We open with a discussion of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, particularly Diego De Landa’s efforts to erase native cultural beliefs and practices and replace them with the Spanish version of Catholicism. De Landa’s efforts resulted in the burning of countless Maya books and threatening the Maya with death if they did not confess belief in the Christian God. The show chooses to illustrate the discussion with a strange mixture of Maya, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican art, either because it doesn’t know the difference, or it thinks the audience does not. The show suggests that the destroyed Maya codices contained evidence of what Jason Martell calls “a lost race, particularly extraterrestrial in nature.” The various talking heads mix and match elements of Mexican mythologies to argue that the Maya had a myth that “sky gods” from across the ocean gave them civilization, which they imply are aliens.
The show then dances along to the Olmec, who were not Maya, and Hugh Newman repeats the old canard that the Olmec stone heads were of sub-Saharan Africans while their other statues are Asian or Caucasian. David Childress is very excited by this and blathers on about “racial characteristics,” which leads the narrator to state that Mesoamerican culture originated in the Old World. But the Olmec statues show the same people that still live in the same region of Oaxaca, with their same lips and noses and eyes, and they are decidedly not African. This claim goes back to the late nineteenth century, when racists like Ignatius Donnelly suggested that Native Mexicans made statues of the slaves of their white Atlantean masters. It was racist then and it remains racist now.
Giorgio Tsoukalos claims that the Olmec had airplanes and jet packs and flew around the world, somehow failing to spread plants or diseases as they flew and leaving no trace except for their “racial characteristics.”
In the second segment, David Childress travels to Colombia to meet Praveen Mohan, a Hindu “historian” (actually a YouTuber) who appeared on Ancient Aliens in 2016. The two men visit ancient Colombian stone art in a remote area of the Colombian rainforest known as San Agustín Archaeological Park, and it is rather strange that Childress’s comportment and accent seems to have undergone a bit of a transformation, more of a 1930s stuffed shirt stock character from a screwball comedy than the midwestern schlub he began the series as. Anyway, the two men repeat a strange and stupid claim that the Colombian sculptures are “so Hindu” because they use rather common cross-cultural motifs such as groupings of three or a necklace with a skull or a bird eating a snake. (Mohan is shocked to discover that this last motif is so common that it appears on the Mexican flag, drawn from Aztec mythology. “How is that possible?” he asks of the supposed “connections” to India.) The “evidence” for Hindu gods in South America is unconvincing, and Mohan is really stretching to relate every carving to something Indian. That’s not to say that academics have not from time to time argued for Southeast Asian influences on Mexican culture, but despite these occasional arguments, none has found general acceptance due to the lack of any archaeological evidence to support the suggestion. At any rate, Ancient Aliens is convinced that the Maya and their ancestors were too dumb to have developed their own culture and therefore it had to come from somewhere else, whether that be India, Atlantis, or Alpha Centauri.
The idea that Native American civilization is a decadent form of Hindu culture was a popular belief in the early 1800s, particularly as advocated by Caleb Atwater. That is because the racists of the era thought that the Hindus were originally white and that Sanskrit and Hinduism were the mother culture of European civilization (an early form of Indo-European theory, with more racism). The claim remains racist today.
In the third segment, Childress and Mohan continue to attribute various pieces of ancient Colombian art at San Agustín, which date to c. 1 to 400 CE, to Hindus in ways that are both extreme and ridiculous, without much reference to the Maya or explanation of why nearly half a show putatively about the Maya is devoted to India and Colombia. Mohan, bizarrely, tries to allege that the vimanas of (pseudo-) Hindu belief (many reference to these mythological flying craft are derived from a modern hoax text) are Kukulkan, the feathered serpent of Maya lore. They also try to say that the ancient gold bug known as the Colombian “flyer” and worn by Tsoukalos and Martell as a lapel pin is not just an airplane but also a vimana. The show alleges that the name Maya found in Indian mythology must be the origin of the name Maya in Mexico. This makes as much sense as claiming that the female name Maya (a variant of Maia or Maria) is also “connected.” Not all shared syllables have a common origin.
The fourth segment keeps pushing the Hindu origins of Native American civilization angle, this time to argue that Colombia was a hotbed of Hindu action because it has a place where three rivers meet, similar to one in India, which the Hindus discovered by flying their aircraft over the jungle. Really? Why not just use their satellites? It would make as much sense. As Mohan vomits out bonkers interpretations of Native American art, Childress’s face is contorted in nearly orgasmic ecstasy, for these claims hark back to his earliest efforts at fringe writing, when he produced books about how Caucasians dominated the world with their superior ancient culture. Childress states that the Spanish did not know about San Agustín, but since he doesn’t define his terms, he is wrong. A Spaniard viewed and wrote about the statues at the site in 1756, the first Westerner to do so. Presumably, Childress meant the Spanish of the 1500s, but the show is none too careful about terminology and probably doesn’t realize that Spanish people still exist.
The fifth segment features Childress red-faced and sweaty with excitement as he talks about race, one of his favorite topics. He alleges that the Cham people of Vietnam were actually a pan-racial coalition of Old World peoples brought together by space aliens to migrate to America and civilize the red savages who were too dumb to have a culture of their own. Mohan returns to the idea that Asian people flew giant airships to the Americas, and he misplaces the Mahabharata to 3000 BCE, though scholars say that it actually dates to around 400 BCE for its oldest layers. The text as we have it dates from after 400 CE. The show then ventures into anti-Catholic conspiracy theories by alleging that the Maya texts were not destroyed as commonly thought but rather were sent to the Vatican so that the “secrets” of the Maya faith could be “controlled” and locked safely away in the Secret Archive. Neat trick since Maya hieroglyphs weren’t readable by Europeans until the twentieth century. I suppose that’s just another secret we aren’t “supposed” to know about.
In the sixth segment, which is really just a hodgepodge of unrelated thoughts on a rough theme, Childress tells us that eventually the ancient empires of the alien-supported Hindus collapsed, and the aliens withdrew their technology to let humans fend for themselves. The show gives a confused account of archaeologists discovering Maya artifacts at Teotihuacan, demonstrating a connection between the two cultures. The show, characteristically, misidentifies the Teotihuacan culture as “Aztec,” despite the six-century difference between them. It’s not entirely clear what the show means for this to prove, since Teotihuacan and the Maya were located on the same continent on a contiguous landmass, but they next seem to suggest that using satellites will somehow uncover secret alien bases or something like that. It’s more of an emotional argument than a logical one, and it makes less sense the more you think about it.
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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