Oh, well. It’s all like that now. No one’s ideas are too ridiculous, or too divorced from science, not to be hailed as heroism in our anti-rational culture.
Speaking of which…
This episode of Ancient Aliens is about Native Americans, and it starts by telling us that we don’t know much about Native people prior to Columbus. It starts by discussing Cahokia, the largest Mississippian city, and it’s evident that the writers of Ancient Aliens both gained their own ideas of Native prehistory from 1960s TV shows and assume that their audience’s knowledge is trapped in the 1960s as well. They think their audience thinks of Native Americans as characters from a Western—Plains Indians in their teepees and feathered headdresses. Struggling to find something to say about Cahokia that connects to aliens, they try to argue that the famous bird man iconography of the Mississippians refers to, somehow, both aliens and spaceships at the same time. They can’t quite decide if the bird man is meant to be an alien astronaut or a spaceship. That’s because they aren’t thinking very hard. David Childress even calls it “the bird man culture.”
The usual claims about deities associated with the sky or stars are necessarily space aliens, and every Native person who has ever identified gods with aliens on this show returns to again demote their deities from divine to biological. No effort is made to distinguish between stories that were told before European contact and those that took on an alien inflection in the twentieth century. As I’ve mentioned before, some oral tales transformed under the influence of movies, the Apollo program, and even Chariots of the Gods-style books in the twentieth century, with modern tellers of the stories recasting traditional material in modern terms.
The second segment describes, in somewhat mixed up terms, the collapse of the Ancestral Puebloan cultures around 1200 CE, which the show frames in 1960s style—as the “disappearance” of people they alternately refer to as Anasazi or Pueblos. Then the show alleges that the gods depicted in Kachina dolls were space aliens, and that mythological beings depicted in Native rock art are, again, space aliens. Tsoukalos and William Henry go to visit rock art at Rock Art Ranch in Winslow, Arizona. The men gawk at a picture of what appears to be a woman giving birth, and they wonder how Europeans, Japanese, and Native Americans all thought to make pictures of women giving birth. Baffling! The claims about halos and helmets representing spacesuits are familiar to anyone who has watched Ancient Aliens in the past decade, or read an ancient astronaut book since the 1950s.
The third segment continues the adventures of Tsoukalos and Henry staring at rock art and claiming that they are “Grey aliens” and other species of space visitor, that patterns indicate Anunnaki influence, that shamanic antler headdresses are “energy rays,” and that geometric shapes represent DNA and other advanced science. That’s a lot to read into stick figures, swirls, and spirals whose original meaning and context is largely lost. Tsoukalos argues that ancient people had “impeccable powers of observation” because, lacking TV and the internet, “that’s all they did all day,” and being lazy layabouts who had nothing to do but sit and stare, they naturally lacked imagination and drew only what they saw.
After a potted history of Pueblo kivas, the fourth segment returns to an old favorite, the Ant Men from the previous ages of creation. Ant Men, or Ant People, have been a regular recurring species on Ancient Aliens since at least 2014. The show claims that the ant people are “humanoid” and small “extraterrestrials.” I went into the nitty-gritty of the story years ago, but the short version of it is that the Ant People sci-fi legend given on Ancient Aliens is a late development. Historically, the “ant people” were merely ants who had the power of speech, like animals in myths and legends the world over. They only became insectoid aliens in later twentieth century retellings of traditional material.
For no good reason, the fifth segment recounts the sinking of Atlantis and tries to compare it to the end of the third world by flood in Hopi mythology. I won’t belabor the point, but the similarities they see are due to the general similarity of all flood punishment narratives and the specific influence of the Near East flood myths on both, from the Babylonian version on Plato to the Biblical one on late versions of Hopi stories. Then the show tries to claim that the Aztec mythical homeland of Aztlan was Atlantis, mostly because the names sound sort of the same. A mixed-up discussion tries to claim Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, built on an island and cut through with canals was a model of Aztlan and therefore Atlantis, though none of that is part of any early record of Aztec myths about Aztlan. The show then compares all of this to Noah’s Flood and the Enochian Watchers before suggesting that similarities in myth around the world aren’t due to coincidence or contamination but global knowledge of a real flood induced by angry ETs.
The final segment describes UFO sightings on Native reservations and claims Natives have a special connection to flying saucers due to their spirituality. And here I thought the show had previously argued, just a few weeks ago, that nuclear radiation attracted UFOs, not spiritual purity. The show ends with the usual pablum about humans being star seeds spiritually entwined with divine space aliens, who will somehow transform and save us all.
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.