The Case Against Ancient Aliens Part Three Myths and Hoaxes

(This article was published in Ufologist, Vol. 21, No. 5, January-February 2018)

In the last article I mentioned the myth of Oannes who was said to have come up out of the sea and brought civilization to primitive humans. In his 1976 book The Sirius Mystery Robert Temple wrote that Oannes was an amphibious alien from Sirius who visited the Middle East 5000 years ago. Temple described how the French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieteries had studied the Dogon tribe in Mali in the 1930s and learned that the Dogon knew the star Sirius was orbited every 50 years by the much smaller Sirius B which is invisible to the naked eye and was only discovered in 1862. Temple believed this knowledge had been passed down from extraterrestrials from Sirius. The 1977 documentary The Case of the Ancient Astronauts, which debunked many of von Daniken’s claims, admitted it is “difficult to provide a rational explanation” for how the Dogon knew this[1].

However, in an article “Investigating The Sirius Mystery” Ian Ridpath argued that because Sirius B was once a red giant, it would have been too hot for life to exist on any hypothetical planets in the Sirius system and then travel to Earth[2].

Temple also wrote that the Dogon believed that Jupiter had four moons [3]. By 1999 17 moons of Jupiter had been discovered and another 50 have been discovered since then. The Dogon clearly did not get their knowledge from aliens, since space-travelling aliens would have known how many moon Jupiter had.

Walter van Beek, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utrecht, studied the Dogon in the late 1970s and 1980s. He found no evidence that the Dogon believed many of the things which Marcel Griaule claimed. He wrote,

“Most important, no one, even within the circle of Griaule informants, had ever heard or understood that Sirius was a double star …. Consequently, the purported knowledge of the mass of Sirius B or the orbiting time was absent.”[4]

Van Beek also wrote.

“Summing up, the Dogon ethnography produced by Griaule after World War II cannot be taken at face value. It is a product of a complex interaction between a strong-willed researcher, a colonial situation, an intelligent and creative body of informants, add a culture with a courtesy bias and a strong tendency to incorporate foreign elements.” [5]

In other words, it looks like the Dogon told Griaule what he wanted to hear.

Even the ancient aliens believer Philip Coppens says the Dogon’s knowledge of Sirius B is a hoax[6].

Moreover, as we saw in the previous article, Berossus’ account of Oannes is a later account which bears little resemblance to the original myth.

As a rule, historians regard early sources, which as closer to the original events, as more reliable than later ones. There is less opportunity for them to become embellished and distorted over time. However, ancient aliens believers usually make no attempt to weigh evidence. All sources are regarded as accurate and authoritative. The problem for the ancient aliens movement is that the more accurate evidence tends to not support their case.

For example, Erich von Daniken writes, “The ancient Egyptians regarded Enoch as the builder of the pyramids.” [7] This would be news to any Egyptologist.

The ancient Egyptians told the Greek historian Herodotus (490-420 BC) that the Pharaoh Cheops built the Great Pyramid in 20 years using 100,000 labourers [8]. They did not say they needed any help from the gods or aliens. The Egyptians did it on their own.

Instead, von Daniken is relying on an Arab historian Taki al-Makrizi (1354-1442 AD) who wrote that Enoch, who was also known as Hermes, built the pyramids before the Flood [9].

Herodotus may not be completely accurate, but he is definitely more reliable than Taki al-Makrizi who was writing about 1800 years after Herodotus when they could no longer read hieroglyphics and who was repeating later legends with little or no historical value and which the ancient Egyptians appear to have known nothing about. A more accurate statement would have been, “The medieval Arabs regarded Enoch as the builder of the Great Pyramid”.

Another example of this is von Daniken’s use of the Ethiopian text Kebra Nagast (The Glory of the Kings), which he claims is “several thousand years old”. He says that King Solomon has a “chariot which flew through the sky” to visit the Queen of Sheba, and this was probably a hot-air balloon[10]. However, the Kebra Nagast was written in the early fourteenth century, about 2300 years after Solomon died. Earlier Jewish writings, the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, do not say anything about Solomon’s flying chariot. If these earlier sources did not write about it, how could someone in the fourteenth century know about it?

Von Daniken even quotes from the Book of Mormon for evidence of ancient aliens [11]. Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is a record of ancient America, but it is basically a novel written by Joseph Smith in the 1820s. It has no historical value.

Even Robert Temple, in The Sirius Mystery, admits the evidence can be dubious,

“We must be careful not to be just saying things without evidence. The most common and most offensive characteristic of previous books about ‘visiting spacemen’ has been the impossibility of checking any of their statements about ancient cultures (Aside from the many obvious errors). Sometimes there are even references to newspaper articles which never existed, or to mysterious professors behind the Iron Curtain who have gone into hiding, taking their unpublished manuscripts with them.” [12]

In his 1968 book Return to the Stars von Daniken claims that “Alexander Kassanzev, the famous Soviet writer” told him about the Dropa Stones[13].

The Dropa Stones are first mentioned in an article “UFOs in Prehistory” by Reinhardt Wegemann in a German magazine The Vegetarian Universe in 1962. It claimed that in 1938 an expedition led by the Chinese archaeologist Chi Pu Tei to the mountains of Bayan Kara Ula in China had discovered graves in a cave containing skeletons about four feet long with large skulls and 716 grooved stone discs. In 1962 Professor Tsum Um Nui of the Beijing Academy for Ancient Studies announced that they had translated the discs. They supposedly described how 12,000 years ago a fleet of spaceships had crashed in the region and the aliens, called the Dropa, had been killed by the local inhabitants [14].

The article did not explain how the Chinese could have possibly translated an unknown language with nothing to compare it to, or how the events, which it supposedly described, could be dated to 12,000 years earlier. Did the 12,000 year old discs say, “We, the Dropa, crashed here 12,000 years ago”?

Not surprisingly, the Dropa Stones cannot be found today. No evidence can be found for the existence of the archaeologist Chi Pu Tei and his 1938 expedition, Professor Tsum Um Nui and any report of his findings. Even Reinhardt Wegemann appears to be a pseudonym [15]. Since nothing in the article can be verified, it looks like the Dropa Stones were the creation of an anonymous author.

In 1978 Sungods in Exile by David Agamon was published. This was supposedly based on the manuscript of a British scientist Karl Robin-Evans who died in 1974. He claims to have led a 1947 expedition to the Balan Kara Ula where he discovered a tribe of dwarves called the Dropa or Dzopa. They told him they were descendants of aliens from Sirius who crashed on Earth in 1014 AD, contradicting the 1962 article’s claim that they had crashed 12000 years ago [16].

Like Chi Pu Tei and Tsum Um Nui, Karl Robin-Evans also did not exist. In a 1995 article in Fortean Times David Gamon admitted that Sungods in Exile was a hoax which he had written under the pseudonym David Agamon.

Another example of ancient aliens believers making claims which is not supported by the evidence is when the Ancient Aliens episode “Alien Tech” says that Alexander the Great’s army was attacked by flying shields in 329 BC,

“As Alexander’s army was getting ready to cross the Indus and invade India suddenly in the sky appeared these flying discs and they began dive-bombing at the war elephants that were part of Alexander’s army and  what the flying discs did was cause stampedes within Alexander’s own war elephants who then ran amok throughout his army tearing up the camp and everything and after that, Alexander’ generals met with him and they said that, “No, we’re not going into India, this is it, we’re turning back”, and that was the end of that war campaign.” [17]

This may sound like an ancient report of flying saucers, but this account cannot be found in any of our ancient primary sources for Alexander the Great, such as Arrian or Plutarch. It first appeared in the 1959 book Stranger than Fiction by Frank Edwards who appears to have made it up[18].

There are authentic ancient reports of flying shields and other strange phenomena recorded by Roman writers like Livy and Pliny the Elder. They are recorded in Wonders in the Sky by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck and the article “Unidentified Flying Objects in Classical Antiquity” [19] by Richard Stothers of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. These are ancient UFO sightings in that people saw something unidentified in the sky. We cannot be sure what these people in the ancient world really saw. Modern UFO researchers agree that over 90% of UFO sightings have a natural explanation. It was probably the same back then. The ancient aliens theory is founded on the assumption that people in the ancient world interpreted alien visitors as the gods. While many modern people assume UFOs are alien spaceships, Livy and Pliny the Elder did not think the gods were flying around. It looks like the foundational assumption of the ancient aliens theory is not supported by the historical evidence.





[1] The Case of the Ancient Astronauts, Nova, 1978, 49 mins

[2] Ian Ridapth, “Investing The Sirius Mystery”, The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 1978, P 56-62

[3] Robert Temple, The Sirius Mystery, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1976, p 28

[4] Walter van Beek, “Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 32, No. 2, April 1991, p 150

[5] Ibid., p 157

[6] Philip Coppens, The Ancient Alien Question, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2012, p 56-59

[7] Erich von Daniken, The Return of the Gods, Element, Dorset, 1998, p 184

[8] Herodotus, The Histories, 2:124-125

[9] Ibid., p 59

[10] Erich von Daniken, Odyssey of the Gods, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2012, p 76

[11] Erich von Daniken, The Gods and their Grand Design, Souvenir Press, London, 1984, p 1-11, 27-33, 100, History id Wrong, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2009, p 100-104, 139-151

[12] The Sirius Mystery, op cit., p 61

[13] Erich von Daniken, Return to the Stars, Souvenir Press, London, 1970, p 104, 108-112

[14] Hartwig Hausdorf, The Chinese Roswell, New Paradigm Books, Florida, 1998, p 30-35

[15] Wonders in the Sky, op cit., p 361-361

[16] Ibid., p 362

[17] “Alien Tech”, Ancient Aliens, History Channel, 2010, 21-22 mins

[18] David Hatcher Childress, Vimana, Flying Machines of the Ancients, Adventures Unlimited Press, Illinois, 2013, p 49, Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky, Jeremy Tarcher, New York, 2010, p 379-380

[19] Richard Stothers, “Unidentified Objects in Classical Antiquity”, Classical journal, Vol. 103, 2007, 79-92