Ancient Aliens has done more to resurrect 1970s-era extraterrestrial foolishness than the entire truckload of ancient astronaut books put together. The Peruvian news site RPP published an article (discussed here) about a deformed skull found in Peru that quoted unnamed "anthropologists" from Spain and Russia who were adamant that the skull, almost certainly the result of well-known Peruvian cranial deformation practices dating back thousands of years, was really an alien-human hybrid. But of course. And the internet, primed by Ancient Aliens picked up the stupid story and ran with it despite the clear evidence that ancient people have deformed their skulls into tall cones for tens of thousands of years, and worldwide, too.
Meanwhile, another Ancient Aliens mainstay, Erich von Daniken, the "father" of the ancient astronaut theory (despite not having invented it), received glowing praise on Open Minds Radio's website for his role in inspiring Ridley Scott's new movie, Prometheus, which will use von Daniken's ideas as background for alien-human interactions in the universe first created for Alien. This is not the Alien franchise's first foray into ancient astronautics; Alien vs. Predator used the same idea last decade. The problem isn't so much that Scott is using a fringe theory for his fiction (after all, that's what H. P. Lovecraft did in his stories); the problem is that Scott appears to believe in the theory and will use the marketing machine for a major Hollywood release to promote the ancient astronaut theory as something that is true.
Ancient astronauts are an evocative idea. H. P. Lovecraft got great mileage out of that fringe theory and elevated it to the level of literature (and forty years before von Daniken). But he was always careful to assure everyone who asked that there was no truth to his fictions whatsoever. Less scrupulous showmen have no such compulsion to uphold the value and sanctity of truth, and as a result falsehoods get passed off as truth. Even dead Cthulhu would roll over in his undersea tomb.
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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