I received a copy of Erich von Däniken’s newest book yesterday, and while it is more of the same material the author (hereafter EVD) has been peddling since the 1960s, it does boast one piece of proof that is more convincing than any other yet presented, at least by the low standards of ancient astronaut reasoning: The book was released in November 2013 and carries a 2014 publication date, along with an endorsement from Philip Coppens, who died in 2012. Clearly, the only possible explanation is that time traveling aliens brought the manuscript back in time from 2014 for Coppens to read and then dropped it off in 2013 en route back to 2014.
Remnants of the Gods: A Virtual Tour of Alien Influence in Egypt, Spain, France, Turkey, and Italy (New Page) is more a picture book than an argument, and it is rather odd in its geographic specificity, apparently because EVD intends this as one volume in a five-volume series, covering the Mediterranean in this edition. I have not read the previous volume(s) in the series. EVD says that the entire project will include five volumes, 500 pages of text, and 1,000 photographs. It’s interesting to compare this volume with some of EVD’s earlier picture books, such as In Search of Ancient Gods: My Pictorial Evidence for the Impossible (1973) and Alien Art: Extraterrestrial Expressions on Earth (1998), written by Sarah Moran under EVD’s guidance. It’s the same material again, but with less text and more pictures, fewer facts and more sarcasm.
EVD begins the book with a letter to his readers, and he makes a bizarre claim that seems to be a half-remembered talking point about the Great Pyramid. Speaking of all ancient people everywhere, he asks: “Why is no writing found either inside or outside their stone marvels?” Surely the sixth dynasty pyramids of Egypt with their Pyramid Texts, the Greek and Roman temples with their inscriptions, and the many stone inscriptions found worldwide (wherever, that is, that writing developed) testify to the sloppiness of EVD’s late work.
He next asserts that we know “nothing” about the pyramids of Egypt, and I am prepared to believe that he in fact knows nothing about them. He then claims that ancient sites worldwide were all built on a rigorously accurate world grid developed prior to the Stone Age, though I am not sure if this is supposed to be the infamous ley line grid or Graham Hancock’s latitude and longitude star grid, or something else altogether. I guess I will find out as the book proceeds.
I have previously criticized EVD’s post-1996 books for recycling text promiscuously, sometimes whole chapters at a time. Apparently his publisher heard my complaints about his tendency for self-plagiarism. This time EVD admits that he is repeating earlier work: “Repetition is intentional.”
The first chapter opens with Lixus, a Carthaginian city in Morocco founded around 650 BCE, when the Carthaginians took over a colony founded by the Phoenicians. The date for the Phoenician occupation varies, with different authorities giving estimates from 700 to around 1000 BCE. EVD asserts that the Phoenicians built the city atop a lost megalithic city from the Stone Age, but he instead shows photos of the Phoenician and Carthaginian occupation layers. Some megaliths (probably astronomical markers) were found in the area, which suggests that there had been a pre-Phoenician native occupation in the Neolithic, but nothing on the order of a whole giant city hewn of large stones. EVD quotes “archaeologist” “Gert” von Hassler, whom his endnotes identify instead as Gerd von Hassler, as asserting that the regular blocks found 5 km away at the sea coast were a Neolithic seaport. Von Hassler was not an archaeologist; he was a 1970s-era German author and radio personality who wrote about how Noah sailed to the Amazon and how Atlantis was the Garden of Eden. We should expect nothing less of EVD than to fudge the credentials of an outdated source whose weird ideas he is cannibalizing and twisting.
From von Hassler EVD borrows the idea that the Garden of the Hesperides and its serpent, identified by Pliny with Lixus (Natural History 19.22), were identical with the Garden of Eden and its serpent, a claim as old as the theorizers of the 1700s, who saw Greek mythology as a corrupt version of Genesis. Its most famous proponent was John Bathurst Dean, author of Worship of the Serpent, which thought all pagan mythology a corrupt form the Genesis account of the Fall.
After this EVD presents the Dolmen of Menga in Spain, a Neolithic burial complex built of 32 megalithic slabs of limestone, the largest weighing an estimated 180 metric tons. It was built around 2500 BCE, the same period as the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge. EVD falsely claims archaeologist suppress its artificial origins by asserting it is a natural cave. He claims that the dolmen was found empty, but archaeology knows of hundreds of skeletons found within. EVD marvels that the builders, who lived before the invention of writing, did not sign their names to the building. He holds it axiomatic that megalithic architecture cannot exist without written language to caption the blueprints.
EVD discusses the famous “cart ruts” of Malta, parallel lines cut into the bedrock. Archaeologists speculate that they are either ruts cut for or made by actual sledges and carts or served as an irrigation system. Their true purpose has never been established, so EVD suggests that aliens liked drawing small parallel lines; well, actually, he doesn’t bother to even mention aliens. He is content instead to say that archaeologists don’t know, so therefore archaeology is a false profession blinded by dogma. He castigates a “society, moreover, that imagines that, thanks to the Internet, it is the best informed. Forget it!” He suggests that megalith-moving machines may have run on the tracks.
His discussion of Malta does not extend much beyond that offered in his earlier Signs of the Gods (1980), including his astonishment that prehistoric people could carve stone for the Maltese underground temples. This shows just how little his “mysteries” have evolved in 33 years—and how little of his own money or work he’s put into “solving” the mysteries he claims to be so interested in exploring. Why do the hard work of archaeology when you can recycle a 33-year-old book, plan a movie, and open a couple of theme parks? To his credit, he does add a bit of crank archaeoastronomy, claiming that the Hypogeum in Malta is about 7,000 years older than archaeologists believe based on assumptions of where the winter solstice alignment at the site “should” hit the back wall, thus fixating on 10,205 BCE as the “best” fit. It depends, I guess, on your idea of what part of the temple they were aiming for and how precise you think they cared to be. He immediately, however, throws several long pages of this discussion out the window by calling the whole exercise “of little value” except for making archaeologists mad.
To give the book a hint of freshness, EVD adds the 10,000-year-old megalithic Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe to his list of astonishing stone structures. He loves Göbekli Tepe because it makes him deliriously happy that his 1940s- or 1950s-era textbooks were wrong about the “fur-clad nump-ties” of the Stone Age living only to hunt and forage, a hypothesis that went out the window along with “Man the Hunter” back in the 1970s, not that EVD would know that. For him, archaeology is dogma, largely unchanged from the 1860 to the 1960s to today. I admit to being confused: EVD seems happy that Göbekli Tepe shows early humans were not primitive, yet he also believes humans were too primitive to build with rocks before the Romans. Which is it? He doesn’t care as long as his real target remains in focus: his hatred of archaeologists and academics.
EVD asserts that the people of Göbekli Tepe intentionally buried their monuments due to—and I am not making this up—what he sees as a parallel in Leviticus 14:45, in which God reveals the divinely-sanctioned solution for a mold-infested house: tearing down the house and burying its remains outside of town. EVD, who did not bother to consult the original but instead knows this only from a secondhand source, confuses these orders with earlier orders for curing skin diseases through animal sacrifice (Lev. 14:1-32) and thus asserts that the Göbekli Tepe people suffered from an infectious disease that required ritual decontamination. I do have to thank EVD for one thing: I wasn’t familiar with the Leviticus passage, and it will come in handy the next time a Nephilim “theorist” complains I am not taking the Bible literally enough; now, I can ask them if they clean their household mold the biblical way. There must be a market for Bible-based mold and mildew removers.
EVD continues his biblical mystery-mongering by suggesting that the passage of the Apocalypse of Abraham (written c. 75-150 CE) in which the title patriarch is raised up and sees the earth below (chapters 15-18), a passage dependent on the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1-28), is proof that Abraham was abducted by aliens from the area near Göbekli Tepe and therefore aliens were responsible for the site’s location. EVD identifies the hill beside Abraham’s father Baruch’s house as Göbekli Tepe, without evidence. We are meant to think that this late, derivative text faithfully records events from as many as 10,000 years earlier.
After this, he draws triangles by selecting—at his preference—convenient megaliths from the thousands that litter France and declares that “cowardice” prevents archaeologists from following his method for connecting whichever dots best fit his imaginary scenarios.
Next time: EVD finds mystical “alignments” among the Celtic cities of Gaul, and I start to think that you can’t pay me to listen to even more about Celtic mystery alignments after putting up with 300+ pages of Graham Robb’s version… Who knew that there was a German version of the same theory for EVD to steal while Robb was writing his?
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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