An Evolution of Ancient Astronaut Theory’s Proof and Proponents
By: Gaia Staff | Nov 12th, 2018
Religion molds many people’s worldview and beliefs about our origin as a species. From a young age, and even as we grow older, we tend to hold on to aspects of those stories – many of which involve magic or divine phenomena. But as technology has progressed over those years, things that once seemed magical, now make perfect sense and fall within the widening realm of possibility. And as our modern worldview has become shaped by this techno-centric, materialist scope, the ancient astronaut theory has found an increasingly larger audience.
If you’re not familiar with Gaia’s content, maybe you’ve seen the program Ancient Aliens on History Channel, or possibly read Erich von Däniken’s classic book Chariots of the Gods? These series are founded on the ancient astronaut hypothesis; the assertion that if you reinterpret biblical accounts of supernatural gods with magic powers instead, as members of an advanced extraterrestrial race with advanced technology, their depictions make a lot more sense.
Arthur C. Clarke famously made this contention later when he said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And though it’s unclear whether Clarke ascribed to the belief, it’s likely he would have at least entertained it.
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In Search of Ancient Astronauts…
It’s uncertain who first conceived of the ancient astronaut theory, but there are certainly a few ‘founding fathers,’ if you will. And in the mid-20th century, a cadre of these thinkers began to publish parallel theories based on the idea that the powers possessed by ‘gods’ of religious lore were starting to sound awfully similar to modern technological advancements.
Influenced by cryptic ancient texts, an increasing fascination with science fiction, and advancements in the space program, researchers such as Zechariah Sitchin, von Däniken, and even Carl Sagan began to entertain the theory. These thinkers pointed to the anachronistic nature of certain artifacts, “cargo cults” that viewed modern technology as if it were magic, and the incredibly advanced engineering seen in megalithic sites around the world, ostensibly constructed by primitive means.
But while they may have agreed that the theory was plausible, their beliefs varied dramatically, and Carl Sagan would later disavow those who speculated wildly without providing solid, verifiable evidence. After all, it was Sagan who famously said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
Sagan was certainly captivated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life, believing proof of its existence would drastically change the course of humanity, in terms of politics, prejudice, and war providing us with a renewed sense of hope and direction. But when the idea began to take off in the 1960s, Sagan and colleague I.S. Shklovski backtracked on the ancient astronaut hypothesis they once encouraged scientists and historians to consider.
Though by that point they had already laid the foundation for the theory, especially with their interpretations of ancient Sumerian texts, such as the Oannes, which described in detail a fishlike being that taught early civilizations agriculture, mathematics, and arts. This likely paved the way for Sitchin’s translations of the Sumerian epics, beginning with his seminal work, The 12 Planet.
Sitchin’s interpretations of Sumerian cuneiform tablets posited the idea that an undiscovered planet in our solar system, orbiting in a 3,600-year cycle, was home to an extraterrestrial race called the Anunnaki, who were responsible for the advancement of human civilization. He famously called their planet, Nibiru.
Sitchin’s interpretations and theory have been debated, ‘debunked,’ and dissected for decades, but despite the controversy, his work has maintained its place as one of the most popular ancient astronaut theories, selling millions of copies worldwide, and even continuing to inspire mainstream culture today.
Ancient Astronaut Evidence and Artifacts
Only a few years before Sitchin’s theories found mainstream approval, the precursor to today’s Ancient Aliens aired on television as the wildly popular, Rod Serling and Leonard Nimoy-narrated series In Search Of…
Though not entirely focused on ancient astronauts, the show featured many unexplained phenomena related to it, including the cargo cults of WWII-era notoriety. It was in areas of the South Pacific, including Papua New Guinea, where primitive tribes witnessed modern ariplanes, piloted by beings who neither hunted, nor fished, yet never lacked food — and they shared!
Once the war ended they abandoned their airstrips, airplanes, and technology, leaving it behind to a primitive group of humans who had no idea how to use it or what to make of it. Instead, they created effigies of the airplanes, hoping to invoke those god-like men who piloted them and hopefully bring back the gifts which they believed were sent by their deceased ancestors.
This seemed to be one of the strongest points of evidence for the ancient astronaut theory and appeared to apply to many ancient cultures, including those that penned the Old Testament, Bible, Qu’ran, Mahabharata and other religious scripture, often describing the same phenomena with consistent anecdotal overlap.
But if one were to point to the most prominent influencer in the world of ancient astronaut theory, it would have to be von Däniken whose eminent title Chariots of the Gods? sold more than 70 million copies globally, since its publishing in 1968. He even had an entire ancient astronaut themed amusement park in Switzerland that was operational for a few years.
It’s possible that part of von Däniken’s appeal was the seemingly endless ancient astronaut proof that went beyond what others presented. Out of place artifacts like the Quimbaya airplanes, the Piri Reis Map, and the Nazca lines in Peru all proved confounding to mainstream archeology, and many remain so today. He delved deeply into esoteric biblical apocrypha like the Book of Enoch, as well as the strange stories of flying craft called Vimana and accounts of nuclear war in the Hindu Vedas.
Von Däniken provided mounting evidence that made increasing sense in a world where religious dogma and hippie-era spirituality started to clash. It was a sensical compromise in a world of antiquated religiosity and advancing technology.
And that legacy continues to captivate the minds of the curious today.
For more on his famous ancient astronaut theory, check out Gaia’s legacy series with Erich von Däniken, Beyond the Legend :
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