As an Italian-American, I’ve always taken a certain amount of pride in the accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci, so it is somewhat personally insulting to hear that one of history’s greatest geniuses was nothing but a puppet of the aliens who gave him all his ideas. This is profoundly disgusting and an insult to the very idea of human imagination, made worse coming as it does almost 560 years to the day since his April 15, 1452 birth. Oh, and by the way Ancient Aliens title-writers, his name was Leonardo. “Da Vinci” is a descriptor, not a surname. Didn’t the aliens tell you that?
To be quite honest, this episode was pretty boring for most of its run. There was a larger than usual amount of truth in this episode, relying heavily on real scholars and actual facts and insistent repetition of a few ideas time and again. There isn’t much to talk about on the crazy alien front until near the very end.
We begin with a brief précis of Leonardo’s life with a summary of his universal genius in art, sculpture, mathematics, optics, etc. that relies on actual historians and scholars, and, sadly, the almost-certainly fake PhD Sean-David Morton, still described as a PhD in the on-screen graphics. Then we start moving into the land of the wacky. Apparently Leonardo painted the Medusa as a clue that he was in thrall to the aliens since Medusa was an alien. Sigh.
More exciting: Leonardo used “non-lead-based paint” in one painting—which was “some type of message” according to Giorgio Tsoukalos. Seriously? This is what we have come down to? “Non-lead-based paint” is now evidence of aliens? Apparently, Tsoukalos believes that because this type of paint doesn’t photograph under x-rays, Leonardo must have known this and planned for ancient astronaut theorists to fantasize about him 500 years later.
David Childress, who is not an ancient astronaut theorist mind you, then claims during the undocumented years of Leonardo’s young life he was secretly being tutored by an alien-worshiping cult, or worse: “Perhaps like the biblical prophet Enoch he was even taken aboard a spaceship, and the aliens showed him earth from above and gave him a concept of the cosmos and machines and inventions...”
This is sad and disgusting. Even Ancient Aliens recognizes that the Renaissance was chock-a-block with geniuses and that not all of them could be extraterrestrial pupils. Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein are then linked as fellow adepts whom the aliens secretly tutored to “advance” humanity “every few hundred years or so.” Aliens don’t, apparently, care much for people who don’t speak English, or non-whites. For some reason those peoples were denied the alien genius. All they got were big rocks and thunder myths. It doesn’t seem like a fair trade, to be honest.
The ancient astronaut theorists obsess over whether mirrors can be used to reveal hidden messages in Leonardo’s paintings. By mirroring his paintings and crashing the reflections together howsoever they like, the show makes pictures of Darth Vader and a grey alien, thus “proving” Leonardo had hidden images of aliens in his work. Sadly, you can do this with any picture you like. Here’s the show’s version, complete with altered eye colors:
And here is one I made from a completely random image:
Recognize him? Yup, it’s a young Tsoukalos. See, using Ancient Aliens’ own methodology, you too can prove Giorgio Tsoukalos is an alien.
The show then wonders if Leonardo’s grotesques—a well-known Renaissance genre—proves he had met real aliens because no one could possibly have made weird images without meeting aliens. (Gargoyles anyone?)
Ancient aliens, Childress said, not only helped Leonardo but also guided Columbus to the New World (Columbus had seen strange lights in the sky), thus proving again that aliens hate brown skinned people and wanted them all dead.
We then get a review of the best-of-list of UFO Renaissance artwork, primarily paintings of heavenly crowns and angelic chariots.
Aert de Gelder’s Baptism of Christ is used as an example of a UFO in art. But a close reading shows that the “UFO” is actually a circle of light surrounding the Holy Dove, symbolizing God, and beams of light descend from this circle of light to Christ below. No UFO there—but Ancient Aliens doesn’t play fair; they Photoshopped Gelder’s work to make the circle of light appear to be a solid “spaceship” instead of the ethereal crown of light it is in the original.
This is the original:
This is Ancient Aliens’ version:
Oh, and this isn’t a Renaissance painting. It was made in 1710.
I won’t bother with any more of these paintings. Here’s Massimo Polidoro’s expert debunking of this from 2005.
Pressing ahead, the program speculates without merit that Leonardo’s inventions and unrealized plans were given to him by aliens. This is not just false but actually wrongly attributes to Leonardo the invention of automatons, something that the Byzantines had already been using in the Middle Ages on the magnificent throne of the emperors at Constantinople. Such automatons likely existed long before (Homer describes those built by Hephaestus, the blacksmith god), so in this case, Leonardo’s was the culmination of a tradition, not the invention of one.
David Childress: “You have to wonder if Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t doing this in secret because he was being encouraged by some kind of extraterrestrial masters who are somehow behind him.” No, no you don’t.
We finish up with the absurd claim that Leonardo was obsessed with nature because he discovered a star gate in a cave, letting him teleport to the future to steal the plans for the technologies he then pretended were his own inventions. If these ancient astronaut theorists know so much about it, how come they can’t show us these star gates? Not even one?
If we take both of Ancient Aliens' claims at face value, that Leonardo traveled through time to the future to steal the plans for his inventions, and also that “all” our modern technology derives from Leonardo’s own designs, we then end up in a time-travel paradox that would seem to imply that this knowledge appeared ex nihilo.
This is nothing but more of the ancient astronaut theorists’ insistent claims that imagination does not exist, that creativity is a fraud, and only they—the ancient astronaut theorists—have true intellectual gifts. Everyone else got it from the aliens.
Shouldn’t we check to see where these theorists are getting their ideas from?
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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