Note: Last night H2 debuted both season five of Ancient Aliens and the first episode of a new pseudo-archaeology series, America Unearthed. Because I am not a machine, I will have to review these separately. Today I will review Ancient Aliens’ premiere, and tomorrow I’ll give my thoughts on America Unearthed.
As the season five premiere of Ancient Aliens began, it came on the heels of a rerun of last season’s “The Doomsday Prophecies” (S04E02) in which David Childress and other assorted pundits proclaimed that December 21, 2012 would be the time when (a) the aliens returned to earth or (b) cataclysmic change destroys the current world order. Since being wrong has never stopped Ancient Aliens before, the failure of this prophecy passed without notice as we transitioned into the new episode, “The Secrets of the Pyramids” (S05E01).
The teaser that opened the episode claimed that pyramids the world over were derived from a common template and emit “powerful energy” from another “intelligence.” David Childress calls the world’s various monuments a “precise network of pyramids” built by “a very advanced culture—probably extraterrestrials.” We know this must be true because he (a) spent most of his life criticizing ancient astronauts as false and (b) also “knew” that the Maya could see the cataclysmic future that didn’t happen yesterday.
As the opening titles roll, I noted that the subtitle “The Series” dropped out of Ancient Aliens’ title card, presumably implying that the production team no longer differentiates between the 2009 Ancient Aliens pilot movie and the 2010-2012 Ancient Aliens: The Series episodes comprising seasons 1-4.
Hugh Newman, author of Earth Grids, starts us off by describing the many and varied types of pyramids found worldwide, from the round pyramids of Mexico to the Egyptian-emulating tiny pyramids of Nubia. Erich von Däniken enthuses that Indian and Mexican pyramids have steep-angled sides, while Egyptian pyramids have gentler slopes—but no one on the show thinks that could have anything to do with them being independent constructions except for the poor physicist brought in to explain that, absent steel frame construction, pyramids are the only shape one could use to build a tall structure thanks to the laws of physics. But would this reasonable explanation be allowed to stand? No! There must be a hidden message.
We then hear NASA conspiracy theorist Jason Martell assert that in Montevecchia, near Milan, Italy, there are “pyramids” very similar to those of Giza in Egypt. By similar, he of course means completely different in size, shape, material, and layout. We are not told the truth, which is that these “pyramids” are apparently natural hills that were cut into terraces for farming ages before some amateur enthusiasts spotted their odd shape on a satellite photograph in 2003 and called them ancient ruins. No excavations have ever been undertaken to prove them artificial “constructions.” Note carefully that such terraced hills are found throughout Italy, and some are still used today for terrace farming. I don't have the right to reproduce the photograph, but you can click here to see some terraced hills still in use near Vernazza, Italy.
Giorgio Tsoukalos then asserts that an Indonesian pyramid and the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza share similar design elements, as do a Cambodian temple and the Mayan pyramid at Tikal.
They look as much alike as any step pyramids with stairs in the front would look alike, but in terms of size, details, construction methods, and ornamentation, they are very different. By cherry-picking only those rare examples that look highly similar, Tsoukalos creates a false impression that all East Asian pyramids and Mayan pyramids share common shapes and traits. This is not true. The two sets of pyramids do seem similar at first glance, but this is entirely because, architecturally speaking, there are only so many ways to build a step pyramid out of stone and run a staircase down the front of the right size for humans to climb. The cropped Cambodian image of the temple, for example, hides the fact that the "pyramid" has only four steps, while the Mayan has ten and is much steeper in angle. A look at the building from farther back shows how little it actually resembles the Tikal pyramid in any of its significant details or proportions:
Newman then returns along with Brien Foerester to express astonishment that ancient people who wanted to build tall buildings built tall buildings the only way physically possible when using large stones. It must be aliens!
Next, we move on to Egypt to listen to “investigative mythologist” William Henry rhapsodize over the Great Pyramid, which he feels an “extraordinary intelligence” stands behind. Chris Dunn, who believes the pyramid is an electrical generator, shows up, along with Robert Bauval, the author of the Orion Mystery (1994), who doesn’t like you to know that his interest in the pyramids began with Robert Temple’s amphibious aliens of the Sirius Mystery, whose alien content he carefully elided in The Orion Mystery (1994, pp. 7-9), which takes its name in honor of Temple's book.
Henry scoffs at the idea of the Great Pyramid being a pharaoh’s tomb, as does the ailing Philip Coppens, citing the fact that Khufu’s body was never found in the tomb. Hilariously, the same text that ancient astronaut writers use to claim aliens helped build them--Al Maqrizi’s Al-Khitat—actually states (if not believably) that the royal body was found in the burial chamber!
Childress claims that the Egyptians had “legends that the gods came down and gave them instructions to build pyramids.” This exists nowhere in ancient Egyptian literature. Childress says “the famous god Thoth” was the alien who instructed the building of the pyramid, but he’s confusing ancient Egypt with the late Antique Semitic legend that Hermes the Thrice Great (identified with Thoth, though a human wizard, because he shared a name with the Greek god Hermes, who was interpreted by the ancient Greeks as Thoth) ordered the building of the pyramids to safeguard scientific knowledge against Noah’s Flood. Childress and others make the following illogical leap: Since this second, human Hermes shares a name with Thoth and Thoth was a god of Egypt; therefore, since all gods are aliens, aliens built the pyramids. QED. The Hermes legend cannot be traced back farther than Roman times.
A few months ago, Philip Coppens and I got into a disagreement over whether the “gods” told the architect Imhotep to build the first Egyptian pyramid. Despite the fact that Coppens’ evidence was nothing more than the Famine Stela, erected thousands of years after the fact, and saying nothing whatsoever about pyramids, Coppens repeated this utterly, completely false claim again on Ancient Aliens even after he knew it wasn’t true. (He filmed the episode after our discussion, according to his Twitter feed.) [Update: I am informed this episode was actually filmed for season 4 but held back, which may explain why Coppens was so upset with me when I criticized this claim, knowing it would be broadcast on Ancient Aliens.] He did, however, modify his earlier false claim slightly by saying now that the “gods” merely “opened” Imhotep's mind to another plane of reality where he gained “access” to information about pyramid building. I’m sorry that Coppens is sick with cancer, but he’s still wrong about this claim.
Coppens then talks about the fact that the Great Pyramid’s four sides are slightly concave, meaning that on the equinoxes slight shadows are cast, making it look like the pyramid has eight sides. This was a quirk of architecture meant to keep the sides from crumbling according to many mainstream archaeologists, but Coppens seems unaware that it would not have been visible when the flat, polished casing stones that once covered the pyramid were still in place. (Indeed, one theory is that the concave sides were meant to serve as guides for placing the largest casing stones on the center lines of each side to hold the rest in place.) It was hardly a calendar or a "light show"; the equinox connection exists mostly because the pyramid is aligned to the cardinal directions. In ancient times, no "light show" was visible except for the brilliant gleam of the polished casing stones, according to actual ancient observers of the pyramid.
Tsoukalos then repeats another debunked lie derived from von Däniken, that the Great Pyramid was built at the “center” of all the land masses of the earth. This was not true when Charles Piazzi Smyth first proposed it in the nineteenth century from the calculations of Flinders Petrie, and it remains untrue today. A line drawn at 70 degrees West would cover more land, and it only looks approximately right using one particular projection, not a real globe.
The program then asserts that the so-called “air shafts” in the Queen’s Chamber are “believed” by “mainstream scientists” to have served only for ventilation. This is not true; some older Egyptologists believe this, but today most agree they had symbolic astrological purposes related to the Egyptian belief that Orion and Sirius (the areas targeted) were sacred to the gods Osiris and Isis. Even Zahi Hawass, the former head of Egypt’s antiquities organization, supported that view. You don’t get more mainstream.
Philip Coppens then states that the Teotihuacan pyramids represent the solar system, a claim that derives from the 1960s and one that I previously debunked by pointing out that Ancient Aliens cherry-picked pyramids without rhyme or reason, as the city is filled with many more pyramids than there are planets. Coppens also claims that the pyramids represent Orion’s belt, just like those of Egypt. These claims, incidentally, are recycled from an earlier episode and are false. Why would the brightest star of Orion be represented by the smallest Teotihuacan pyramid?
We next here tell that the pyramids mark “geodetic power spots” around the planet for refueling alien spaceships. How would one measure geodetic power, pray tell? What units does it come in? All they can say is that these places simply “feel” powerful.
These pyramids around the world are supposedly set on a world grid—despite having been built thousands of years apart, some only in the Middle Ages. Needless to say, there is no rhyme or reason to the “world grid” or any way of mapping it out logically. This claim is also recycled from an earlier episode, where it was similarly untrue.
After this, we visit the Indonesian temple mentioned in the teaser trailer offered up a few weeks ago, and about which I have already written extensively. The short form is that the medieval Buddhist temple has nothing to do with aliens, and unrelated medieval Indian temples called śikhara have no linguistic connection to Egypt’s Saqqara pyramid complex, which was not named Saqqara until modern times. Click here to read in great detail why this is true.
Dear Lord, we’re only halfway through.
The Pyramid Conspiracy
John DeSalvo claims that China’s pyramid-shaped imperial burial mounds are “pyramids” that the Chinese government is covering up. I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. These pyramids are well-known and are large earthen mounds. I guess they’re trying to say that a stone building sits beneath the dirt mound, but that doesn’t really change anything even if there were. Jason Martell is outraged that the Communist government covered the mounds with trees in the 1950s, claiming this was a conspiracy to suppress alien artifacts found within, but he neglects to place this in the context of the history of the Communist government of China, which had a vested interest in suppressing any potential place of pilgrimage for imperialist sympathizers. Today, attitudes are different, but in the 1950s imperial ruins were a threat to Communist legitimacy. Currently, the pyramids are not being “hidden”; they have been the subject of many documentaries and books.
DeSalvo tells us that ancient Chinese kings claimed people came “down from the sky” to give them “information,” but he provides no references to support this, and I am not familiar enough with ancient Chinese writings to find them. I assume, but cannot prove, that this refers to early Chinese myths that the emperors had a “Mandate of Heaven” and communed with the gods.
But this conspiracy isn’t enough for Ancient Aliens. We then get a lesson from Sam Osmanagich on the mound-shaped hills in Bosnia that Osmanagich infamously argues are gigantic pyramids nearly twice the size of Egypt’s great pyramid. (Osmanagich is described as an “archaeologist” on Ancient Aliens but he does not hold an archaeology degree and believes that ancient cultures arrived on earth from the Pleiades and that their secrets are kept with Hitler in his Antarctic ice station.) These hills look completely natural, and mainstream geologists agree that they are natural. The show leads us to subtly agree with the alternative point by depicting the “pyramids” as finished step pyramids complete with multiple, Maya-like stair cases (!) instead of lumpy, irregular hills covered with naturally cleaved and eroded rocks that vaguely resemble cut stone. The show does not explain how the pyramids somehow became completely encased in several feet of dirt, a much more amazing feat of engineering than even the building of the pyramids themselves! We hear that it is made of concrete, but Smithsonian magazine explained the truth in 2009:
In early 2006 Osmanagich asked a team of geologists from the nearby University of Tuzla to analyze core samples at Visocica. They found that his pyramid was composed of the same matter as other mountains in the area: alternating layers of conglomerate, clay and sandstone.
Smithsonian reported that even alternative history folk hero Robert Schoch (the re-dater of the Sphinx) agreed the site was natural and accused Osmanagich of ordering his workers to carve fake groves into the sides of the hill to look like carved stone. Other observers claim Osmanagich is re-carving the hill in the shape of a Mayan step-pyramid, destroying fossils and artifacts in the process.
Brien Foerester tells us that evil scientists are suppressing the pyramid "truth" about Bosnia because of their limited belief system and rigid paradigms, and Tsoukalos tells us that “secrecy” surrounds the pyramids of Bosnia to prevent any alien claims. Of course, the alleged pyramids are giant hills that anyone can visit, rendering the “secrecy” claim somewhat moot, especially since the “pyramids” have been covered in international media and have had thousands of tourists visit since 2006. There is an entire tourist industry devoted to them in Bosnia.
I refuse to dignify recycled 1970s pyramidiocy about “Pyramid Power.” Suffice it to say that putting antibiotics in a pyramid shaped building does not increase their efficacy tens of thousands of times over one “lunar cycle,” at the show claims. Pyramid power is a joke and has no basis in reality. I know this because I read about it in Erich von Däniken’s Eyes of the Sphinx (1996) and tried the experiment he promised would work, in which you place a dull razor blade under a pyramid-shaped cardboard model of the Great Pyramid and watch it miraculously sharpen. It never did.
To Infinity and Beyond!
As we lurch toward the conclusion, we hear that all pyramids have an “energy field” around them. They don’t. Try measuring one; you can’t. There are no “magnetic vibrations” that channel earth energy into the sky. According to the show, an amateur enthusiast named Joe Parr found that an energy field shows up around a pyramid-shaped metal box when that box is spun in a centrifuge while being exposed to magnetic radiation. This can eventually cause the pyramid to levitate, something also seen with frogs who can also be made to levitate in a controlled magnetic field, a well known principle of physics. This has nothing to do with pyramids and everything to do with the energy field Joe Parr created himself. Therefore, he is wrong that the Great Pyramid could spin into “hyperspace” to travel “through interdimensional space.” How would you rotate a massive stone pyramid? How would you keep it from falling apart as it spun? This is so stupid that I thought my TV would die from shame.
Giorgio Tsoukalos give us our parting though, reflecting his own ignorance:
“In all of this, I have one single question: Where are the blueprints? If all of this was so incredibly important, then wouldn’t you think that we would have at least one record of some type of a blueprint? And the reality is that there is not a single piece. Why? Could it be because the blueprints [points to the sky] have disappeared?”
Well, yes. The ancients didn't keep scrap paper around, and after the buildings were constructed, any diagrams or papyri used in their construction were worse than worthless; they were maps for tomb robbers, for example. So, they were either reused or destroyed. And while it may not be a pyramid blueprint per say, the Berlin Leather Roll, an ancient Egyptian text, describes the pharaoh commanding an architect to build a temple, and the pharaoh specifically makes provisions for "your needs in planning" and "your design" (not the aliens'), which is as unambiguous a statement as any that ancient buildings were planned and designed by human beings, without alien help.
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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