Tonight on Ancient Aliens we discuss the question everyone has been asking: are ancient aliens really “humans coming from our own future” or “time traveling extraterrestrials”? After all, these are the only two possibilities.
We begin with Einstein and relativity to give a science-ish cover to the episode by relying on actual physicists who discuss Einstein’s theories and their relationship to time travel near the speed of light. Naturally, this leads directly to Hitler, just because no alien documentary is complete without Hitler. Einstein, the show claims, accidentally helped Hitler build a time machine in Poland between 1943 and 1945 by “revealing” relativity 40 years earlier. Whatever.
Conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs, author Rise of the Fourth Reich, has nothing very interesting to say, and Mike Bara, an alien theorist with very little connection to reality, then argues that the Nazis invented a time machine shaped like a bell and disappeared into an alternative time line. Could Bara join them? It would seem like the people who are so certain about these ideas ought to go and build one of these time machines they profess to know exactly how to make and leave this timeline in peace.
A 1965 fireball in Pennsylvania is then suggested to be a FUTURE SPACE NAZI according to Marrs because the UFO sighting involved with this crash claimed the UFO (conveniently not available for inspection) was the same bell-shape as the Nazis’ alleged time machine. Also shaped like bells: Bells.
But that’s not all. We have more NAZIS to go. Now we talk about how the Nazis went to Tibet in search of the origins of the Aryan race (detailed in the very good and serious book Himmler’s Crusade) but actually discovered TIME TRAVEL. Journalist Philip Coppens talks about how the Buddhists saw time as cyclical, and certainly-not-an-ancient-astronaut-theorist David Childress tells us that Buddhist stupas are the same shape as the Nazi time machine. Coincidence?! Yes. Especially since there is no Nazi time machine.
These self-satisfied theorists fail to understand that just because people believed that their meditations provided access to realms beyond time doesn’t mean it really did. Many early faiths claim access to realms beyond time, but this is due largely to the experience of the human mind in altered states of consciousness (feelings of timelessness), as detailed in David Lewis-Williams’ The Mind in the Cave (2002), not to time travelers from a Nazi dimension. When meditating, on certain drugs, or otherwise in altered states, the human mind experiences self-generated stimuli that, when filtered through cultural beliefs, yield feelings of traveling to realms above or below the earth, or outside of time and space.
But now we’re off to the “mysterious” ruins of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, built between 900 and 1100 CE by the Anasazi, also called the Ancestral Pueblo. Giorgio Tsoukalos is there, dressed in a very strange combination of leather jacket and ankle-length scarf. He simply describes the ruins without anything outrageous to say. Sean-David Morton, the fake PhD, claims that Chaco Canyon’s cities are “perfect” in shape and alignment, which they are not. Even the buildings fail to form perfect circles. Marshall Klarfeld, a follower of Zechariah Sitchin’s lies, tells us that Native Americans are too stupid to build buildings, so a lost race must have built the cities instead. This is just old racist claptrap dating back to the colonial era, when the mounds of the Mississippi Valley were attributed to a lost white race. To his credit, Klarfeld doesn’t say “white,” but the anti-aboriginal idea is still there.
Ancient Aliens fails to understand that nearly every ancient religion, including the Anasazi, viewed creation as having multiple dimensions. Christianity has three: hell, earth, and heaven. These dimensions are related to altered states of consciousness, which at various points produce feelings of sinking below the earth or rising into the sky. This is not a literal record of traveling into the sky.
But such thoughts are beyond ancient alien theorists. Tsoukalos sees a petroglyph of a shaman holding a circle inscribed with smaller circles and declares it a map of our “spiral galaxy.” It is just a series of concentric circles, probably a shield. It isn’t even a spiral. Then we talk about the “ant people” of the Hopi, a mythic hybrid race, with William Henry, the investigative mythologist whose radio show I will be appearing on this week. Henry believes that the secret of the universe can be found in telephone booths, which are esoteric symbols for wormholes used by Jesus to travel the universe. I am not making this up, though his major claim is about wormholes and star gates (yes, just like in the movie), not phone booths. He incorrectly claims the Sumerian Annunaki derive from Hopi words meaning “ant (anu) friends (naki),” a derivation not supported by any modern linguist. This is more Sitchin nonsense. The word actually means “those of royal blood” and has no relationship to Hopi words from 4,000 years later. One might as well relate them to “anno” and “gnocchi,” and claim they are New Year’s pastas from Italy. “Annunaki” is a conventional transliteration; the Sumerian term can also be transcribed as Anunna and Anunnaku, which are obviously different than the Hopi words.
Another Hopi mythological race, the wing makers, were said, Childress argues, to have come from 300 years in the future—which I guess would be 1400 CE, not “our present time,” as Childress claims. If Childress wants us to take myths literally, we have to hold them to the 1400 date and not project random future dates just because. So, there you have it, Renaissance Europeans--Leonardo da Vinci?—traveled back in time to tell the Anasazi how to build kivas, which were “biodomes or biospheres made of nuts and bolts,” as Tsoukalos said. The reason that the kivas of Chaco Canyon are not biodomes is simple: there is no glass or plastic found at the site. Where did the domes go? The kivas were actually covered with regular old roofs, and they were far too small to support an entire ecosystem, not being airtight or having any way of pumping water or air even if they were.
Next up: the Mahabharata from India, where the show claims “King Revati” or “Raivata” (both are used) visited Brahma and returned to find that while visiting the god hundreds of years had passed on earth. Revati is not the king’s name, however. It is the name of his daughter. The king’s name was Kakudmi for all of you keeping score at home, though he is sometimes called Raivata, son of Revata. I am not an expert in Indian epics, but I understand that Kakudmi is only briefly mentioned in the Mahabharata and the story of his voyage to Brahma is actually told fully in the Bhagavata Purana and other later epics. Some modern commentators believed the legend emerged to account for an anachronism in the myth where an earlier and later figure had been brought together.
Jeremiah in the Bible tells a similar story. This Rip van Winkle theme is well known in folklore (there are many other variants, including the stories of the Briton King Herla, the Irish bard Oisin, and the Japanese Urashima Taro), but ancient astronaut theorists think that this represents time travel due to special relativity. This theory was first proposed by Japanese sci-fi author Aritsune Toyoda. Instead, such myths talk about the timelessness of the gods, and how for them a thousand years are like a day. This isn’t time travel but a recognition that the immortals are exempt from the normal flow of time. This is a logical outgrowth of the development of gods who are immortal and in the cosmic level above earth; it is not a literal representation of time travel or Einstein’s special relativity. The idea derives, probably, from the recognition that when we sleep time moves differently in dreams; months or minutes might pass in our minds while eight hours march forward in reality. Once again ancient astronaut theorists believe ancient people are too stupid to have created their own ideas; all it takes is imagination, not alien science.
Besides, the Bhagavata Purana tells us that when Kakudmi returned to earth, he found that the people had shriveled and stupid. Since there is no evidence of a race of genius giants, there is no reason to take the rest of the story as fact either.
William Henry restates Robert Temple’s long-debunked and completely false Sirius Mystery, seconded by Philip Coppens, claiming that aliens from Sirius came to earth and gave us our civilization, including anomalous knowledge of the Sirius system. It’s been more than 20 years since anthropologist Walter van Beek proved that the supposedly alien-derived knowledge of Sirius recorded in Temple’s book was a fraud, and yet ancient astronaut theorists continue to repeat these claims as though they were true.
We then move on to discussions of modern physics and what it can tell us about time travel, which might be interested in another context but is mostly just filler here. Supposedly we will have a working time machine in ten years, according to a physicist whose name I didn’t catch, but sadly this time machine will work only on a single neutron at a time. Henry returns to talk about wormholes, but he knows not whereof he speaks, claiming falsely that the Dendera temple of Hathor depicts time travel portals because ancient Egyptian boats are shaped like wormholes. Obviously a boat must be a wormhole and not, as it appears to be, a boat to ferry the gods across the sky. This is wrong for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that our depiction of wormholes as essentially U-shaped is purely a conventional shape to represent an idea—in reality, if such things exist, they would take any number of shapes, assuming that it is possible at all to depict in a 2-dimensional shape a space existing in two realms across four (or more) dimensions at all.
I admit that at this point we are getting into cosmological discussions beyond my understanding of physics, and clearly beyond the show’s understanding too. Giorgio Tsoukalos sums up just how little he knows about physics, ancient history, and, well, everything:
They are similar only in that they are both concentric circles. You know what else has concentric circles?
The program then combines images of the Hadron Collider and the Aztec calendar and makes the calendar rotate as though to reinforce the idea that it depicts the Hadron Collider. Of course the collider is not a flat circle. That is one image taken from one angle. The actual collider is much different.
We finish up with UFOs and alien abductions, with the well-worn trope that the Grey aliens (earlier discussed as aliens in a previous episode) are in fact FUTURE HUMANS! The coincidence of humanoid shape has nothing to do with travelers from the future and everything to do with the fact that humans are inventing human-like creatures.
Childress claims the Roswell incident happened near the birthday of the goddess Isis, so therefore the aliens are really “some kind of time traveling extraterrestrials.” No, I do not understand the connection either, except that the narrator tells us that the aliens probably came from Sirius via teleportation (in the words of Edgar Mitchell, the ex-astronaut). So, they are smart enough to come from another star system by advanced super-technology on a specific day relative to the apparent position of that star in the sky relative to the earth and then dumb enough to crash their ship into the desert near Roswell.
Philip Coppens disagrees and states that the Greys are actually future humans who lost the ability to procreate and have returned back in time to have sex with us. This is mostly just a rehash of the material from the earlier “Greys” episode of Ancient Aliens. Apparently time travel didn’t have enough material to fill out the hour, so a bit of repetition was needed.
The program closes with a false dichotomy, asking if ancient gods were future human time travelers or extraterrestrial beings and if we can ever know for sure.
Remember, those are your only choices.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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