This week’s episode of Ancient Aliens proposed that the “extraterrestrials” left a “secret code” in the form of prehistoric sites scattered across the world, built (depending on which segment one watched) according to UFO flight paths, magnetic lay lines, geodesy, or an “energy grid.”
I can’t begin to describe the stupidity of the idea that this imaginary “energy grid” (which has not been proven to exist) let ancient people move large rocks to build ancient structures through conveniently lost anti-gravity devices (based on “free and inexhaustible energy,” David Hatcher Childress asserts). What type of “energy” this is, I can’t imagine; the ancient astronaut theorists (AATs) elide magnetic fields, gravitational fields, and various mystic energy forms all under the un-scientific ideas of “energy.” Apparently, every ancient civilization listened to ancient astronauts, who told them to build temples on sites where this “energy grid” had power points. These were airports, or something like that, for “refueling” UFOs.
Of course, the supposed precision of this map is completely fictitious, based entirely on selecting ancient sites to match its supposed nodes while ignoring those that do not match. Many popular “node” maps place Machu Picchu (or Cuzco) and the Great Pyramid on nodes, but few of them include such ancient sites as the ziggurat of Ur, the Lascaux caves, the great mound of Cahokia, Teotihuacan, the most ancient mud-brick cities of Peru, etc. Logically, one would expect the oldest sites, like those of Sumer or pre-Inca Peru (coeval with the Great Pyramid, after all), to have a place in the node system. I would love to give a more thorough discussion, but as it turns out, no two “researchers” agree where these energy nodes are, making it impossible to develop criteria to evaluate ancient sites’ correspondence to them. Nevertheless, all agree the “nodes” are a secret code.
A major problem with the idea that ancient cultures developed a secret “code” to signal knowledge of the aliens for future generations is the idea that ancient cultures had a conception of time that allowed for an understanding that their cultures would die, and that others would supersede them. Most ancient cultures for which we have evidence believed they could trace their origins back to the creation of the world (see Genesis or the Enuma Elish, for instance); therefore, their traditions and their culture were primeval and, for all intents and purposes, eternal. Any culture that believed its origins were coeval with creation could hardly be accused of planning for its own destruction.
Many ancient cultures believed in some form of cyclical time, best represented by the Hindu concept of world ages. Accordingly, the ancients as a general rule imagined that their culture would continue on until the world age ended, time restarted, and the world began anew. In such a situation, there is no reason to plan for imaginary future cultures, which would be serviced by the new generation of gods, or to signal them about knowledge of the former world that they would not need and could not use.
The rest of the episode’s claims—about ley lines as memories of UFO flight paths, about ancient temples as UFO refueling stations, etc.—are all predicated on fictitious knowledge of how alien spacecraft would operate (assumptions about their fuel, flight plans, etc.) drawn from analogies with contemporary airplanes and airports—not likely to be truly analogous to craft from another world, operating under another set of technologies and assumptions. AATs’ claims that the ancients had super-advanced math skills are belied by the fact that the Greeks were happy to say pi was 22/7 and took a thousand years to invent the Pythagorean theorem, or that 0 didn’t manage to make headway outside India. Have you ever tried doing calculus with Roman numerals? It doesn’t really work.
A segment on Cuzco’s role as a “world navel” is just stupid because Cuzco wasn’t constructed until c. 1000 CE (by the Killke culture) or inhabited by the Inca until the thirteenth century CE. This is not very ancient. At the same time, Charlemagne had come and gone in Europe, Mayan civilization had collapsed, and the Arab world was at the height of its scientific prowess. Had the aliens come and established a world navel then, surely someone would have recorded some unambiguous evidence of their existence—or, better, would not some physical evidence still remain? After all, archaeologists have recently discovered actual loaves of bread baked in those years, but not a single piece of extraterrestrial technology.
Similarly, the idea that ancient monuments like the Jerusalem Temple were built atop stone slabs used for docking spaceships is just stilly. Why did spacecraft need stone platforms to take off and land? Does this not beg us to ask how the first ships managed to land so the aliens could enslave the populace to build their giant stone landing pads?
The essential problem is this: Ancient Aliens elides all of history—from the earliest Paleolithic cultures to dynastic Egypt to the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages—under the rubric of “ancient” and imagines that there was a unified program extending across time and space, among unrelated cultures, for anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 years. And all of this simply vanished without even a scrap of incontrovertible physical evidence of interaction between far-flung cultures or contact with extraterrestrials, conveniently just at the time when those evil “scientists” began investigating the world in the early modern period.
Just three more Ancient Aliens episodes to go, but I’m not looking forward to next week’s Halloween special. (Yes, seriously, it’s a Halloween episode.) Horror monsters are my area of expertise, and I don’t think I’ll be too happy to hear AATs claim that vampires and zombies are the result of extraterrestrial intervention.
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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