In an odd programming choice, H2 decided to bring back Ancient Aliens on Halloween night, though one must admit that there are few better evenings for the program’s patented brand of lunacy, crossing as it does into the realm of the Gothic and the supernatural. And besides, Giorgio Tsoukalos’s hair resembles that of the Bride of Frankenstein. Unfortunately, though, the program isn’t presenting a Halloween special for S07E06 “Forbidden Caves” but instead another rehash of familiar material on the theme of caves, which, tiresomely, are once again claimed to be passageways to other dimensions through which we can “communicate” with alien gods.
We open at Charama in India to review the same news story about the cave that allegedly contained images of extraterrestrials that was covered on In Search of Aliens a few weeks earlier, and which I wrote about when the story broke in July. Ancient Aliens does nothing with this news story except to recap what the Times of India reported, with such boring literalism that they didn’t even bother to check the Times’s sources, repeating claims that I demonstrated months ago are probably translation problems, and they also repeat the article’s claims about the “rohela” people—who in standard sources aren’t aliens in flying saucers, as the Times and the show claim, but Muslims. In any event, their story as given in the Times is almost certainly modern, not ancient, and likely influenced by science fiction films.
From this, the show broadens its look at cave art to include some of the classic ancient astronaut evidence, particularly Aboriginal art in Australia that resembles the “Grey” aliens in depicting the ancestors as having bulbous heads and oversized eyes. The program adds to this Gordon’s Panel (Shaman’s Gallery) in the Grand Canyon. The show argues that similarities in shamanic art worldwide—heads with big eyes, geometric shapes—indicates a common origin, and Nick Redfern suggests that cave art depicts aliens because aliens have bases inside caves. That makes just as much logical sense as arguing that they drew bison, aurochs, and horses on cave walls because herds of them lived in the caves, too. The common origin is correct, though; but that common origin is within the human mind—the way altered states of consciousness generate similar imagery due to the architecture of the human brain.
Since we’re at the Grand Canyon, David Childress and Gary A. David bring up the Hopi Ant People, whom we have heard tell many times on this show (famously and falsely etymologized as cognate with the Anunnaki). We are asked to believe that the Ant People are aliens because aliens apparently have antennae but no one bothers to actually make this argument. Instead they just show pictures of cave art and ask “alien?” Seriously: It isn’t even phrases as a claim, and just barely qualifies as a question. It occurs to me that the show has started to assume that its core audience is familiar with its earlier claims—they no longer identify concepts like the Ant People nor explain them. This is a change of pace, but not a good one. It makes the episode even less coherent than usual, and baffling for casual viewers.
After the break we’re back in India looking at a cave devoted to Shiva so we can discuss transcendence and contact with otherworldly beings. From this, the show asks us to think about caves in general as places of worship and the symbolism they entail. The narrator isn’t too big on the idea of symbolism, so he instead directs us to a “more profound” explanation. Well, sort of. He tells us there will be one, but first we need to talk about some underwater Mayan temple-caves off the Yucatan, a representation of the Mayan underworld, Xibalba. Giorgio Tsoukalos tells us that Dr. Linda Schele (1942-1998), described as a code breaker but actually a scholar of Latin American history and professor or art history, identified the underworld of Maya lore with the Milky Way. David Wilcock tells us that this means that the cave is a portal through which extraterrestrials pop in and out of our “plane of existence.” For him, the “aliens” aren’t actual aliens but rather trans-dimensional beings, like Lovecraft’s Old Ones, waiting in the angles outside of time and space.
If that’s the case, though, there is no logical reason that the cosmic “cave” created by a wormhole should be located inside a physical cave on earth. This forces us to consider that the physical cave served as a symbol for the cosmic “cave”—but that returns us to the realm of symbolism and means that this explanation for the importance of caves is no better than the traditional view of their symbolic role connecting humans to the womb of the earth.
As we near the halfway point in this episode, I have to admit that I’m just not feeling it. It’s not just that this is more of the same—it’s that that the show isn’t even making complete arguments anymore. The life of Kukai, a Japanese monk, is briefly reviewed, for example, but there isn’t a complete thought given. We’re meant to assume that while in a cave he channeled alien wisdom, but they never complete the thought. After this, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana is related to Nepalese sky caves, but again there is no real point. We’re just repeating the idea that caves are places where monks go to seek enlightenment, but so what? The implication is that caves provide a conduit to alien thought, but just below the surface of the narration is the recognition that it is the isolation and sensory deprivation that creates what even the show admits are altered states of consciousness, not actual encounters with aliens.
It is here that I realized that Ancient Aliens, desperate for new material, has become Cato, ending each speech with a hobbyhorse non sequitur. No matter the topic and whatever the subject, they end on the unrelated and repeated refrain of ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam—or in this case, “Could it be aliens?” This refrain remains even when the subject—in this episode: meditation, geological formations, high resolution scanning—has nothing to do with aliens. But Carthage must still be destroyed.
Erich von Däniken pivots us to Mormonism and asserts that the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith to withdraw gold tablets from a cave in Hill Cumorah. But that isn’t quite how the story was first told. As Smith himself wrote, the plates were buried in the hill—which he believed to be a Mound Builder burial mound: “On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box.” The interesting thing is that this account changes over time. Brigham Young expanded on it, turning the unearthing of the gold tablets into a more dramatic entry into a magical cave: “the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room.” Young wrote that within the room were more gold plates “than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.” The cave was lit with miraculous artificial light.
What’s particularly interesting is that von Däniken is familiar with Young’s revised version and that he used to claim (then retract and then claim again) his own visit to a very similar golden library in Ecuador. Both were large underground rooms filled with metal plates written in an indecipherable tongue. Interestingly both had a library table. According to Young, “They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room.” Whereas von Däniken wrote: “There was a table in the middle of the room. Was it really a table? […] The library of metal plaques was […] to the left of the conference table.” Coincidence? I’m just asking questions.
It is odd, though, that this half-ass disquisition on caves fails to make this same connection to the Ecuadorian cave they have mentioned many times before even though the presence of two golden libraries in buried chambers might have been worthy of note.
After the break, we look at a Mexican cave full of large crystals. David Childress tells us that it looks like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and the crystals might therefore encode information like Superman’s do. Jason Martell concurs. This brings us back to the show’s third favorite subtheme, which is piezoelectricity, the aliens’ favorite way to generate power. This segment then retells the story of Superman and his Kryptonian crystal technology even though, I will remind you, Superman is fiction and does not represent actual alien technology. He represents Golden Age science fiction. Crystals have been a SF staple since before Chariots of the Gods and were popular sources of radiation, energy, death rays, remote viewing, and other niceties in 1920s-1950s fiction. See, just for example, Raymond Z. Gallun’s “The Crystal Ray” from Air Wonder Stories (Nov. 1929) or H. G. Wells’s “The Crystal Egg” from Amazing Stories (May 1926).
Despite this we review—again—the familiar claim that the Egyptians used quartz crystals embedded in granite to power up their obelisks. Jason Martell falsely states that the Egyptian pyramids were topped with “obelisks” made of “crystal.” He has confused obelisks with pyramidions, and granite with crystal. According to archaeological evidence, the pyramidions of most Old Kingdom pyramids were made from diorite, granite, or limestone with a plating of gold or electrum. We know this because some of them have been found. They aren’t crystal, and wishful thinking won’t make granite into crystal just because it contains chunks of quartz.
After the next break, we travel to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which sits atop a cave. The show asserts that the cave was a shelter for livestock and thus Jesus’ manger was in a cave. William Henry reminds us that Christ was resurrected in a cave as well, and Kathleen McGowan-Coppens pops up to talk about her 30X-great grandpa, Jesus. (McGowan-Coppens believes she is a direct descendant of Jesus—not that the show will admit this.) She asserts that the Shroud of Turin is a real relic of Jesus’ resurrection “beyond a shadow of a doubt.” But apparently even Ancient Aliens isn’t willing to take the final step and utter the word “aliens” in connection with Jesus. Instead, the show drops all pretense of aliens and discusses Jesus only in terms of the divine—at least until the narrator briefly asks if the Shroud of Turin represents a “technological” assist to the Resurrection. Even though Carthage must be destroyed, he drops this like a hot potato and we speed ahead to Zeus’ birth in a Cretan cave (Apollodorus, Library 1.1.6) only to have it turn into a tautology: Caves are sacred because they are associated with the gods; the gods are associated with caves because caves are sacred.
This episode has only one idea, and it can’t manage to spell it out clearly because it doesn’t really make sense: Space aliens can be reached by burrowing down into the earth because when you go down far enough you pass into another dimension. In essence, the show would like us to combine space aliens with the hollow earth theory by removing the underground civilization of the hollow earth to a parallel plane accessible through a descent into the earth but not actually located under the earth. And the only reason they’re doing that is because (a) space aliens live in space by definition, and (b) we all know that the inside of the earth is full of lava and stuff.
That this is on purpose is obvious when after the final break the show speeds through a profile of high resolution imaging of Gordon’s Panel and instead brings up Richard Shaver and his underground creatures from I Remember Lemuria, a 1940s science fiction story presented in Amazing Stories as a true account of an underground world. In Shaver’s view, human beings came to earth from another solar system and degenerated into the creepy races that live beneath the earth and have a sort of proto-Scientology relationship to “integrative” and “degenerative” energy. It’s perfect fodder for Ancient Aliens, of course, but the show does a disservice by awarding the hoax a little more than two minutes of air time. Perhaps they were afraid that going into too much detail would accidentally reveal the science fiction origins of so much of the ancient astronaut theory.
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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