To that end, I am not overly inclined to write a long discursive essay on the history of the ancient astronaut theory in order to preface my review of this week’s episode, particularly since fewer people are watching this show than an average Ancient Aliens outing.
The story Scott Wolter is investigating tonight made headlines in fringe media back in 2017 before being picked up by the British tabloid press in early 2018 and Newsweek magazine shortly thereafter. They also appeared on UFOs: The Lost Evidence on Travel’s sister station AHC in April 2017. The story concerns allegations that artifacts and cave art in Mexico depicts Grey aliens and their contact with the Maya. I didn’t give it more than a moment’s thought when it happened because the alleged ancient art depicting “aliens” was so obviously a modern forgery that there was nothing to say about them. In my coverage at the time, I focused more on the question of how Newsweek ended up covering the story, and it’s interesting to note that this is the second America Unearthed episode in a row that is adapting a zany fringe history story from Newsweek magazine, which also published an account of the Viking ship in the desert discussed last week. Someone at the America Unearthed offices must have a subscription.
Or, they are just stealing from my blog since the other thing most of the topics for this season of America Unearthed have in common is that I covered them already.
Anyway, the pieces in question were promoted by Nassim Haramein during the 2012 Maya apocalypse debacle and have reappeared regularly since. In 2018, I discussed how their art style is decidedly modern, even leaving aside that they depict Grey aliens in a style not seen before the Outer Limits created the look in the 1960s:
At first glance, it is clear that the sculpture is more like 7 months or 7 years old rather than 7,000. From the level of preservation to the hard, modern lines and the general level of amateurishness that is uncharacteristic of Mesoamerican art, it immediately appears that the object, and the rest in the presentation, are modern fakes. Now, granted, some Olmec figurines are just as crude, but they generally lack the weird stiffness of these pieces. Art tends to reflect the cultural aesthetics of the artist, even when trying to imitate historical styles, and here a modern influence seems to dominate.
The cave art in Veracruz, popularized in late 2017 on UFO blogs, is similarly crude and features science-fiction-style rocket ships and bulbous-head Grey aliens in Star Trek-style uniforms. The art style ranges from crude to a stiff contemporary Maya pastiche.
We open in a Mexican cave where a Native, presumably Olmec or Maya, sees a bright flash of light in the sky and encounters Grey aliens emerging from a spaceship deep in the rainforest. Then we crash into the opening titles.
Wolter claims, absurdly enough and without explanation, to be in Mexico to look for a “lost civilization” that he believes predates the Olmec by 5,000 years and had contact with space aliens. He falsely claims that the Maya had “advanced technology that we struggle to comprehend.” That claim is straight out of a nineteenth century colonialist handbook. The Maya made no use of the wheel and did not have true arches. Their technology is not beyond our ken. We then flash back to a staged scene in which artifact collector Mark Russell shows Wolter some of the fake “alien” artifacts like those depicted in UFOs: The Lost Evidence. The art style on the rectangular blocks is immediately suspect since they use modern artistic conventions (note the positioning of the human bodies) that Mesoamerican art did not typically use. Also, the main alien on one of the blocks is the alien from Alien, which was created by H. R. Giger based in a print Giger had made called Necronom IV, named for the Necronomicon of H. P. Lovecraft, who was a key influence on Giger. Wolter falsely claims that the artifacts would remain unchanged in the ground without weathering for thousands of years, and Russell shows Wolter a carbon date for organic glue (!) on the artifact showing that the blocks date back to 7500 BCE, a laughable claim that Wolter wants to confirm by repeating the test. What are the chances that carved blocks from 7500 BCE would be carved in a 21st century-style pastiche of Maya art circa 800 CE? What are the chances that the colorful paint job on the alien from Alien remained untouched and undecayed in the moist Mexican soil for 9,500 years?
While the men wait for the inevitable result, Russell shows Wolter the “alien” art from the online articles, and Wolter plans to go to Mexico to see the source of the alien artifacts before the radiocarbon dates come in “several weeks” later.
Wolter suggests, wrongly, that stylized Olmec art depicted oval head shapes because they showed Grey-alien style “elongated skulls.” His claim is a bit mixed up but quite obviously derives from the Ancient Aliens-style claim that artificially elongated skulls in human cultures were induced in imitation of the skull shape of (unevidenced) space aliens, who physiognomy is defined more by 20th century pop culture than by any evidence that aliens have cone heads. The Olmec “elongated man” style is sometimes suggested to reflect an interpretation of artificial cranial deformation among the contemporary Tlatilco people (perhaps through indirect contact), though there is no evidence for the practice among the Olmec themselves.
In the second segment, Wolter hears from locals in central Mexico that they are finding “alien”-carved stones in the rivers and in a cave. Wolter relates a (modern) local legend that the Totonacs worshiped as gods space aliens who crashed their UFO and took up residence in the cave. Note in the frequent presence of the logo for “Master Detector,” the treasure hunters who have been promoting the finds online for several years.
The Master Detectors take Wolter to the cave, which they describe as looking like a UFO because it is somewhat wider than it is tall. It’s hard to escape the feeling that they are making things up for the cameras, especially since there is a decided lack of factual information and a surprising lack of enthusiasm from people who claim to believe they have evidence of contact with extraterrestrial beings. The Master Detectors seem much more concerned about getting their logo on camera, though if they really were the people to have proved aliens existed, they would be instantly famous around the world.
In the Veracruz cave, Wolter views crude carvings of supposed space aliens in easily accessible sections of the cave entrance, and Wolter notes that the carvings are very sharp and appear to be freshly cut. The more examination Wolter does, the more obvious it becomes that the carvings are recent fakes. Further into the cave, Wolter views another set of carvings, which are basically crude stick figures. Wolter says that he doesn’t think that the art looks Mayan or Aztec or Olmec (no shit—it’s a stick figure with a big head!), but the carvings look just as fake as those at the cave entrance.
The treasure hunters claim to know of a second cave with more rocks depicting movie-style space aliens, and Wolter dramatically takes charge of the expedition and issues orders in English to the men, who speak only Spanish. They lead Wolter to a rock buried in the dirt whose rough surface Wolter says “looks manmade.” We then cut to commercial.
In this segment, Wolter looks at a second cave’s worth of carvings, but he expresses confusion over the carvings and how old they might be, unable to date them within a thousand years, but he suspects it is not old. So much for his famed invented science of archaeopetrography and his claim to be able to date inscriptions. It doesn’t matter for our purposes what the cave had been used for since it does not depict aliens in its geometric petroglyphs. The rock Wolter pulled from the ground contains only geometric lines and is therefore irrelevant. The Master Detectors are disappointed that Wolter did not endorse their hopes, and Wolter even throws shade on a rock with a UFO carved on it (literally—the letters U, F, and O hidden in the image) because he notes that the dirt in its grooves is not the dirt from the cave where they claimed to have found it. Looking at another artifact, Wolter shows the treasure hunters that it has evidence of having been carved by machine. In other words, the artifacts, as we all know, are complete fakes. Wolter, reasonably enough, suggests that the objects are either hoaxes or that modern visitors carved them as offerings.
In the fifth segment, the treasure hunters tell Wolter (via interpreter) that they appreciate Wolter’s input, and then they send him off so they can go back to promoting their “alien” finds. Wolter returns to Minnesota to ask Ed Barnhart of the Maya Exploration Center—whom you will remember from his appearance on Ancient Aliens—to examine Russell’s artifacts. Barnhart says that they don’t resemble Mesoamerican art in any way, and he explicitly notes that they appear to depict aliens from science fiction movies. Wolter thinks this is a good thing because that means that if they are not from a known culture of ancient Mesoamerica, they might come from a lost civilization with a different aesthetic and style. That style just happens to be modern Maya-revival pastiche as practiced by an amateur. Barnhart claims that it is “possible” that the radiocarbon date for Russell’s tablet depicting Giger’s Alien could truly be from a lost civilization, but he cautions that it is an anomalous result.
Wolter receives the C-14 results on the organic glue on Russell’s artifact, and in a highly staged scene… We cut to commercial with Wolter looking constipated… I mean, concerned.
In the final segment, Wolter receives confirmation of the radiocarbon results and receives the same number, about 7200 BCE. Wolter said that the only way to fake the artifact would have been to make the adhesive out of old organic material from nine thousand years ago, but he doesn’t believe it is possible to have done so since no “archaeologist” would have knowingly provided old material. He apparently is not aware of the concept of digging holes. Wolter then excitedly claims that the “Archaic” period needs to be renamed (though this isn’t the Mesoamerican archaic date) because the artifacts are so advanced, and Wolter excitedly declares the artifacts authentic and evidence of space aliens.
You would think they would have led with this supposedly earth-changing news. Weirdly enough, once again, despite claiming the have evidence of aliens, the show crams the whole claim into the last 90 seconds and then washes its hands of it, as though admitting that the story is as fake as a wooden nickel. Wolter, as we know from his radio interviews over the past few years, is now an ancient astronaut theorist.
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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