Ancient Aliens in Bulgaria! Plus: A German Interview with Jens Notroff on Pseudohistory at Gobekli Tepe
Earlier today the website of the Daily Express carried a disturbing article about yet another attempt to pass off a child mummy as an alien. According to writer Jon Austin, who made an unusual number of typos, indicating the seriousness with which the Express took he story, several UFO “experts” at a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria displayed the body of what skeptics say was a human child. They identified the 50-inch mummy as an alien being stolen from a Mayan tomb in Mexico. (Note: The linked article does not have photo of the actual mummy.) After admitting to what would, if true, seem to be several violations of Mexican and international law, the so-called UFO experts claimed that the lack of ears on the mummy proved it was a Grey alien. Bulgaria has been a hotbed of alien activity for years, with Bulgarian government scientists claiming to be in contact with aliens via crop circle Q-and-A sessions, Bulgarians capturing Greys on camera, and Bulgarians seeing aliens in the woods.
At the same conference, UFO Sightings Daily writer Scott C. Waring claimed that new thermal scans of the Great Pyramid showing unusual heat signatures near the base prove ancient astronaut theorists have been right all along: “This could be the evidence we need to prove that it was created by ancient aliens and that the pyramid is more than a spectacle to look at.”
Archaeologists aren’t sure what the unusual heat signature represents, but some have suggested it might represent a cavity, a hidden chamber, or even a chunk of bedrock incorporated into the base of the pyramid.
Given all that, today I’d like to share an interesting blog post I read on a German website, from László Matthias Simon-Nanko, M.A., who describes himself as an archaeologist, independent scholar, and critic of bullshit. Simon-Nanko studied archaeology in Tübingen, Germany (just a few miles from the site of the luminescent hat invasion of 1577), has worked for various museums and institutes, and conducted excavations in the Near East. He also contributed to ZDF’s Terra X, which is probably more prestigious in Germany, where it’s an important science series, than here, where the show is remembered mostly as the In Search of… knockoff Discovery cast it as when it ran a dubbed selection of episodes in the 1990s.
Anyway, Simon-Nanko interviewed archaeologist Jens Notroff of the German Archaeological Institute last week and asked him to talk about the fringe history theories that are swirling around the Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe, which has been accused of being (a) a star-gate to another dimension, (b) a monument to Noah’s Ark, (c) a construction from a lost civilization such as Atlantis, and (d) evidence of a superior lost white race that bequeathed culture to the Near East. There are a few other claims, but you get the idea. You will, of course, remember that Graham Hancock used the site as his centerpiece for his new book, Magicians of the Gods, which touches on claims (c) and (d). Notroff works at Göbekli Tepe and is critical of fringe theories about the site.
According to Simon-Nanko, the interview was occasioned by a conspiracy theory—one I had not heard—that suggested that terrorist attacks carried out in Turkey in October were a government-sponsored false flag operation designed to hide work on Göbekli Tepe related to a star-gate to another world.
Simon-Nanko asked Notroff his thoughts on pseudohistory about the site, and he answered that pseudo-historians who rail against mainstream archaeology generally have only a superficial understanding of archaeological field methods and therefore tend to fall into circular arguments and fallacious reasoning. But his description of how he became familiar with pseudohistory bears translating in full. Forgive me if my German translations aren’t quite perfect:
With the overall theme of the so-called ancient astronaut hypothesis (today subsumed under the recent term “Ancient Aliens”) I myself, like probably many others, came into contact with it as a child in the ’90s. The books of [Erich von] Däniken certainly did not pass me by, and I freely admit that I have read them through with great interest. They were easily accessible, thoroughly enjoyable, and in their argument had a certain persuasiveness.
He said that it was after engaging in years of research that he understood the fallacies and gaps in logic that characterized von Däniken’s work.
I can’t help but notice how similar this was to my own teenage encounters with old paperbacks of von Däniken. But the next answer to a question about whether Notroff has seen an increase in crackpot theories about Göbekli Tepe among the public was even more interesting. He answered that popular media, fringe history books, and public perceptions go hand in hand:
In any event, I’ve noticed an increase in interview requests and emails (usually from German-speaking countries or English-speaking ones, which is certainly not by chance the same as the distribution area of the relevant authors), especially when there were recent reports in the popular media.
How interesting the crackpot ideas seem to be most prominent in the countries with the most robust fringe history industries. He went on to say that he feels that the narratives that these authors create about ancient sites take on a life of their own and can escape their creators once they end up in the hands of the public. I’ll add that the public is often less informed than the fringe writers, which likely accounts for the amplification of the crazy factor as ideas filter through the occult and conspiracy communities.
Notroff concluded that archaeologists need to do a better job competing with fringe historians to communicate exciting narratives to the public:
First and foremost: educating the public! We must create it (accessible material), so that our research results are perceived like the more popular theories. This means that we must strive to make our work accessible, but more importantly to find a method of making the results exciting and interesting. […] PR is underestimated by scientists in general, and archaeologists in particular, and in my view given too little respect. Our research is partly financed from public funds, so the public has a quite justified right to demand a certain amount of information.
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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