I’ll be honest: I just wasn’t feeling this episode. Maybe it’s because I’m not quite back to full speed after the Thanksgiving holiday, or maybe it’s because I’ve never really felt comfortable exploiting human corpses for entertainment, but Ancient Aliens S07E10 “Secrets of the Mummies” just bothered me. To judge by the subdued tone and the relative lack of aliens, the producers were not too enthused either. I was, though, intrigued to note that the show reverted back to its old pyramid-style title card.
We open the show with shots of Pope John Paul II’s corpse, and then we tour other famous corpses, including those of Lenin, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Jon Il, etc., and the show falsely identifies the preserved corpse of Mao Zedong as the “emperor” of China. Oddly, after the parade of atheist Communists, the talking heads tell us that mummies represent a belief in eternal life—and odd choice since the Communist mummies represent the exact opposite of any supernatural religious impulse. But then we’re off to Egypt to look at Egyptian mummies with Egyptologist Ramy Romany. We review the mummification process and listen to speculation about the afterlife. This leads David Childress to suggest that the god Anubis was an alien in a halfhearted attempt to link William Henry’s spiritualist nonsense about supernatural souls to something vaguely related to the original concept of Ancient Aliens.
In the second segment, the show talks about 96 Chinchorro mummies found in Chile, the oldest known in the world, dating back 7,000 years. Then we look at 63 Wari mummies from Peru found last year. One of the royal mummies was found with gold trinkets depicting winged beings, which Childress and David Wilcock compare (weirdly) to the ibis-headed god Thoth, who invented mummification. Thoth did not have wings. Wilcock says this proves that there was a “global culture” of bird-people who came from beyond and taught mummification. At the Utcubamba Valley of Peru, we look at clay sarcophagi of the Chachapoya. The show says there are six sarcophagi even though the photograph shows at least eight, and moments later Ancient Aliens shows photos of different sarcophagi from the same culture. Childress says that the Chachapoya can’t be traced to any known origin—an oblique reference to false claims that they are Caucasians. David Wilcock calls mummification “technology” and says it has some mysterious goal “we” don’t understand.
This segment starts off with a Japanese mummy from 1783. The Buddhist monk practiced self-mummification, and I can recall seeing a segment on this guy decades ago on some show or another. I think he’s even been on Ancient Aliens before. The process involves caloric restriction and the consumption of poison, followed by starvation and asphyxiation. This exercise in morbidity, with loving shots of the grinning skulls, serves to remind us that the monks believed they would ascend to another realm by killing themselves slowly. The show doesn’t really pretend this has anything much to do with aliens. So instead we rehearse the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and his magic powers of teleportation. Childress remembers that the show has covered this before (when the teleporting was attributed to technology) and compares him to a Star Child. The narrator tells us that Buddhist monks believed that suicide was a path to becoming an alien like the Buddha. I imagine that no one who works on this show realizes how dangerously close their narration comes to endorsing the beliefs of Heaven’s Gate, the UFO cult that believed suicide was a one-way trip to communion with quasi-divine aliens trailing the Hale-Bopp comet—and acted on that belief in their 1997 mass suicide.
After the break, we rehearse one of Ancient Aliens’ greatest hits: the pharaoh Akhenaten. He’s been covered so many times over the years that there is nothing left to say. Even the fringe claims are by now utterly familiar: The monotheist pharaoh worshiped a shining disc (the sun disc) which had to be a flying saucer, and his strange physiognomy is due to alien DNA or plastic surgery to emulate the aliens. Giorgio Tsoukalos thinks he was an alien. But now we’re off to look at elongated skulls—another Ancient Astronaut chestnut—and this time the show is recycling material from In Search of Aliens, citing the genetic anomaly that some elongated skulls are missing their sagittal sutures to claim these skulls are “of extraterrestrial origin.”
The show brings in Brien Foerster to discuss his DNA tests of the Paracas, Peru elongated skulls, samples of which he admitted to smuggling out of the country. Foerster claims that a geneticist confirmed that the skulls’ DNA is not human, but Foerster changes his tune a lot. Originally, he reported that the DNA said the skulls were from a non-Homo sapiens human species. Later, he claimed they were Northern European Aryans. L. A. Marzulli said the same results showed they were the descendants of fallen angels. But the scientific reports have never been released (so far as I am aware), so we can only go by what fringe theorists with their weird ideas tell us.
After the next break, we talk about the mummies of the Inca kings, which were treated like living beings during royal rituals. The show seems to want us to think that the Inca really thought mummies were alive and in communion with the gods at a literal rather than a symbolic level. David Wilcock throws in a brief reference to the idea that the Inca gods who share their names with mummies are aliens, and Tsoukalos suggests that mummies were meant to recall aliens’ suspended animation, necessary for long distance space travel. This completely contradicts the “mummification technology” argument from earlier in the hour, and it also fails to give credit to the late Alan Landsburg, who so far as I know (or at least can recall offhand) was the first to suggest this silly idea in The Outer Space Connection (1975).
In the last segment, the show looks at a Mexican technique to rehydrate naturally mummified corpses to given them the semblance of life. I really don’t want to look at any more corpses. Apparently the show wants to nauseate me. Then we talk about a 1968 experiment to determine the blood type of King Tutankhamun. The narrator wonders whether sequencing Tut’s DNA could lead to the resurrection of Tut through DNA. This is an epistemological problem, for the show wants us to see cloning as resurrection, but clones are no more the original person than a man is his own twin. David Wilcock seems to think that our memories are embedded in our DNA and can be extracted through a “technology” that hasn’t been invented yet. The narrator concludes that someday we will reanimate the dead and resurrect the aliens.
This was a really boring episode and only brought the crazy in the last five minutes. What a waste of air time. If the show is called Ancient Aliens I expect a full hour of nutty ideas, not just six or seven minutes spread over 42 plus commercials.
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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