I have an enormous tolerance for alternative bullshit, but Jason Martell of Ancient Aliens tests even my patience with the enormous stupidity of his claims, both in terms of the arrogant confidence with which he recycles Zecharia Sitchin as Gospel truth and with the rabble-rousing populism with which he dismisses counterarguments and science as nothing more than, and I quote, “WRONG ANSWER.” Having suffered through his self-published Knowledge Apocalypse (2011, 2nd ed. 2012), I am now confident that my earlier assessment of Martell as “dim” was no mere gut reaction but instead an alien-inspired insight piped directly into my brain from the Lords of Nibiru.
Incidentally, Martell argues that Nibiru has an “orbit” of 3,600 years, which is why we have sixty minutes in an hour and sixty second per minute, to add up to the magic number. [This sentence has been corrected because I misread Martell's original claim, missing the multiplication of 60 X 60 to generate 3,600 in a paragraph otherwise devoted only to the number sixty.]
In Knowledge Apocalypse, Martell begins by trying to make the case for ancient structures on Mars. Sadly, this is nothing more than Martell looking at the old NASA images of the Face on Mars and the “pyramids” of Cydonia and screaming in all caps “WRONG ANSWER, NASA.” As you’ll recall, Martell makes one of his claims to legitimacy the “fact” that he corresponded with “top NASA scientists,” and in Knowledge Apocalypse he provides details: He sent an email to the head of the organization in charge of Mars satellite photography and received back the unambiguous response that there was no evidence of artificial structures on Mars. Naturally, Martell dismissed this because the “structures” on Mars just looked artificial to him, at a distance of 35 million miles or so. In this discussion, he recapitulates the arguments of Richard Hoagland, though with less sophistication, and fails to even generate the air of conspiracy Graham Hancock managed when he recycled Hoagland for The Mars Mystery (1998). I find it fascinating that despite all the recent work done regarding Mars, Martell still falls back on the 1976 Viking images, dismissing all later work as mere conspiracy to cover up the Anunnaki’s doings.
And the Anunnaki! Oh, the Anunnaki!
For Martell, all of the ancient gods are the Anunnaki because he is a Sitchinite and simply knows nothing beyond what Zecharia Sitchin told him was true. He claims that the Anunnaki built the Nazca lines and may have fled from Nazca to Easter Island to raise the famous moai in their image. It becomes quite clear that Anunnaki is simply a Sitchin-inspired name he has given to any and all gods, whom he believes to be aliens.
But this self-described “expert” on Sumerian culture seems to lack the most basic understanding of what he is talking about.
In older texts, scholars identified the winged griffin-demon as a karabu, protective deities who tended to preside in pairs at doorways. They, too, were winged, and they are cognate with the Biblical cherubim who guard the gates to Eden (Genesis 3:24). It is this linguistic connection that Martell is, likely without any direct understanding, acknowledging in trying to make the griffin-demon into an angel. Either that or he just saw wings and said “angel!” completely unaware that Christian angels gained their wings only much, much later. (The cherubim had wings in the Bible, but they weren’t considered angels until Christianity and late Judaism made them so. If you want cherubs to be you source for connecting back to Babylonian winged creatures, then you have to abandon the idea that Ezekiel saw a UFO since the support for winged cherubim is Ezekiel’s description of them in his “UFO” encounter!)
Martell asserts that the Anunnaki name means “those who from heaven to earth came,” but he isn’t telling you that this is just Sitchin’s wacky translation. Standard dictionaries explain that the term derives from the words from royal or princely blood. He then asserts that “hundreds” of Sumerian inscriptions state that the Anunnaki “were described as beings who came from the sky” and taught humans the art of civilization. To quote that authority on academic discourse Jason Martell, “WRONG ANSWER.” It’s true that in the late Babylonian poem Enuma Elish (6.39-44; though in the older translation, this was 6.28ff. and incomplete) Marduk places three hundred Anunnaki in the sky, but it also places three hundred in the underworld. Even in this poem, though, they do not come from the sky but rather are placed their after Marduk creates the sky from the flayed corpse of Tiamat. For the Babylonians, the sky was a dome covering the earth, not space as we think of it today. More frequently, they are simply the judges of the underworld, living under the earth. After 1531 BCE, they are almost never described as anything else, and KAR 307 states explicitly that all 600 Anunnaki are locked in the underworld.
This, of course, doesn’t help us to get back to what was meant by Anunnaki in the Sumerian period. This is harder to discern that it would appear because the evidence is so scarce. The oldest tradition about their number is not 600, 60, or 50 but rather seven, but even this is not Sumerian in origin. In the Ur III period (c. 2100 BCE) they appear as the Anunna, an undifferentiated group of deities who can intercede with the high gods. Elsewhere, it is simply a word for the “gods” as a collective. A text known as Gudea’s Prayer to the Anunna (353-364) makes clear that these gods, whoever they were, were considered present in temples, their houses.
In short, there isn’t nearly enough actual Sumerian textual evidence to say anything much about the Anunnaki, let alone that they had wings and came from the sky.
As you might imagine, most of the tablets describing the Anunnaki were thrown into a big MYTH pile and basically left untouched to this day. What is truly stunning is how the Sumerian stories relating to the Anunnaki are similar to so many other “myths” we find in the study of ancient cultures.
As I’ve outlined, Martell has conflated Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian, and Babylonian material under the guise of Sumerian—the culture he claims to be an expert in—fails to recognize that the Sumerian material is especially thin, and discounts literally two centuries of scholarly work on the problem of the Anunnaki—dismissing everything he is unable to understand or too lazy to read as non-existent. Even the most cursory of literature search turns up dozens of books and hundreds of articles making reference to the Anunnaki (Anunna) and the problems of inferring a myth cycle for them from the extremely fragmentary evidence.
But Martell compounds his error. He describes the Epic of Gilgamesh as the original source for the Bible (since it contains the Flood myth), and he asserts that it is Sumerian, blissfully unaware that the Epic as it stands today is a much later Akkadian compilation and reworking of several short myths and poems of Sumerian origin. There are significant differences between the Akkadian epic of c. 1300 BCE and the Sumerian source poems of nearly a thousand years earlier. Martell further claims that the “Sumerian” myths “so often speak of these Anunnaki” and “how they came from heaven and live among them.” In fact, Sumerian stories are fragmentary, allusive, and don’t say anything about the Anunnaki descending from the sky. Even the Babylonian stories don’t support that version.
In the Gilgamesh epic, the Anunnaki appear only a handful of times: as the deciders of fate, as torch-bearers lighting the way for the Great Flood, and (finally!) in Heaven, where they retreated (not originated) before the Flood.
Do I need to go on? There are hundreds of pages more of this utterly wretched nonsense.
Let’s take just one more quick point. Martell says ancient people “never say their GODS came from across the ocean, or from the mountains. They always came down from the skies.” Point of fact, just from the top of my head:
To be honest, though, most of the gods around the world were assumed to have either always been in existence or to have been born in the time before there was an earth or sky, at the very creation—or have no special origins story at all. Thus, very few gods are ever said to have come “from the skies” originally, though many travel to and from the sky on occasion.
Jason Martell claims to be an expert in Sumerian culture even though he does not understand what is and is not Sumerian because he read Zecharia Sitchin. Jason Martell claims to be an expert in alien influence in the solar system because he “corresponded” with “top NASA scientists.” This, he says, gives him the ability to speak authoritatively about alien influence on ancient history.
Well, as it happens I, too, have read Zecharia Sitchin, and moreover I’ve also read the original Mesopotamian literature Martell references secondhand. Further, I have “corresponded” with top ancient astronaut theorists as well as some of the world’s best archaeologists, anthropologists, and Classicists. So, when I say that Jason Martell’s book is one of the most wretched, slipshod, idiotic pieces of fabricated drivel I’ve ever read, that’s an expert opinion even Jason Martell must recognize as authoritative.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.