Ancient Alien Odds and Ends
I’m feeling a bit lazy today, so I just have a few odds and ends about ancient astronauts to discuss.
New Pyramid Discoveries
First, I’m sure you remember that on Ancient Aliens S05E10 “The Von Däniken Legacy,” Erich von Däniken repeated his frequent assertion that the Great Pyramid was anonymous and that its construction is a complete mystery. In Chariots of the Gods (1968), he laid out his rhetorical case for alien involvement:
The Great Pyramid is (and remains?) visible testimony of a technique that has never been understood. Today, in the twentieth century, no architect could build a copy of the Pyramid of Cheops, even if the technical resources of every continent were at his disposal. […] Several hundred thousand workers pushed and pulled blocks weighing 12 tons up a ramp with (nonexistent) ropes on (non-existent) rollers. This host of workers lived on (non-existent) grain. They slept in (non-existent) huts which the Pharaoh had built outside his summer palace.
What is interesting is that von Däniken has kept up this pretence despite exciting new discoveries. From 1999-2002, Mark Lehrner excavated the “non-existent” workers’ village at Giza, home to perhaps as many as 20,000 workers. Bones found in the ruins indicate that the workers were well fed on a diet of beef, among other things.
And today we have word that archaeologists have uncovered the oldest port in Egypt, on the Red Sea, dating back to the time of Khufu. At the site archaeologists found the oldest papyrus texts in Egypt, from the same period, and these texts apparently discuss the daily activities of Merrer while the Great Pyramid was under construction. The papyri discuss arrangements for provisioning workers with bread and beer, as well as details of transporting limestone blocks from the Turrah quarry for use in the Great Pyramid.
The banality of daily life really cuts against the fantastic narrative of alien intervention, not to mention more recent speculation that the Egyptians floated the blocks with magic sound waves, flew them through the sky with kites, poured them with concrete, etc.
To be fair, this find does not directly challenge Giorgio Tsoukalos’ revised version whereby the aliens merely planned the pyramids and delivered the blueprints to the Egyptians. But since Tsoukalos’ evidence for that was a late medieval Arabic text that says no such thing, and Philip Coppens’ evidence was a Ptolemaic era stela that also said no such thing, we of course await Tsoukalos’ proof that aliens planned the pyramids.
In the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer Robert Sheaffer reviews several 1960s-era scientific papers that discuss the problems physics causes for interstellar travel. His interest is in how this impacts the likelihood of UFOs being alien spacecraft, but it also provides an intriguing test of the ancient astronaut theory. Edward M. Purcell calculated in 1963 that for a ship from another world to reach ours, it would need to accelerate to near the speed of light, requiring fuel in excess of one billion times the mass of the ship. According to William Markowitz in 1967—the year before Chariots of the Gods—an extraterrestrial spacecraft using nuclear energy as propulsion would sear the ground below at 85,000 degrees C and leave a radiation signature equivalent to an atomic bomb blast. Since there is no evidence of this anywhere on earth, Markowitz concluded that such craft have not landed here. Similarly, there is no evidence of billions of tons of fuel material missing from the earth.
This sort of puts the lie to von Däniken’s and Zecharia Sitchin’s claims that every fiery chariot or smoky apparition was an alien rocket ship on the Saturn V model.
Markowitz noted that such physical impossibilities could be wished away with special pleading for unrecognized forms of propulsion. Ancient Aliens is particularly fond of wormholes, for which there is currently no scientific evidence that they (a) exist or (b) are large and stable enough for ships to pass through safely.
Perhaps this is why more recent ancient astronaut claims have backed away from actual spaceships and real aliens toward a more nebulous “non-human intelligence” penetrating our dimension from a vaguely-defined other reality via misunderstood properties of quantum mechanics. (Careful readers will recall that this was the plot of H. P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House,” where a witch’s magic is revealed as advanced math for traveling across dimensions.)
Teaching Kids about Ancient Aliens
The Marvel Comics universe has its share of ancient aliens. Most famously, it makes the Norse gods into a race of aliens. In the most recent episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon (“The Man-Wolf”), Disney and Marvel are also teaching children that ancient aliens have left archaeological remains on the moon. DC Comics is not immune, of course. In addition to its cosmos full of alien races, the final episodes of the excellent Young Justice cartoon proposed that ancient aliens were responsible for Egyptian temples. Similarly, during the first and only season of Green Lantern: The Animated Series aliens were responsible for the archaeological ruins of an ancient temple. Even Disney’s Phineas and Ferb suggested aliens built the pyramids.
I’m the last person to say that fiction shouldn’t be allowed to present fantastic scenarios, but I can’t help but think that the frequency with which the ancient astronaut hypothesis is used—and not as outrageous fantasy as in Lovecraft but rather as an accepted background truth—does run the risk of priming kids to accept the idea later on. Unintentionally, the repetition of this idea in cartoons serves as ancient alien propaganda.
4/16/2013 10:15:43 am
if that Ultimate Spider Man episode is referencing the Blue Area of the Moon, that's been a part of the marvel universe since the 60s.
4/16/2013 11:05:04 am
Honestly, I'm not as familiar with Marvel as I am with DC, so I'm not sure whether this was meant to tie in to the Blue Area. It had a cave full of jewels that turned people into animals.
4/16/2013 12:50:07 pm
Let's not forget that much of stuff in entertainment is rehashing of concepts and themes from OTHER entertainment which borrows liberally from anything that intrigues the creator regardless of the source.
4/16/2013 12:54:48 pm
I doubt many kids are watching 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course these ideas have been recycled in fiction time and again. They appear in H. P. Lovecraft in the 1930s and in Garrett P. Serviss's Edison's Conquest of Mars in 1898. The theme can be traced back to Lucian's True History from Antiquity in which Greeks travel to the moon and find an ancient alien civilization. I wasn't trying to suggest the cartoons were anything new, only that it was suprising that so many shows aimed at young kids were including the ancient astronaut theme at roughly the same time.
4/16/2013 01:32:04 pm
Understood, Jason. It was just pointing out that it's all derivative.
4/16/2013 03:46:40 pm
Oh, Thane. Thane, Thane, Thane. They would NEVER say "that is a little far-fetched." They would probably say, "Eh, that was done in the 90s," though. Because. It was. Alien dinosaurs from the alternate Earth directly behind the sun from here. Who lived in pyramidal buildings. And had ray guns. And clearly Egyptian-influenced clothing.
4/16/2013 06:19:12 pm
Buckaroo Banzai changed my life. I wanted to join the Hong Kong Cavaliers when I grew up... I still do.
4/17/2013 04:28:34 am
4/16/2013 01:27:28 pm
The vast distances between stars is something ancient alien folks always pass over. Problem is few of them studied physics. Accelerating to a speed close to the speed of light demands engines the size of small moons and as you get close your mass goes infinite..in other words you can't build a craft that can go light speed (even light speed would take years, decades or centuries or beyond to go between suns). Einstein's special theory of realitivty does allow that the faster you go the slower time goes by between you and say someone on earth....so if you could survive a thousand year journey with only maybe decades (I haven't done the math on this for 25 years) gone by for you. But unless you have a very long life expectancy..its a one way journey to a solar system that might be lifeless. Ramjets, nuclear fission pulse (the original orion concept..dropping h bombs and riding the pulse wave), or fusion engines could get a spacecraft say 10% the speed of light..but its still along way to go.
4/16/2013 06:55:57 pm
>>>The Fermi equation is a great example of the problem.
4/16/2013 07:19:55 pm
The special relativity equations aren't that complicated at all.
4/17/2013 03:41:42 am
4/17/2013 02:59:11 am
To add to that and under the assumption that no apparant FLT mechanism like warp fields or wormholes are used, the problem with time dilation makes interstellar mining a futile task.
The Other J.
4/17/2013 05:30:21 pm
Not to mention they'd find far more gold that's far more accessible in the asteroid belt. No need to come here, create a hybrid alien-ape race, and operate a slave state in order to get what they need.
4/17/2013 07:18:53 am
Time dilation is calculated with the formula
4/17/2013 01:11:03 pm
4/17/2013 04:16:16 pm
4/18/2013 02:35:25 am
I've used cthreepio for my own fiction. Wonderful resource.
4/17/2013 01:06:28 am
I prefer X-Men Evolution, where the pyramids were built with technology from the future!
The Other J.
4/17/2013 06:08:55 pm
I first saw 2001 when I was 8 years old, and loved it. Guess that makes me an outlier. (I was running a terrible fever, though -- which may be the way to properly experience the film.)
4/18/2013 09:55:26 am
I read a great interview with a respected physicist (if I can locate the book I'll add detail) in an otherwise largely useless UFO essay collection printed in about 1980 in which he pointed out that (aside from as mentioned above) the radioactivity one would expect to find from fuels, interstellar travelers would be subject to incredible amounts of radioactivity inside the craft simply by moving through that much space with even average amounts of background radiation so quickly. He figured that even should the problems of fueling these trips be overcome, the fatal radiation accumulation on these trips would be a whole other huge hurdle. I recall the physicist being the one skeptical voice in the book.
4/23/2013 12:26:57 pm
My father dug at Giza back in the 60's, in approximately the location where the movie "Stargate" found the stargate. What most people seem to ignore is that each pyramid is the center of an enormous temple complex - "The Mummy Returns" actually opens with rather a nice CGI reconstruction of such a place, although IIRC for some reason they had Pharaoh living there, which would not have been the case. The associated remains make it pretty clear what was going on around the pyramids.
4/23/2013 01:54:26 pm
It never hurts to be reminded just how much evidence ancient astronaut speculators ignore in creating their "theories."
4/26/2013 02:32:51 pm
I recently came across your website and want to applaud you for your efforts in talking about the misrepresentation and errors on Ancient Aliens. Even ignoring the major problems in interstellar travel that were outlined in the above comments. It is really frustrating to watch these people jump around to different cultures to stitch together their "theory".
12/8/2015 03:07:16 pm
when aliens will come to Earth...goodbye religion and all its Lies
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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