First up: Villagers in Peru think that an allegedly 3,000-year-old set of petroglyphs found in Guayaquil are proof that extraterrestrials visited the Chavín-era site millennia ago. The carvings, which were discovered two weeks ago and authenticated by unnamed experts (frankly they look like graffiti to me), depict what appears (to me anyway) to be a spider, a stick-figure human, and a flat-faced, big-eared person with two antennae. The last of these inspired locals to declare it an alien, thanks, media reports say, to “popular” depictions of aliens in the media. A Peruvian archaeologist said that the image showed a human with zoomorphic forms—i.e., horns or antlers. For the Peruvian public, though, aliens become a closed media loop where media depictions of aliens become the lens through which they view their own past, thus generating more media reports of “aliens” to reinforce initial claims. This is the legacy of Chariots of the Gods.
Finally, from here in upstate New York comes a depressing column by Cheryl Costa who describes becoming a UFO and ancient astronaut believer as a child due to indoctrination from her mother, who would point to “UFOs” in the sky, read her news reports of UFOs, and discuss ancient astronauts with her as real history. Consider this paragraph which is unutterably depressing, but certainly no different than scenes taking place today, except that Chariots of the Gods has been replaced by Ancient Aliens:
Then in 1968, a book was released: Chariots of the Gods, by Erich von Daniken. This book introduced my mom and me to the ancient-astronauts theory and presented evidence that strongly supported the theory. I was captivated with the photos of tribal figurines that looked similar to our Apollo astronauts. I read the book cover to cover and read it again. I came away from von Daniken’s book persuaded that extraterrestrials have probably been with our culture for many millennia. Chariots of the Gods was popular among my family members and began to be the topic of very deep dinner discussions with visiting aunts, uncles and cousins. It was during these dinners I would hear my relatives privately share their own strange and wondrous sightings. That’s when I realized how much more common these sightings were.
What gets me, though, is that we have a situation where generations of people are spreading ancient alien lies from mother to daughter and presumably onward, much like a religion. This is how myths turn into time-honored facts. Now, I had a somewhat similar experience in that my father’s old book club copy of von Däniken’s Gold of the Gods introduced me to ancient astronauts, but I didn’t have ancient aliens foisted on me as a religion or reinforced with every trusted adult asserting their reality.