I’m sure you’ll recall that not long ago a Spanish-language Canadian publication took me to task for claiming that an alleged cave painting of space aliens, a UFO, and the Dropa Stones supposedly found in Uzbekistan was a fake. Thanks to a commenter on my blog, Leo Schmidt, I’ve learned that there is even more evidence that the image in question is not what ancient astronaut theorists, particularly Erich von Däniken, claim it is.
The background is fairly simple: In 1967, the Soviet magazine Sputnik ran a French language article describing the image below as follows in the caption: “The drawing representing a ‘cosmonaut’ was discovered on rocks in the vicinity of the city of Ferghana (Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan).”
On the strength of this, the director of the 1970 film version of Chariots of the Gods included the picture in the movie, and von Däniken added it to Gold of the Gods and In Search of Ancient Gods on the strength of the film’s endorsement. He even defended the authenticity of the image in a 1974 Playboy interview after questions arose about its provenance.
Here’s the fun part: Unbeknownst to those who (like me) are not regular readers of the entire print run of the 1967 volume of Sputnik, the magazine apologized for a very significant mistake, as PaleoSETI.de noted. The French correction follows, with my translation:
Nous nous excusions auprès de nos lecteurs d’une erreur de mise en page qui s’est produite dans notre precedent numéro en page 107.
Here’s the actual rock drawing from page 110 that the caption was meant to describe:
Well, that is certainly not the same thing, is it? As you can see, it’s a fairly standard shamanic image like countless other similar rock drawings, though I suppose one could pretend, as von Däniken did, that it’s an alien with a really, really big helmet. Imagine the neck muscles needed to keep that thing aloft.
Anyway, an accidental slip-up by the layout team at Sputnik in 1967 has yielded more than forty years of uncritical belief that an illustration commissioned for the article is actually a real cave painting done in honor of aliens. It just goes to show that some people will believe anything as long as supports a preconceived notion.
With this information I think we can safely say that the case of the Uzbekistan UFO painting is conclusively closed.
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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