With the events unfolding in Boston last night as police hunted down the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect, it seemed rather incongruous to try to review yet another steaming pile of Ancient Aliens, especially an episode as slapdash and repetitive at this one. I can sum up this entire episode in a single sentence and a fragment:
“Humans are too dumb to build anything on their own, so aliens must have done it—plus magic rocks!”
We could probably revise this more accurately:
“I don’t know; therefore, aliens.”
Seeing the thousands of law enforcement officers working together to protect Boston provides a very clear counterexample of how humans can and do come together in their hundreds or thousands to accomplish a goal, whether it is a manhunt or dragging big rocks.
But Ancient Aliens doesn’t care about that, and frankly the H2 network doesn’t really care what I think because—and I don’t think they’ll be upset with me for reporting this—the network is extremely pleased with the performance of Ancient Aliens, especially its “celebrity following.” A History spokesperson told me this week that the network can’t order enough episodes of what they described as one of H2’s key entertainment series to satisfy viewer demand. They would love to have even more episodes of Ancient Aliens to air.
And so we begin Ancient Aliens S05E12 “The Monoliths,” an entire episode (with green title card with Babylonian relief images of Jason Martell’s favorite demon-griffin) predicated on the idea that ancient structures are too advanced and complex to be the work of the cultures that built them. This gets into some interesting territory because Giorgio Tsoukalos has repeatedly asserted that (a) ancient structures were built by human beings and (b) only Puma Punku was actually built by aliens. So if the aliens didn’t build “the monoliths,” what exactly are we arguing about? Well, according to Ancient Aliens, the question is whether the aliens lent humans advanced technology to build their mysterious monoliths. Logically, of course, even proving that any of these monoliths were built with “advanced” technology says nothing about aliens, for, as David Childress wrote (and rewrote and then self-plagiarized yet again) such technology could have come from Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, or some other lost human civilization.
We open with the Washington Monument, mostly because “America—FUCK YEAH!” and then we listen to stupid ideas about magic stones. The show decides that big rocks are magic 2001: A Space Odyssey monoliths that generate free energy and teleport people across the universe. Dear Lord. This is just stupid beyond all stupidity. It’s a rock. Rocks do not have magic powers. You can try bashing your head against a rock as much as you like—in fact, Ancient Aliens stars, please try it—but you’re not going to teleport around the world or across the stars. But, as I said, do try. We would all like to see you activate a chunk of granite to make star gate.
The narrator is wrong that a group of monoliths is called a megalith. A monolith is any singular standing stone, whether placed so naturally or by human hands. A megalith is simply a large stone, whether singular or in multiples. I think he meant to say “megalithic structure,” i.e., one made of large stones.
We talk about Stonehenge, outlining its conventional history. Various confused people wonder whether ancient people were capable of dragging large stones a few hundred miles. We get the story, via Alan Butler, of how Merlin levitated the stones from Ireland, and this bit—taken from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book written four thousand years after Stonehenge’s construction—is treated as a serious idea because some French dude once though Merlin was a supernatural alien. The show leaves out the fact that to take this text literally means we must accept the other half of Geoffrey’s claim about Stonehenge—that the stones came from Africa, something that geological testing (and Ancient Aliens itself) admits is wrong. You also must accept that Stonehenge was the graveyard of Aurelius’ men, another “fact” disproved by archaeology. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Geoffrey’s passage about Merlin’s other claims for Stonehenge, made just before he levitates them:
“If you are desirous,” said Merlin, “to honour the burying-place of these men with an everlasting monument, send for the Giant’s Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand for ever.”
I won’t even touch claims that stones have magic energy that heal. There is no scientific evidence of this, and Childress seems unaware that claims that Stonehenge was healing site derive, too, from Geoffrey, as seen above. But you’re welcome to test this for yourself. How much are you willing to be that water drenching Stonehenge can heal wounds?
Giorgio Tsoukalos claims that Stonehenge represents our solar system—an impossibility since the various rings do not have either a proportional relationship to the planets and were not all in place at the same time. Worse, planets have elliptical, not circular orbits, so any attempt to use Stonehenge’s rings to model the solar system is doomed to failure.
After the first commercial, we examine Avebury, the world’s largest stone circle. I’m not sure why, frankly, especially as we hear a long bit of bluster about the ritual significance of the site. But at least we got to see that they use sheep to keep the grass short there. Hugh Newman, a believer in world energy grids, claims that the site simply feels weird. Tsoukalos says that “the mythologies” of Avebury point to sky beings, “The Shining Ones,” who came from the sky to educate man. They do not. Philip Gardner and Gary Olson said that in their book The Shining Ones: The World’s Most Powerful Secret Society Revealed (2003), and apparently the phrase has become an alternative history buzzword for a Reptilian-Freemason conspiracy. (The book cover features the Star of David and has unintentional Protocols of the Elders of Zion overtones) I find the term in a range of alternative texts dating back a couple of decades, but it is certainly not a genuine ancient myth. In a stew of secondhand history cobbled together from Hamlet’s Mill and a range of “classic” alternative texts, Gardner and Osborn claim that the Shining Ones are a primeval secret priesthood, better known as the Fallen Angels of the Book of Enoch, who inspired (yes, of course) the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, who currently run the world on their behalf. Sigh. I wonder if Scott Wolter was taking notes since this is another place where Jesus-Templar conspiracies, Atlantis myths, and ancient aliens overlap.
Tsoukalos has simply adopted Gardner’s and Olson’s work wholesale and switched out a (human) priesthood for aliens. He really needs to be more careful about how he lifts material from others since it’s getting more obvious each week. Gardner is fairly explicit that he adapted the Shining Ones priesthood from Graham Hancock’s Aryan Master Race of white priests of the Lost Civilization, but the theme can be traced back through William Bramley’s reptilian secret Brotherhood of the Serpent to Hargrave Jennings’ cult of the serpent priests of the Holy Penis (he believed all ancient religion was a secret cult of penis worship masquerading as serpent worship) and Theosophy’s Ascended Masters—who were also aliens from another planet. The same claim shows up, in modified form, in Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu,” where the “deathless Chinamen” preside over an eternal cult dating back to Cthulhu’s first interactions with primeval humans.
Now here’s the thing about Avebury: In the fourteenth century the Catholic Church undertook a campaign to destroy the site because it considered it a relic of demonic paganism. Remember, this is the same Catholic Church that Ancient Aliens accused of knowing the truth about aliens and secretly preparing the world to accept its new alien overlords. One of the men who tried to topple the stones in the 1300s was crushed to death beneath it (and his skeleton was found by archaeologists), and the Black Death put a stop to the destruction. Contrary to Tsoukalos’ claims about fictitious sky beings, the genuine folklore about Averbury is that it was a Druid site (obviously false). Later, a myth sprang up that the site was the graveyard of King Arthur’s knights from the Battle of Mount Badon (cf. to Stonehenge as the graveyard of Aurelius’ men). We do not know the actual beliefs of those who built Avebury, although many researchers believe they had a tiered cosmos like other Neolithic peoples, with a belief in beings who lived on planes above and below the (flat) earth.
We then look at a Buddhist monastery where some paintings show people partially obscured by clouds, apparently floating in them. Tsoukalos claims that these are misunderstood images of aliens descending from UFOs. Whatever floats your boat, but I thought the aliens were Greys were slanted bug eyes—that’s what Ancient Aliens keeps telling me. But now they’re beautiful Buddhist ladies? The show makes a halfhearted effort at linking Asian mountains to the mythical Mt. Meru (the axis of the world) and thus space creatures, but mostly they just repeat ancient myths. It appears that the show really just wants to talk about how much ancient astronaut theorists enjoy reading ancient mythology (even if they don’t understand it) and want to share what they learned from secondhand encyclopedias because it’s just so gosh darn interesting.
After the next commercial we get to Easter Island, and alternative speculator Robert Schoch, who used to confine himself to geological questions, claims that the moai point to the stars because “there’s something going on there.” Schoch claims that the moai are “thousands of years old,” while archaeologists believe the statues were carved and set up in the Middle Ages. He bases this on his assumption that the statues were gradually buried under sediment over thousands of years, a fact somehow missed by centuries of archaeological work on the island. Schoch believes sediments accumulate at the rate of about three inches per century, but no other investigator has accepted this idea, noting that sediments can accumulate at ten times that rate. You don’t need to take my word for it, though. Here’s a 2005 scientific paper by Meith and Bork outlining how human-induced environmental change led to catastrophic sedimentation, including the burial of sites that can be carbon dated to the Middle Ages: “Settlements and ceremonial places which were built around AD 1300 on downslope areas were buried soon by sediments.” This is not the first time Schoch has tried to re-date Easter Island (see here and here).
Several pundits then claim that the heads are (a) robots (Erich von Däniken) or (b) aliens (Childress). That these statues are of a piece with other Polynesian statues means nothing.
Some stylized human statues from the Bada Valley in Indonesia are shown next, and Childress says that they “baffled” him. OK, so he’s confused. That’s fine; I don’t doubt it. Tsoukalos says they are very similar to Easter Island’s statues (though I’m not convinced they are really that similar), and everyone wants to know why. Indonesia was part of the cultural continuum with Polynesia, and in fact statues of similar types are found in an arc from Asia to the Pacific Islands. In Indonesia alone, more than a dozen sites have similar monoliths, which art historians suggest are developed from Hindu-style penis sculptures.
The stylized human faces are just that—and we know they are meant to be humans because those same stylized faces are found on statues meant to be known humans, and that style of art was still being used to depict living humans as late as the 1940s when anthropologists visited some of the last non-Westernized headhunting tribes of the region. Art historians and archaeologists describe them as “minimalist,” which is a good way of thinking about it—they were not meant to depict human faces in all their details, like Greco-Roman art, but rather to suggest the human form with only essential details lightly sketched, like a cartoon. As noted above, many art historians think they were meant to be penises with eyes, part of a fertility cult.
After the commercial, we talk about the Costa Rica stone spheres, and the show repeats the old canard that the balls are near-perfect spheres (they’re not) to 96% accuracy. At best the spheres are visually spherical, but in terms of mathematical precision, they are far from true. The myth of their perfection comes from a mistake made in reporting their measurements. Archaeologist Samuel Lothorp measured them with a measuring tape and reported the average measurement of each to three decimal places, an accuracy level his tape could not actually provide. Later writers mistook the average measurement for absolute measurements and declared them near-perfect spheres. Further, although Ancient Aliens claims the spheres are all of granite, several are made of limestone or sandstone. Unreconstructed colonialist David Childress refers to “jungle dwelling local chiefs” and might as well just make monkey sounds while talking about his contempt for “primitive” people.
Bosnian pyramid promoter Sam Osmanagich tells us that similar stone spheres found in Bosnia are manmade, but they are not very round and are just natural boulders. How do I know this? Robert Schoch said so, but Ancient Aliens won’t let him do so on their air. Schoch (a) believes demons from another dimension perform supernatural feats on this earth and (b) that a lost civilization built the Sphinx and many ancient sites, so when even he says these are not manmade spheres from a vanished civilization, you know it’s a failed claim.
Childress claims that the balls could be used to make an “extraterrestrial map” of the stars if the stones were rolled in place to match the constellations when the aliens needed them in that position. Anything could be arranged into a map, including sticks, pushpins, and ancient astronaut theorists! Philip Coppens’ ghost claims that the spheres could be arranged to concentrate thought and send our minds to another dimension, which is an idea leftover from Lovecraft’s “Dunwich Horror” and “Dreams in the Witch House.” Good luck trying that one. Everyone who claims stone spheres generate free energy or open portals to other dimensions is required to prove it by piling up enough stones to make it happen. Otherwise, you’re just having wet dreams about Stargate and 2001 and taking science fiction too seriously.
After the final commercial, Mike Bara claims that a shadow seen on a photograph of Mars’ moon Phobos is an “obelisk” (even though it is irregular) and therefore is evidence of aliens. According to University of Arizona scientists, the “monolith” is actually most likely a broken fragment of a larger boulder, perhaps fifteen feet (5 m) across, whose rocky composition caused it to fracture in a somewhat rectangular shape, like many natural rectangular blocks here on earth—or even natural hexagonal ones like the Giant’s Causeway. While the show is correct that Buzz Aldrin does believe there is a “monolith” on Phobos, according to news reports he was referring to a “secret” monolith, not the one seen in the Ancient Aliens photo.
Childress returns to babble on about obelisks, claiming that quartz crystals within the granite have “all of the properties that quartz crystals bring to technology,” making the obelisks into antennas. We get a repeat of his claims from earlier seasons about how these obelisks beam energy to the sky. (He previously claimed that the aliens beamed this energy from Egypt to Easter Island to move the moai.) And what kind of energy? Apparently not electricity. Science fact: Granite is a silicate and is an insulating medium. It is a very poor electrical conductor, and the amount of voltage required for granite to conduct electricity would actually destroy the integrity of the stone itself. Do you see any blasted obelisks? No? Oh, well. I think he’s confusing the conducting of electricity with piezoelectricity, in which electrons are released from crystals under mechanical stress. Contrary to Childress’s claims, granite is not a crystal, and any tiny fragments of embedded quartz crystal within the granite do not make the entire obelisk a crystal, nor does it negate the insulating effects of the granite surrounding the crystal fragments. Never mind that there is no significant pressure being placed on the obelisks. (That said, piezoelectric effects have been observed in granite deposits in the earth due to the sheer volume of material and the immense pressure of the earth, which allows the quartz fragments to overcome the insulating effects of granite. This has been replicated in laboratory conditions in which a large outside force—sound waves—was used to induce a piezoelectric effect. But in any case, it does not occur spontaneously without an outside force and therefore granite is not “generating” free energy to power a world grid.)
Not to burst Childress’s bubble, but obelisks are not transmitting energy to the sky and they have nothing more than a very weak magnetic field caused by the magnetite embedded in the granite. You’re welcome to go try to measure some space ship-powering electric field, but you will not find one; just a little magnetism. But let’s pretend it did exist. Why did it stop? Why if I put up an obelisk, or visit one still standing, is it not currently beaming electricity? Did the aliens change the physical properties of granite with magic? [Note: This paragraph was edited to correct information about the magnetic field of granite.]
Stupidly, Childress claims the energy flowed up to the sky to enter an invisible alien energy grid, but some other guy whose name I didn’t catch is equally adamant that the energy flowed down to (seriously) charge the earth with power. Obelisks do not transmit energy. You cannot, as Childress claims, plug technology into a standing pillar of granite to juice it up. If any of this were true, all these rocks should be brimming with electricity right now since nothing has changed in the physical properties of the earth. The less said about the idea that such a network of obelisks could create a quantum star gate to open a portal to the aliens’ home world the better.
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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