I had no idea that Ancient Aliens: Ultimate Evidence was premiering tonight of the History Channel. There was very little publicity, and up until this afternoon my on-screen cable grid said History was showing an untitled episode to be determined. (Dish Network, I am told, listed the show as a rerun, which, in fairness, it sort of is.) I’m still not clear whether “Beyond Nazca,” as the episode is titled, is part of Ancient Aliens season seven, or is a new series as my cable company lists it. I tried checking the internet, and as of this writing a few minutes before the “series” premiere, there was literally nothing written about the show in the media. It seems that History is pretty sure that ratings for Ancient Aliens are the same no matter what they show or when, so why waste money promoting a new show when the same people will tune in anyway?
The new series, or sub-series, or whatever this monstrosity is, promoted as THE MOST CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE EVER in the on-air promos, at first seemed like it would be a reimagined version of Giorgio Tsoukalos’s In Search of Aliens under another name before revealing itself as a Frankenstein monster of a cut-together instant-rerun compiled by adding new(ish) footage to the skeleton of an old episode. How else to explain the “new” series returning to the well plumbed twice on In Search of Aliens last year and innumerable times on Ancient Aliens itself? The Nazca lines are, even for Ancient Aliens, old news—so old, in fact, that even Erich von Däniken, in his rare moments when he drops part of his mask, concedes that they are not extraterrestrial airport runways, as he first plagiarized from still earlier writers back in 1968’s Chariots of the Gods.
Oh, well: As it happens, this “new” episode is actually recycled almost entirely from Ancient Aliens S05E08 “Beyond Nazca,” to which some new (well, sort of) footage has been added. My review therefore will be my old review, with new criticisms added in, let’s say, blue (links are green).
My S05E08 Review: Ultimately Recycled!
I’m not entirely sure how the Nazca lines ended up becoming synonymous with ancient astronauts. It’s not as though they are a particularly natural fit. Sure, the large animal figures and long geometric shapes are strange, but they don’t really scream alien. Erich von Däniken started the theme in Chariots of the Gods (1968) when he wrote the following lines: “Seen from the air, the clear-cut impression that the 37-mile-long plain of Nazca made on me was that of an airfield! What is so far-fetched about the idea?”
Even other alternative authors understood that there were problems with this idea. First, since when did flying saucers require landing strips? Second, even the drug-using neo-hippie Graham Hancock recognized in Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) that the soft rock of the Nazca plateau was a terrible choice to land a craft of any weight. As he said, “all are much too soft to have permitted the landing of wheeled flying vehicles.” Maria Reiche, the longtime promoter of the lines, agreed, saying that the UFOs would have “gotten stuck.”
Von Däniken didn’t try to explain or defend his idea, or provide even a scintilla of proof. Nevertheless, Twilight Zone and Night Gallery writer and host Rod Serling was particularly taken by the idea, being an aficionado of airplanes, and a photo of the Nazca lines convinced him the ancient astronaut idea had merit, leading to his participation in the film version of Chariots, called In Search of Ancient Astronauts, an NBC-TV special watched by around a third of all American TV viewers, some 28 million people, which in turn sparked the 1970s ancient astronaut craze and, in the process, made Erich von Däniken a millionaire several times over.
Calling the Nazca lines “runways” was, by sheer chance, von Däniken’s most fateful stab in the dark.
So, here we are forty-five years later watching Ancient Aliens S05E08 “Beyond Nazca,” where the successors to von Däniken are still promoting the Nazca lines, though with less grounded claims about what the aliens were doing with the plateau’s various zoomorphic and geometric shapes. I’m not really sure what to say about this episode since everything in it was covered in previous episodes, stretching back to the pilot in 2009. [...]
We open with footage, and a bit of narration, from In Search of Aliens, and it seems that this show is going to differ from its predecessors only in that Giorgio Tsoukalos, who narrates the opening of the hour, seems to have recorded some new voiceovers to add some new material to the 2014 material. Oddly enough, Tsoukalos’s new narration is much worse than the recycled parts, with a heavier accent and slower delivery. There is so little attention paid to how this show was assembled by adding In Search of Aliens footage to S05E08 that Tsoukalos c. 2015 threw to clips of himself from 2013, with different hair. It is especially jarring when we see, without explanation, the long-dead Philip Coppens pop up from beyond the grave, reanimated to deliver repeat discussions of the Nazca lines, already morbid when they reanimated him in 2013.
The show starts with a potted history of the Nazca lines, including their recognition in early aerial flyovers. It’s probably worth noting that the lines are not “carved” into the desert so much as they are swept into them. The dark iron-oxide rocks scattered on the desert floor were pushed aside, exposing the brighter yellow clay ground beneath. It is a massive undertaking in terms of volume, but the actual construction of a single figure was not particularly arduous. The narrator eventually reveals this, more quickly than in the original episode, where the revelation was delayed until several pundits try to tell us how massive and complex and difficult the lines are.
So, since the construction of the lines doesn’t seem to be in question (at least not at first), the only question to debate is the reason for the lines’ existence. Giorgio Tsoukalos, surprisingly, shoots down the theory that the Nazca had hot air balloons, a popular claim but one without supporting evidence, arguing that the Spanish chroniclers would have written down such things. Since they did not, without any written record, “therefore, it didn’t exist.” He is unaware of the irony that the Spanish recorded no aliens either, and by his logic they therefore don’t exist, QED!
The show’s pundits want us to believe that the lines were meant to be seen from above, and some idiot (Linda Moutlon Howe) actually tries to resurrect the runway hypothesis, suggesting—despite the narrator’s own earlier statements—that the Great Triangle geoglyph appeared “pushed down” rather than cleared off, to a depth of (I believe she said) 24 inches, which is untrue since the lines are at best 1-2 inches deep. Giorgio Tsoukalos tones it down a bit, arguing that an alien rover or probe was scratching its way across the plateau on a research mission, but the narrator had already dismissed these possibilities, so why engage them now?
One segment from the original episode was removed here and can be read in my original review. Instead, around 10 past the hour, Hugh Newman tries to tell us the Incan god Viracocha was actually “connected to the Anunnaki,” but whatever segment this was lifted from is so truncated that the claim makes no sense and sort of hangs in the air, a stale reminder of more interesting versions of the same show that Ancient Aliens had done so many times before.
Next up, we review the Nazca astronaut, supposedly (according to Childress) either an astronaut or a Nazca waving to them. I can’t possibly dignify this since both Frank Johnson and I have previously explained how this figure is in fact a fisherman (as you can tell by the fish he holds), meant to signal coastal people that the highland Nazca were willing to trade fish. Ancient astronaut writers care nothing for the peoples who actually used such carvings, of course, because that requires acknowledging human action.
I have no idea what von Däniken is talking about when he says that the magnetic field beneath each line is anomalous and that the conductivity of the ground under each line is 8,000 times stronger than anywhere else at Nazca. Is he perhaps referring to the well-known magnetic anomaly in the Nazca plate (in the ocean, not on the plateau, though they share a name) caused by magnetized basalt? The only references I can find to magnetic fields at the plateau itself involve dowsing for ley lines, which is not really going to give you a measurement (or facts, but whatever).
Jason Martell tells us that Nazca must have been a mining outpost for nitrates, but no one on the show can quite explain why aliens would want nitrates, though Philip Coppens suggests it was for space travel, illustrated with computer-generated spaceships. Perhaps they enjoyed hot dogs? Oddly, no one thinks to look for the alleged mines the aliens would have used. Surely, if aliens had engaged in industrial levels of mining, there should have been some evidence that vast quantities of minerals had been removed from Nazca.
So, after the second commercial, at the halfway point, we go back to Tiwanaku to restate material from [2012’s] S04E06 “Mysteries of Puma Punku.” (Puma Punku and Tiwanaku were part of the same larger complex.) This time, because Tiwanaku is east of Nazca, we hear that the Nazca lines “point” to Tiwanaku, which is silly since the lines are all over the plateau, so different lines (and there are 800 of them) point to different places.
Based on this Childress tells us that Nazca is a way-station on the way to Tiwanaku, via airship. An imaginary airship, mind you, since that hasn’t been established as being true. Another connection is the ritual elongation of skulls across the Andes, which Howe denies is the result of head-binding (she thinks it’s genetic engineering), but in this version material on Egypt is cut for time. But elongated skulls are well-known anthropologically, and head-binding to produce such skulls (typically as a sign of social stratification) has been observed down to the present.
The show suggests that the fall of the Middle Horizon civilizations (Nazca, Tiwanaku, and the unnamed Wari) was the result of alien intervention and catastrophic earthquakes. They make no effort to understand that South America was full of interconnected peoples and vast trade networks that experienced widespread disruption and collapse as a result of cultural forces and environmental factors. As a point of fact, though, the Nazca are actually an Early Intermediate culture, flourishing about 200 years before the Tiwanaku. Late Nazca ends by 800 CE, while Tiwanaku flourished for another two centuries before its collapse. It wasn’t simultaneous, unless you also think Napoleon and Giorgio Tsoukalos are roughly contemporaries.
Here the show adds a segment in which we splice in pieces of Tsoukalos’s In Search of Aliens episode in which he looked at elongated skulls in Paracas that even he failed to conclude were alien in origin, and he throws to the next segment from the 2013 episode.
Sadly, after the next commercial we move to North America to revive the old mound builder myth. We look at the Fort Ancient culture’s Serpent Mound of Ohio, a very famous earthwork. We hear from a Zuni elder, Clifford Mahooty, who is also a believer in ancient astronauts, but he’s talking about his southwestern mythology and erroneously claiming it is identical to the (lost) mythology of the Fort Ancient a thousand years earlier and a thousand miles away. So, the serpent can’t be proved to be Quetzalcoatl. We also get the ethnocentric master-adjective—“primitive”—to describe the Fort Ancient, discounting their ability to use baskets to pile dirt in big heaps. This, of course, required outside intervention for the poor, benighted Native people. […]
As we return, footage from the In Search of Aliens episode related to the Peruvian “Band of Holes” are spliced in, but with apparently new narration derived from a recent Ancient Aliens episode claiming that the long line of holes was used to transmit numerical messages by lighting fires in binary code from within the holes. Even Tsoukalos expresses doubt about this, so who am I to argue with Tsoukalos’s skepticism of so weird an idea?
After the new segment, Tsoukalos links to the Band of Holes to crop circles, which have long been acknowledged as hoaxes by the men who created them, even though ancient alien pundits refuse to believe this. He claims that crop circles and the Band of Holes are both “recently discovered,” which connects them for him, though the original connection between mounds and crop circles, omitted here, was perhaps stronger. The show tries to retain the mystery by acknowledging that some circles are hoaxes but others are simply too complex to be made by humans. Many successful attempts to replicate such circles have proven this to be an unsustainable hypothesis. Even Erich von Däniken agrees the crop circles are alien, and he tells us that we are “too stupid” and “too arrogant” to understand them at a deep level. I will agree that he believes he is too stupid to understand what a crop circle really is.
As we pull in for a landing, we discuss “new” discoveries (which they later admit were found first in 1927) of stone circles in the Middle East. These are relatively crude circles with spokes. They are often associated with burials and have solar alignments. None has yet been excavated, and archaeologists aren’t sure yet what they were used for, though the likely guess is burial markers or early worship sites. Sadly, the humorous part of the original episode in which the talking heads plagiarized this  article and then speculated about circles got cut out of this episode for time, refocusing the segment on Nazca. A new ending to the show has Tsoukalos asking whether Nazca served as a communication beacon to other aliens, and Tsoukalos declares the lines to be proof (his word) of aliens, evidence “not even the skeptics can ignore!” If the first five time Ancient Aliens and In Search of Aliens made the exact same case failed to convince me, I fail to see how saying it louder and more insistently will change my mind.
Overall, it looks like the Ultimate Evidence series is little more than recycled old episodes recut with recycled chunks of In Search of Aliens, making it not just useless but doubly so, and also an insult to viewers, especially when History swore on air that these episodes would be THE MOST CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE EVER! I can’t imagine I’ll be reviewing further episodes of this “new” series unless it is to splice in new comments on old reviews for THE MOST CONCLUSIVE DEBUNKING EVER. Maybe I should just save myself the time and rerun my old reviews wholesale and see if anyone notices the few places where they will diverge from what appears on screen! After all, History seems to feel that you will accept a rerun as a new revelation, so clearly they feel the audience is dumb as a box of rocks.
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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