Yesterday I complained that Erich von Däniken (hereafter EVD) has devoted too few resources to providing his ideas. I should have kept my mouth shut. I learned today that Ancient Aliens regular Brien Foerster is asking for donations to test a chunk of Puma Punku’s monumental stones that he claims to have smuggled out of Bolivia and intends to illegally export from Peru in order to prove the stones were quarried 12,000 years ago or more. If we take him at his word, he claims to have removed a piece of the monument, which either involves physically damaging a stone or, more likely, picking up a broken piece from the ground. According to the Bolivian Penal Code article 331, the intentional removal of an antiquity from Bolivia without government approval is subject to one to five years in prison.
Sadly, nearly 1,300 antiquities have been illegally removed from Bolivia over the past fifteen years, according to the Bolivian Ministry of Culture. The country does not have the money or the manpower to adequately protect Tiwanaku and Puma Punku, where most looting occurs.
Because many stolen pieces are fenced through Peru, the Bolivian government has pressured the Peruvian government to cooperate with Bolivia in combatting the illegal antiquities trade and returning Tiwanaku and Wari artifacts to Bolivia.
I guess we should be thankful EVD sticks to making fake antiquities for his theme parks.
As we pick up with Remnants of the Gods, the second chapter opens with “Crazy Ideas.” I’m not sure how that differs from the rest of the book.
EVD starts by relating an idea of the German artist Karl Bedal that many Stone Age centers were located either 13.5 or 27 km from one another, an almost identical distance to the roughly 29 km Graham Robb found separated Celtic settlements in his recent book The Discovery of Middle Earth (2013). As I pointed out in my review of Robb’s claims, this is the average distance a merchant or soldier could walk in a day, suggesting an entirely practical reason for the separation by half-day and whole-day walks.
Next, EVD introduces us to Xavier Guichard, who like Robb, also played connect-the-dots on a flat Mercator-projection map. In 1936 he made “amazing” discoveries that various sets of cities could be connected with a straight line (within a reasonable tolerance), a virtual certainty in a continent as densely populated as Europe. Also like Robb, Guichard chose a single, recurring place name—Aleisa (varying from Calais to L’Allex to Cales)—to use as his data point for the connections, returning results identical to Robb’s for the place name Mediolanum, which seems to prove either a global, Mercator-projection grid undergirding every ancient site or that a common enough name is bound to produce some “hits” through coincidence. Guichard also, like Robb, attributed the alignments to solar observations, though unlike Robb he incorrectly assumed Aleisa was identical etymologically with Eleusis and thus ancient earth magic.
Odd that Robb seems unaware of his predecessor’s work (Guichard isn’t mentioned in the index). Perhaps the fact that Guichard’s claims contradict Robb’s own is behind it: Guichard attributed the grid to the “first” European civilization, before the Celts—all the way back to the Neolithic! Worse, while his grid is identical in construction to Robb’s, it connects completely different points along a slightly different set of measurements! If I didn’t know better, I’d think Robb simply stole the idea from Guichard and made it Celtic, so I guess I have to thank EVD for introducing me to this bizarre episode in fringe speculation. There are no new ideas, apparently.
EVD does Guichard one better and suggests that the EU adopted Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as its anthem because the lyrics reference Elysium and thus the ancient aliens’ cult of immortality.
He then discusses more lines on maps, drawing triangles over Italy and Greece to connect various sites, and EVD asserts that the “establishment” refuses to answer his questions about how and why Greek cities were aligned along a grid made up of triangles. I’m not sure it’s worth dignifying this one since the apparently 1980s- or 1990s-era documentary screen grabs used to illustrate the triangles show that they are not regular, and they do not exactly align with the facts on the ground. It’s more “connect the dots.” Ditto for the “golden ratio” circles drawn over the same sites, which also fail to actually connect the dots. EVD disagrees:
The clever academics of our day adhere to the principle of “simple probability,” the “most obvious solutions.” This principle prohibits them from any other way of thinking. They cannot escape from their thought prison, because with the “most obvious solution,” the problem has been dealt with. What else is there to investigate? This method, even if it is declared to be infallible by science, only provides half-answers for any but the most superficial problems.
If I had to guess, it seems EVD is confusing Occam’s Razor, a tool for evaluating the likelihood of arguments, for the scientific method, which is not related.
He then tries to make a confused argument about “pre-Greek” sites in Greece, but he cites only scholars who advanced arguments before the discovery of Mycenaean civilization, so I wasn’t able to follow his claims, based as they were on intentional ignorance. He discusses more sacred geometry claims and then relates them to the Piri Reis map, which he still claims shows the coastline of Antarctica despite this having been debunked only hundreds of times since he first made the claim in 1968. He decides that he can remain ignorant of science’s conclusions because of the work of the Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend, who became famous for rejecting the scientific method in favor of methodological anarchism. It certainly fits EVD’s style.
He then asks who surveyed the earth and attributes it to Oannes and other alien gods. He cites the Kebra Nagast as proof of flying chariots, and here it’s a doozy: Not only does he continue to cite the same mistranslated text he first botched in 1981’s Signs of the Gods (which I discussed in my YouTube video below), but he misremembers the mistranslation and falsely attributes the events to Solomon instead of David!
He concludes the chapter by “proving” the existence of aliens with reference to Leslie Kean’s collection of evidence-free hearsay, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Break Their Silence. He laments that the U.S. and Britain have closed their UFO offices and gives the “real” reason for it:
It is, plain and simple, the recognition that we human beings cannot do anything about it; an admission of our total impotence with regard to the UFO phenomenon. What is there to tell the public? You are all under surveillance? We are the inhabitants of a global zoo and totally impotent against our keepers?
EVD attributes the claim that earth is a zoo run by space aliens to James Deardorff, a UFO proponent who believes he knows the truth about the real history of Jesus, which, of course, is in India, based on the 1890s-era hoax, The Life of St. Issa. The so-called “zoo hypothesis” is older than Deardorff and is a staple of science fiction. The Twilight Zone, for example, did a couple of variations on the theme. [Update: Thanks to Brett Holman (@Airminded) on Twitter, I am reminded that Charles Fort made the claim in chapter 12 of Book of the Damned where he says that he thinks humanity is the property of an alien power that warns off other potential visitors.]
However, EVD sees a bright side: The aliens, he said, have been working hard to prevent nuclear war because they are apparently Cold Warriors from the 1960s. He says that the aliens won’t let us pollute the earth or contaminate it with nuclear waste, which is of course why they stepped in to prevent the Fukushima meltdown. Either that or the aliens hate Japan, since they also let the U.S. drop nuclear bombs on the archipelago.
Next time: EVD shares “false doctrines” that he says mask aliens behind religion!
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.
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.