Last week’s season premiere of Ancient Aliens opened a bit soft, with only 1.175 million viewers. It’s a little better than last year, when the show dipped below a million viewers for new episodes for the first time, but it’s still far below the show’s peak five or six years ago when around 2 million watched. However, the program has had a remarkable consistency over the past twelve seasons, rarely deviating more than 10% from week to week, an astonishing achievement for a show this late in its run.
This week’s episode, “Forged by the Gods,” examines alien artifacts on Earth. You might remember that years ago, the ancient astronaut theorists claimed that only Puma Punku was physical evidence of alien artifacts on Earth, but now, in need of ratings, they need to find something to sustain interest.
We open with questions about metallic spheres alleged to have fallen from the sky around the world. The photographs used in the segment sometimes resemble space junk, sometimes naturally occurring rocks. Longer consideration is given to the so-called Betz sphere, a 1974 “mystery” that caused a media frenzy. While the original ball is now missing, investigations determined it was just a piece of industrial junk, a ball valve used in pipes, its “mysterious” properties of self-movement the result of the Betz family’s old house and uneven floors. (Much to my cat’s delight, the same thing happens with balls on my uneven floor.) While David Wilcock claimed that the sphere has “artificially intelligent” technology, Skeptoid reported that identical spheres were for sale from Bell & Howell in Bridgeport, CT. Indeed, newspaper reporters determined that the sphere had been purchased by James Durling-Jones of Taos, New Mexico for use in a sculpture. He lost it when it fell off the roof of his VW bus in Florida in 1971.
The second segment doubles down on the Betz sphere and very briefly alludes to the above explanation of the sphere. Linda Moulton Howe denies that the sphere could have fallen from a truck, but she neglects to note that objects can travel far in three years, so its distance from the road (alleged to be 20 miles, though there is no proof of this) is hardly astonishing.
William Henry alleges that Christian depictions of the celestial sphere or the terrestrial orb are consequently actually artistic depictions of objects like the Betz sphere. Howe alleges that the government has seized the sphere, and that the sphere is “self-activating” and sending data back to another planet. While the show doesn’t always wear its influences on its sleeve, this claim is actually borrowed from Jacques Bergier, who first alleged in 1970 that the object known as the metallic Gurlt Cube (in reality a piece of meteoric iron) was a communication device monitoring the Earth and sending data back to another planet. Bergier described such meteoric lumps as “data collectors of the same type as magnetic bands, but much more highly perfected.” Bergier also alleged that the cube had been seized by a European government for undisclosed reasons. The point is that Howe’s claims for the Betz Sphere are more or less verbatim adaptations of earlier accounts of the Gurlt Cube.
The third segment reports the recent discovery of orichalcum (i.e. “mountain copper”) ingots in Sicily, a copper-zinc alloy. A geologist tells us that the Greeks could not have made this alloy because they could not refine zinc. This is disproved by Strabo, who in Geography 13.1.56 describes the making of exactly the alloy of zinc and copper found in the water: “There is a stone in the neighbourhood of Andeira which, when burned, becomes iron, and then, when heated in a furnace with a certain earth, distils mock-silver [i.e., zinc]; and this, with the addition of copper, makes the ‘mixture,’ as it is called, which by some is called ‘mountain-copper’” (trans. H. L. Jones). For discussion, see here. The show also chooses to conflate this metal with the orichalcum of Plato, though this is not clear. Roman orichalcum was a gold/copper alloy, but it is unclear what the Greeks meant by orichalcum and therefore what Plato meant by it in describing Atlantis. Regardless, the show ignores Strabo’s testimony and instead declares that the existence of the alloy proves Atlantis really existed.
The fourth segment discusses King Tut’s metal dagger. It is made from meteoric iron. This does not mean that the dagger came from outer space but rather that the iron was forged from the meteor. The show alleges that it is too difficult to work with meteoric iron for the Egyptians to have made it. This grossly underestimates how much time and effort the Egyptians were willing to put into luxury goods for the pharaohs. The show then discusses the myth of the Benben stone, the primordial original of the pyramid, which many have proposed was actually a meteorite. Giorgio Tsoukalos, however, considers it analogous to a “lunar module” because the lunar lander was vaguely cone-shaped.
After this, we visit a Transylvanian museum in Cluj to see a piece of aluminum industrial debris that was alleged to have been found among woolly mammoth bones and therefore dates back to the Ice Age. The so-called Wedge of Aiud was found in 1974 but achieved fame in 1995 when it appeared in a Romanian UFO magazine as a piece of a UFO’s landing gear. Western skeptics recognize it as the tooth of a modern excavator bucket, one that probably broke off in an earlier coal-mining excavation that had dug down to the mammoths’ layer and was only rediscovered years later when the site was being dug up again by locals looking for bones and artifacts. The locals mistook the site for undisturbed and drew a false conclusion, which our ancient astronaut theorists are happy to repeat for cash.
[5/9/17 Update: A Romanian correspondent informs me that English-language skeptical sources are incorrect and the first appearance of the object in the Romanian press occurred in a pair of 1983 books, and it was featured in Romanian fringe literature afterward. According to Romanian accounts from the 1980s, a Russian expert identified the object at the time as a piece of a World War II German aircraft, which German sources identified as a Messerschmidt Me 262 jet fighter.]
In the fifth segment, Erich von Däniken and Giorgio Tsoukalos travel to the Romanian museum to view the Wedge of Aiud, and they seem ready to orgasm over the piece of broken industrial machinery. “It’s very, very heavy!” von Däniken enthuses. “Giorgio, take it. It’s heavy!” Tsoukalos says it is “very strange.” The two men acknowledge that the object has been identified as an excavator tooth but they deny it could be one because such teeth are not made from aluminum. That is a lie, of course, and you can buy your own aluminum excavator teeth dirt cheap. Technically, the wedge is chemically identical to duralumin, an aluminum-copper alloy with increased hardness. A representative of the Transylvania National Museum claims that the object must be either a new tooth or an object of extraterrestrial origin, and she heavily implies that she favors the ET explanation. She is an idiot since that false dichotomy she presents forecloses on infinite possibility. Obviously the Nephilim of Atlantis used it in their cannibal feasts. Duh. Anyway, our two doofuses declare that “archaeology has a problem” because this object exists, even though our ancient astronaut theorists were too lazy to Google aluminum excavator teeth to test their own pompous assumptions.
The last segment describes the quasi-crystal found in a Russian meteorite. David Wilcock, whose appearance is disconcerting since only one side of his mouth moves (did he have a health problem?), alleges that the quasi-crystal shouldn’t exist, and he alleges that aliens sent the meteor to us so we could learn about it and therefore achieve super-technology such as anti-gravity. All of the talking heads claim that these various rocks, meteors, and garbage are teaching “us” the secrets of alien technology, even though many of these objects are allegedly either missing, locked up, or destroyed and therefore inaccessible in terms of offering help. Consistency is the hobgoblin of mediocre minds.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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