. Quite frankly, this does not strike me as particularly responsible. There has never been an episode of Star Trek where the Federation discovers a planet where primitive humans are fighting among themselves, so they give them nuclear weapons.


During the 1920s archaeologists began excavating the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro, which was occupied from around 2500 to 1900 BC, in Sindh, Pakistan. The Ancient Aliens episodes “Alien Power Plant”[15] and “The Alien Agenda”[16] claim that the city was destroyed by a nuclear explosion. Mohenjo-Daro is about 800 kilometres from Haryara where the Battle of Kurukshetra is supposed to have taken place, so any nuclear explosion would not be related to the events of the Mahabharata. In the footage, which Ancient Aliens show of Mohenjo-Daro, the walls are still about two to three metres high. They had not been knocked over by the blast wave of a nuclear explosion.

The episode “Alien Power Plants” also claims that radioactive skeletons were discovered in Mohenjo-Daro [17]. An archaeologist Francis Taylor is supposed to have discovered these radioactive skeletons. Skeletons have been found at Mohenjo-Daro, but there is no evidence they are radioactive. Likewise, there is no evidence that there ever was an archaeologist Francis Taylor who excavated the site [18].

There is no denying that ancient Indian legends describe strange weapons and aerial vehicles. Ancient aliens believers assume that every myth and legend is true and meant to be taken literally, however it seems more likely they are just made-up stories. Jacques Vallee has suggested they are the ancient Indian equivalent of Star Wars [19].

[1] Desmond Leslie and George Adamski, Flying Saucers Have Landed, Werner Laurie, London, 1953, p 90-100

[2]  Jason Colavito, “Vimana Aircraft of India: More Sloppy Research from David Childress”,

[3]  “The Evidence”. Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2010, 15 min

[4] Ibid., 15-21 min

[5] David Hatcher Childress, Vimana, Flying Machines of the Ancients, Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 2013, p 134

[6]  H.S. Mukundas, et al., “A Critical Study of the Work Vymanika Shastra”, Scientific Opinion, 1974, p 11

[7] Nick Redfern, Weapons of the Gods, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2016, p 77-78

[8]  “The Evidence”. op cit., 22-26 min

[9]  Vimina, Flying Machines of the Ancients, op cit., p 218

[10]  Ibid., p 27-28

[11]  Jason Colavito, Ancient Atom Bombs,, 2011  p 10-12

[12] Erich von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods?, Corgi, London, 1972, p 80

[13]  Ancient Atom Bombs, op cit., p 8-9

[14]  Ibid., p 9

[15]  “Alien Power Plants”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2013, 31-32 min

[16]  “The Alien Agenda”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2015, 9-16 min

[17] “Alien Power Plants”, op cit., 31-32 min

[18] Weapons of the Gods, op cit., p 93-95

[19]  Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky, Jeremy P, Tarcher/Penguin, New York, 2009, p 363