Can you believe we are now in the eleventh season of Ancient Aliens, and the seventh calendar year of the series? (History renumbered the episodes beginning halfway through season six, so what should be season 9 is now season 11.) The last new episode of Ancient Aliens aired an astonishing seven months ago, and I must admit that I have rather enjoyed the extended holiday from the program’s lackluster brand of quasi-historical fantasy. Indeed, it has been rather surprising how quiet the show’s stars have been over the last half of a year, with almost none of them making public claims or offering new books. Does that mean that they are now primarily professional Ancient Aliens pundits? I guess if one can be a professional political pundit or sports commentator, being a professional alien commentator is possible.
Every season I say that my reviews are going to be shorter and less detailed, and every year I end up being wrong simply because of the volume of bad information Ancient Aliens puts out in each episode. We’ll see how S11E01 (or S09E01) “Pyramids of Antarctica” works out.
The teaser is everything you want from the History Channel: Nazis! Antarctica! UFOs! Pyramids! Giorgio Tsoukalos with bigger hair and bad lighting that makes him look washed out and kind of puffy. Ancient Aliens is back and … well, not “better” than ever, but certainly bigger than ever. The opening titles have been reanimated with shinier new graphics, presumably to hide the ever tightening circle of lies that each season repeats on a faster loop as it circles the drain of oblivion.
The segment opens with a potted history and geography of the continent of Antarctica, and Andrew Collins is our first pundit of the season, saying nothing interesting. Jonathan Young, another series regular, and David Childress, in a new black wardrobe, both agree that Antarctica is mysterious. Tsoukalos says there’s a lot of ice there.
Anyway, the show gives us a recap of a number of internet stories, some serious and some hoaxes, that depict natural rock formations that, from certain angles, look like pyramids. The material was first published in 2012, and I covered it then. A man named Jonathan White shows us some satellite images of a random blob in a photograph that he interprets as being the ground plan of a pyramid, though again with no evidence to support the claim. It doesn’t even look square, let alone artificial. Collins claims that ancient humans originally lived in Antarctica, and we’re treated to a repeat of the claim that pyramids shoot energy beams into the sky to create a wireless energy grid. That’s an old claim from an earlier season of the show (originally told of obelisks but later amended to pyramids), but it allows them to recycle their “power grid” graphics. Yes, eight minutes into the new season we’re already recycling material.
Tsoukalos asks how people struck upon the idea of heaping stones in tall piles, and he asks whether the original world pyramid is in Antarctica, but no one on the show bothers to explain how the “pyramids” are somehow on the surface of the ice despite there being, as the show conceded, miles of ice between the continent’s land surface and the visible ice surface. Either the pyramids are as big as mountains or … they are really mountains! You can guess which one I believe.
This segment begins with the “mystery” of the flash-frozen mammoth that Michael Dennin, an actual scientist, accepts as true. I debunked the claim only a few months ago, pointing out that the claim is based on mistakes and translation errors where the “buttercups” allegedly found in the mouth of the mammoths were actually greens, not flowers. The show then goes on to endorse Charles Hapgood’s pole-shift theory, which suggested that Antarctica and Siberia slid from warmer parts of the Earth to the poles. His claim is dead wrong, and was disproved by the development of the theory of plate tectonics, but it remains a favorite of the fringe.
The show also uses the 1531 Oronteus Finaeus map of the southern continent to “prove” that an ice-free Antarctica was known in the 1500s or earlier. “How the hell is it possible that it could appear on this map,” Collins said. Well, the reason is quite clear: (a) it does not depict Antarctica accurately at all, and (b) Finaeus says quite clearly in the Latin legend that he did not use any ancient maps for it: “he presents for your gaze provinces, islands, seas, rivers, and mountains unseen before now, known neither to Ptolemy, nor Eudoxus, nor Eratosthenes, or Macrobius, but which have lain in shadows up to the present day.” It is unlikely to be an ancient alien map if the mapmaker claims to have drawn it himself, and which from other sources we know to have been wildly exaggerated from Magellan’s report of Tierra del Fuego. Ancient astronaut theorists aren’t into reading the texts they claim to cite.
The third segment shows that the producers of the show read Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, since they, like him, choose to use the Edfu texts and their account of a disaster that they think struck Egypt in ancient times. The texts allege that Edfu was the first temple, built by the gods themselves (as all temple texts did for their temples), and we hear that the Egyptians believed from the texts that the gods retreated to a sacred island to ascend to the sky. I can’t confirm that since there is no accessible English translation of the texts, but the claim appears in Eve E. A. Reymond’s 1969 book The Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple. The version Collins and his fellow pundits gives differs from that of Hancock, but the idea that a comet and/or star destroyed an island that housed an evil snake is close enough to a Middle Kingdom text called the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor that it must be the same thing, particularly since Hancock runs this story and the Edfu texts together. William Henry declares the story the basis for Atlantis, which Hancock ascribed to this same story, and Henry also identifies both with Antarctica, as Hancock did in Fingerprints of the Gods before rejecting the claim as unfounded years later.
The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor doesn’t really match Atlantis, or Antarctica, and it doesn’t match the version of the story given on Ancient Aliens, but I have a feeling that none of the pundits have actually read the tale in question. The Tale says that the ancient island was home to a race of snake men, and that the “fire of heaven” fell on and killed one of the 75 serpent-people. When the sailor left the island, it disappeared. John Gwyn Griffiths argued that it must be Atlantis, but the stories bear no similarity to one another in fact, story, or detail. By contrast, according to Reymond the Edfu texts say that the first island, the home of the Primeval Ones, was destroyed for no given reason but was recreated during the period of the creation of the land of Egypt.
In the fourth segment we flip over to Nazis because Ancient Aliens loves Hitler more than aliens. The show alleges that Hitler sent members of the Thule Society to Antarctica in 1938, during the Third Antarctic Expedition, returning in 1939. The various pundits allege that this single ship, with its crew of 24 and scientific staff of 33, somehow created an underground base in a couple of months. David Wilcock brushes this aside by assuming that the Nazis discovered Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, in fact if not name, with dead “technological” cities of astonishing antiquity buried beneath the ice and which they repurposed as a Nazi colony.
We get some popular but false claims from Childress that the U.S. sent an expedition in the 1940s for the same purpose. I debunked this in 2014, and the bottom line is that it derives from F. Amadeo Giannini's book The Worlds Beyond the Poles (1957), which in turn claimed that used part of the script of the fictional movie The Lost Horizon (1937) as supposed transcripts of dialogue between aliens and Admiral Byrd.
During the break, a commercial advertised Alien Con 2016, which, aside from the appropriate pun in its name, used the official typefaces from Ancient Aliens and promised attendees would meet the creators of the show along with “sci-fi celebrities.” I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about how Ancient Aliens and ufology have sold out to science fiction culture. I will merely note that the presence of Ancient Aliens is due to the History Channel and its parent, A+E Networks teaming up with Famous Monsters of Filmland to put on the convention over Halloween weekend. They previously had dipped their toes in the water through sponsoring events like the Paradigm Symposium, but now they are outright creating their own, and purposely mixing pseudoscience and science fiction, inseparable as they are.
Yes, A+E Networks is making Ancient Aliens into a lifestyle brand, with its own convention to go along with the clothing line and video game they launched last year!
This segment claims that world governments are conspiring to keep visitors out of the continent, which they imply is due to hiding alien artifacts. The expressed reason for doing so is actually to keep the continent pristine and protect the environment, including penguins. Linda Moulton Howe then tells a bunch of secondhand stories about anomalous events that she claims happened to military personnel in Antarctica. She offers no evidence that any of the stories are true, so there is no reason to pretend as much. Childress links these events to more fiction about Admiral Byrd, in which he allegedly flew through a hole in the Antarctic ice to the underground world. Again, it’s a wacky claim from a book that conflated a movie with real life.
The segment begins with a weather report about the increase in Antarctic ice overall and the loss of ice in the western part of the Continent. Collins finds this situation “strange” and Wilcock alleges that the aliens’ underground cities are melting the western ice due to their heat. I get that fringe figures don’t like climate change and aren’t willing to research climate science, but seriously—underground cities that only now are melting the ice? What did they do for the past 12 million years? The show doubles down on claim of lost Antarctic cities but refuses to provide any evidence that they are real, only that they “might” be found if the ice melts. So… hooray for global warming?
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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