In the Sirius Mystery (1976), Robert Temple makes many extreme claims about an African tribe called the Dogon on the basis of anthropological work conducted by Marcel Griaule and Germain Dieterlen in the 1930s and 1940s. Griaule claimed that Dogon elders had shared with him knowledge about the star Sirius being a triple star, with its second star being a small dwarf with a 50-year orbit. Although much of this information had been known to science since 1862, Temple claimed that the Dogon could have learned it only from space aliens. (Science does not recognize a third star in the Sirius system.) When anthropologist Walter Van Beek attempted to confirm this story in the 1980s, he discovered no evidence that the Dogon had any special knowledge of Sirius, or that the stories Griaule reported were known to the Dogon. Many skeptics have concluded that Griaule unintentionally contaminated his research by unconsciously feeding his own knowledge of Sirius back to the Dogon. I have elsewhere reported on the failures of Temple’s scholarship that led him from this question to a faulty hypothesis of dissemination from Mesopotamia via the Argonauts.
What makes for more of a classic episode of Ancient Aliens than a parade of ignoramuses confidently endorsing long-debunked claims founded on bad scholarship and wild speculation from the mid-twentieth century? It’s the tuna casserole of ancient astronautics: comforting, familiar, and slightly bland. It’s basically the perfect episode to run on this first night of the summer edition of Alien Con, which opened this morning. It is also a petty effort to avoid crediting Temple with his only real claim to fame, exposing a fault line in the incestuous world of ancient astronautics.
The show opens with Griaule’s anthropological work with the Dogon, whom the show repeatedly describe as “mysterious.” Since they have stock footage of the Dogon, they can’t be that mysterious. In a better show, they might have spoken to some actual Dogon people, but instead the show perpetuates a colonialist idea that African tribes are “mysterious” and primitive, strange beings that in their evolutionary simplicity are closer to the state of nature and thus the gods.
The show rehearses the argument of the Sirius Mystery, though without attributing the argument to Temple. They freely omit parts of Griaule’s reportage that do not conform to modern observations. For example, the Dogon were said to have imagined Sirius as a triple star, but the show omits this in order to better make the Dogon’s claims align with the scientific conclusion that Sirius is binary—made up of two stars orbiting each other. Most of the familiar talking heads repeat elements of The Sirius Mystery, completely uncritically and without acknowledgement, and it is strange that the Dogon are spoken of only in the past tense, even though the Dogon are currently living in Mali. Physicist Michio Kaku prostitutes himself again by asserting that it “can’t be ruled out” that the Dogon gained secret knowledge from space aliens. Since they do not have special knowledge of Sirius beyond what Griaule gave them, Kaku is simply accepting the premise without a moment’s consideration of the facts.
The show discusses what they see as a global myth of fish-people, such as the Dogon’s Nommos, and then they talk about statues of lizard-people found in Sierra Leone. Although the statues are prima facie not 17,000 years old as the show claims, they allege that the statues were found buried so deep that they had to be deeply ancient. The statues are believed to date from the 1500s CE, but the show relies instead on an article quoting Erich von Däniken’s friend Klaus Dona to radically revise their age.
The second segment tells us that visiting space aliens from the Sirius system resembled alligators standing on their hind legs, and the show alleges that the Nomo of the Dogon are the same as the Nomoli of Sierra Leone. One of the Nomoli statues contains a sphere of chromium, according to the show, though the standard claim in internet articles about the alleged sphere is that it is chromium and steel. Since Nomoli statues were made for centuries, I’m not really sure that there is much of an anomaly here. It is probably a recent statue.
The show next tries to connect the Dogon to the famous stele containing Hammurabi’s Code. Hammurabi attributed the code to divine inspiration, so naturally Giorgio Tsoukalos calls this an alien intervention. The show next speculates whether the Dogon are connected to the Philistine god Dagon, but it completely misunderstands Dagon, following a long-outdated belief that Dagon was a fish-man, a claim derived from a biblical confusion. As I wrote years ago, “The real Dagon, however, was not a fish god but an agrarian god. The confusion stemmed from a medieval rabbinical tradition that linked Dagon to the Hebrew word ‘dag,’ or fish. This traditional led early researchers to misidentify the Babylonian fish-god Oannes (the Sumerian Adapa) as Dagon.” The fish-man of Near East mythology was Oannes, who was later conflated with Dagon due to the influence of biblical translation. Based on this confusion, Tsoukalos proposes that peoples, places, and gods containing the syllable “Da” are all derived from the ethnonym of Sirius space aliens.
The third segment returns to an ancient astronaut theory classic—the claim that ancient Japanese figurines look like aliens in space suits from the 1960s version of the Outer Limits. It also repeats claims from earlier episodes that the Japanese imperial family’s claim to have a divine origin suggests alien origins. They add that Japanese mythological dragons are really amphibious aliens. The show professes to express shock that the word for “dragon” is almost the same from Portugal to Japan. No shit, Sherlock. The Indo-European languages all share similar roots, and as for China and Japan—well, the show straight-up lied. The actual word used in Mandarin for dragon is lóng. The traditional Japanese word for dragon was ryū, derived from the Chinese, and the more common modern name, doragun, is just a transliteration of the English word. Similarly, the Basque word is a loan from Classical languages.
In the fourth segment, the show relates a legend from Sierra Leone that the sky turned to stone and rained down when the Nomoli came from the heavens. In Sierra Leone, some very blue stones, first seen by Westerners in 1991, have been associated with the myth, and the show is interested in the rocks because they claim that the stones are not natural and could be “from another planet.” Past analyses have returned different results about the stones’ composition, including claims that the stones are made of pure oxygen (a misunderstanding popular online of its chemical composition) and claims that they contain organic compounds. David Childress has a sample of the rock tested at a laboratory at the University of Washington, and we go to commercial with a promise of results after the break.
The geologist at the University of Washington, Peter Ward, tells Childress that the rock gave him “the creeps” because of its unusual composition, which contains a large amount of nitrogen. The show trims Ward’s comments to nothing, giving us no actual information about the stone’s geological makeup except that there was an “organic” component, though the show cut any discussion of what it might be. As best I can tell, Ward suggested that the stone may have been from a meteorite, but his comments are so truncated that it is impossible to judge what he really meant.
Having created what seems very much to be a deceptive conclusion based on heavily edited “evidence,” the show speeds along to Newgrange in order to allege that the ancient Irish site is aligned to Sirius, and the show repeats several times the idea that gods whose names start with Dog- or Dag- must be from Sirius. One of the gods of Ireland was Dagda, the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and therefore the show speculates that Dagda was from Sirius and Newgrange was an “alien outpost.” That this contradicts Tsoukalos’s long-held claim that Puma Punku in Bolivia is the only ancient site built by aliens is passed over in silence. It is also not clear what aliens would want with a big stone tomb.
The sixth segment repeats the same claims from earlier segments, and Tsoukalos endorses the silly idea that the various names for dragon all connected to the Indo-European original represent a word given to early humans around the world by space aliens from Sirius. William Henry tells us that the word “dog” was given to English by space aliens, derived from their ethnonym. But if they did, they did it very late. “Dog” enters English only late in Old English, gradually forcing out the Germanic original, hund. The Old English version, docga, is indeed of unknown origin, but as you can see, contrary to Ancient Aliens’ claims, the extra consonant in the middle means it is not cognate with Dagon or the Dogon.
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