What the heck was that? Nobody on tonight’s Ancient Aliens S05E06 “Secrets of the Tombs” seemed really into it this week. Everyone seemed to realize that the material was rehashed from so many previous episodes that there was precious little new to talk about, and they didn’t even try to justify their wild assertions. Even Giorgio Tsoukalos didn’t bother to dress up in his customary suit and tie for the interview, while David Childress wore what looked like pajamas (it was actually a green shirt apparently a size too small). Continuity was at such a low ebb that we flicked back to the blue title card introduced two weeks ago rather than the standard brown one because this season’s episodes are apparently shown out of production order. Based on the clothes the pundits were wearing and their hair, this episode appears to have been shot much later than most of the preceding weeks’ offerings.
This episode boiled down to only two ideas: (a) Ancient tombs are too large and/or complex to have been designed by humans, and (b) there is another dimension, inhabited by semi-divine aliens, where the soul goes after death, which may or may not be in outer space. Yes, this is a rehash of 2011's “Aliens and the Undead” (S03E14). Tsoukalos opens the show by blathering on (yet again) about how “massive constructions” indicate ancient people got architectural knowledge from the aliens. Philip Coppens and Graham Hancock talk spiritual claims that really have nothing to do with aliens, as the narrator notes when claiming that tombs were “portals” to the aliens, real-life star gates, of which, of course, no evidence remains.
So we then move forward to Saqqara to look at some pyramids and listen to Orion Mystery author Robert Bauval tell us that pyramids were “gateways” to the “afterlife kingdom of Osiris.” Since this is again a spiritual claim (and also true), there is no alien content here. Bauval takes us to Teti I’s mortuary temple and pyramid, in which the Pyramid Texts are inscribed. Bauval tells us that the pyramid texts are about the king “becoming” a star and joining Osiris in the sky (true); but the narrator tells us that this instead meant that the texts were a manual for a space ship traveling to the stars to meet the ancient aliens, who masqueraded as gods in 2500 BCE. Coppens tells us that this involved “inter-dimensional” travel for the soul, but the show seems uninterested in this and lets it drop. I don’t suppose it’s worth mentioning that the Pyramid Texts also say that the deceased king “becomes” Ra, the sun: “Thou shalt seat thyself upon this throne of Rē‘, that thou mayest command the gods, for thou art indeed Rē‘, who comes forth from Nut, who gives birth to Rē‘ every day” (Utterance 606, 1688 a and b). Shall we also say that the aliens flew the dead king’s body into the sun for cremation? How does that square with literally traveling to the Orion nebula?
Next, Bauval shows us the tomb of the Apis Bull at the Serapium, which Robert Bauval claims features massive granite (or basalt, depending on which “theorist” is speaking) sarcophagi for the bulls carved to Swiss clockwork precision, which they most certainly are not—they are not correct to a fraction of a millimeter. The claim comes from Christopher Dunn, who argued that they were air tight, which, if true, would have preserved the rotted material found within, which they did not. Childress tells us that the sarcophagi were levitated by “antigravity,” despite the fact that much larger stones were moved using known methods by the Romans. Erich von Däniken tells us that the Apis bull was an alien genetically-modified hybrid, and Tsoukalos lies about claiming that “every single creature” in ancient Egypt was mummified. This is clearly false, but he uses this to argue that the sarcophagi were prisons to keep the Apis bulls’ bodies from returning as alien zombie bulls.
What is most interesting is what was left out: Erich von Däniken’s frequently repeated claim that what the narrator dismissed as merely “some bones” found in one of the tombs was in fact the two-headed remains of a genetically modified alien bull hybrid. After I traced the source of this back to von Däniken either misunderstanding or intentionally falsifying a quotation from a French author, Ange-Pierre Leca, this claim has suddenly become “inoperative,” and this shocking evidence of the only remaining alien genetic experiment on earth is no longer worthy of even appearing on Ancient Aliens.
Childress believes that the Apis sarcophagi are “inter-dimensional star-gates” through which “extraterrestrials can come and go.” The show talked about this in a few times in recent weeks, but I am still at a loss to understand how they think a big rock is somehow a portal to another world. What powers it? Why a big rock? Why do they no longer work? And if they are hermetically sealed and air tight, how did the aliens announce their presence to get out before suffocating? We might as well argue that the fireplace seen behind Childress is part of Harry Potter’s flew network and that by sticking his head in he can find himself at Hogwarts. There is just as much evidence; in fact Harry Potter has seven more books about it than Egypt has stories of star gates.
After the first commercial, we review the contents of the tomb of the Lord of Sipan in Peru, and Philip Coppens explains some of the afterlife beliefs suggested by the tomb, especially the (uncontroversial) idea that the ancients viewed the afterlife as a continuation of this life. A laughable sequence shows a statue of a crab with a man’s head while we hear the “theorists” tell us it’s an alien! It’s the Mi-Go!
What strikes me, though, is that everyone is speaking so quietly tonight. Even David Childress can’t work up the enthusiasm to claim that the Lord of Sipan is an alien. It’s clear that he doesn’t believe it, and the narrator is doing journeyman’s labor to make very human looking statues (of humans!) into aliens because they have slightly angular eyes (like Native Americans!). Apparently we have sunk to the level than anything that doesn’t look like a Caucasian is now an alien because white people are the measure of humanity.
We next go to Asia to look at the custom of burying people in boat-shaped coffins, and we have some laughable computer graphics of flames shooting out from these ships to turn them into spacecraft. We hear that the people who use these coffins, the Toraja of Indonesia, believed that their ancestors came from the stars, but no one seems able to get beyond the obvious problem that these boxes are built for the dead who, by definition, are not alive to go visit the aliens. At least Alan Landsburg had the guts to claim that the ancients mummified the dead in imitation of seeing cryogenically frozen aliens in The Outer Space Connection. At any rate, the boat coffins are widespread throughout Southeast Asia and Oceana and has the obvious explanation of tying in to the importance of boats in the life of the people involved. It surprised me that the show completely missed the fact that in the Philippines some boat burials are associated with “alien” cranial deformation. Ancient Aliens really isn’t on its game tonight, and they don’t really care.
For the record, the Toraja are animists who believe, like most traditional cultures, that the cosmos is composed of three tiers: heaven, earth, and the underworld. Their ancestors, they said, walked down a staircase from the upper tier to the earth and continued to use these stairs to talk with the Creator in heaven. This might sound like a UFO until you realize that they also believe that “heaven” has a roof shaped like a saddle, the earth is currently held in the palm of a god’s hand, while all animals live in a vast pillared hall that is the underworld. You don’t get to pick and choose one part of the cosmos to suit your needs. I’ll meet you in the underworld Hall of Animals if you want to claim otherwise. Unfortunately, the stories of the Toraja as we know them today were heavily influenced by Dutch Christian missionary work, so it isn’t possible to clearly separate their stairway to heaven from Jacob’s Ladder, or their flood myth from Noah’s Flood. The Dutch missionaries reported repeatedly trying to foist the Genesis creation myth upon the Toraja, so the inclusion of Jacob’s Ladder and the fashioning of humans in heaven by the divine should surprise no one. Another version of the creation myth, recorded by Dutch missionaries, has no stairway from heaven but instead has Puang Matua create all the things of the earth, including humans, in situ. Like most traditional peoples, their stories are fluid and change with the telling. For more on this, see Terance William Bigalke’s Tana Toraja: A Social History of an Indonesian People (2005).
After the second commercial break, Tsoukalos, remarkably subdued, claims that aliens (represented by a computer-generated UFO) gave the ancient Irish celestial charts that Childress suggests were carved into the mound tombs so the aliens could use them to get home. Because the aliens, who know all the secrets of the universe, need crude scratches in the rocks to find their way home. Oh well, best not to think to hard about it. The whole segment lasted but a minute before we run off to Sakai, Japan to look at a fifth century CE tomb of the sixteenth emperor of Japan. Robert Schoch thinks that an artificial island made to look like keyhole was a sign to the sky gods, but Childress again suggests that the aliens need these shapes to navigate the earth, their instruments that carried them across space apparently failing them on earth.
But again the segment lasted but two minutes, not enough to work up anything more than a claim that it can “only” be seen from above, so it must be for aliens. I wonder though, if fictitious gods were imagined in the sky, wouldn’t a signal to them be indistinguishable from those meant for “real” sky beings? Let’s try one of those “alien” thought experiments from last week. Let’s say we have two friends, Damon and Pythias, who both believe that aliens really love roast beef sandwiches and visit their houses to eat them, so they both set out a roast beef sandwich in the backyard at night for the aliens. One friend’s sandwich is eaten by a raven, while the other friend’s sandwich is beamed up by an alien. This happens every night for a week. On the eighth night you show up at their houses. Could you tell solely from the roast beef sandwich whether the alien was really visiting Damon or Pythias? In other words, one of them believed something that wasn’t true while the other believed something that was true, but the “artifacts” left on the ground are the same. So, how could we possibly project the reality of alien onto the beliefs of the ancients?
Next, we review the tomb of the first emperor of China; I have previously provided a translation of the ancient text of Sima Qian, the sole source on which all of the claims for this tomb are based, along with a translation of the first modern report of the imperial tomb. Coppens suggests that the Qin emperor went in “search of lost knowledge” and was “obsessed” with it. This is almost word-for-word Wikipedia's description of the emperor's search for a mythical elixir of life, which wasn't about lost knowledge but rather a contemporary myth about a powerful wizard. The use of mercury in the Qin tomb and an Egyptian tomb suggests to David Childress that it “could have” been used for extraterrestrial technology, ignoring what Sima Qian wrote: that it was used as a substitute of water in the model rivers in the tomb because as a liquid metal it would flow like water but not evaporate like water. Mercury has also been used historically for thermometers and barometers, which, last time I checked, did not run on alien microchips. How soon we forget the world of just a few decades ago…
After the next commercial, we look at a Korean image of a horse with cloud-like legs, a spirit horse. The narrator tells us that ancient astronaut theorists have a “much more profound” interpretation, namely that flying horses are spaceships. So, let me get this straight: The horse can’t be a symbol for the flying soul because that’s interpretative, and ancient people can’t interpret; but they can be a symbol for space ship because they “interpreted” the spaceship as an eight-legged flying horse.
But there’s no time for that! We return to Ireland to look at mound tomb at Newgrange, which is spuriously linked to the Korean mound tombs in that both are mounds of earth, the simplest possible shape to build out of dirt. Newgrange’s charming astronomical alignment to the winter solstice is taken as evidence that only aliens were capable to standing around on the winter solstice and marking the spot to build the entrance around. This was so amazingly complicated that only aliens riding flying horses through a star gate could do it.
A problem the show’s thinkers have is that they can’t quite figure out what the afterlife is supposed to be. Spiral shapes in Newgrange are said to spiral galaxies, and the mound’s round shape is told said to be a UFO shape! But we just heard that the alien ships were shaped like (a) boats and (b) eight-legged horses! Make up your minds! But is the afterlife literally in outer space (Coppens), another dimension (Childress), or “time travel” (Childress again)? We are here in territory first covered in “Aliens and the Undead” last year, and I have no reason to add to my previous commentary on the way the pseudo-spiritualism of Ancient Aliens attempts to turn the ancient astronaut hypothesis into a substitute religion, complete with afterlife hopes.
After the final break, we look at rockets that contemporary people use to shoot their ashes into space, and we return to the faux-spiritualism of “Aliens and the Undead” as the narrator tells us that there may be an afterlife realm somewhere in deep space; but this could not have been an ancient belief because the ancients believed that the sky was an iron or bronze or monster-skin dome stretching over the earth. There wasn’t any space to go up into, for the spherical dome was the limits of the universe itself. Besides, except for the very few humans imagined to become gods (outside the sphere of the sky), human souls were widely believed to descend under the earth, to become ancestor spirits in a shadowy half-life. After so many reviews, I need not repeat that there simply are not the number of sky gods the ancient alien people believe exist; very few gods were imagined as living “in the sky.”
Overall, this was a very quiet episode that simply rehashed old material without adding anything new, but continued the gradual conflation of aliens and gods, suggesting a spiritual dimension to the aliens that all but collapses the distinction between ancient astronauts and traditional paganism, a new religion for those who want to believe the aliens can save their immortal souls.
P.S. It was especially strange to see the late Philip Coppens discussing death, tombs, and the afterlife with no acknowledgement that he had passed on into the alien netherworld.
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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