Before I begin today, I have an announcement: This past week, I welcomed into the world my son, and it has been an exciting and hectic time for everyone! He is a healthy and active newborn, and he weighed in at almost 10 pounds, which was quite a surprise, and as you can imagine, it has been a bit of a transition. As a result of my new arrival, I will no longer be able to review Ancient Aliens episodes in real time as they air. Depending on the baby’s schedule, I will try to fit it in sometime over the weekend, but I can’t guarantee it. Over the next few weeks, you will see the number of blog posts decrease while I take some much-deserved paternity leave, and also because I don’t think I can write on zero sleep.
Now, on to today’s discussion of the American Heroes Channel’s efforts to compete with Ancient Aliens.
Wow… That was…. Derivative. Last night I watched an episode of UFOs: The Lost Evidence from the AHC channel, a Discovery network on which I have previously appeared. The episode, entitled “Ancient UFO Earth Landings,” covered the ancient astronaut theory. Whereas I was on to debunk the claim, this new series was designed to promote ancient aliens. It was a total rip-off of Ancient Aliens, and I’ve never seen such a close copy of Ancient Aliens, right down to hiring the same people who appear on the History channel show, including Richard Dolan, Mike Bara, and Nick Pope, all of whom are repeating the same claims that they made on Ancient Aliens. John Greenewald of Unsealed: Alien Files, an earlier bush-league Ancient Aliens rip-off, also appears. The show’s narrator even includes a refrain, “UFO researchers say…” that is a clear copy of Ancient Aliens’ “ancient astronaut theorists say…”
Otherwise, the show covered many of the same claims about the Maya we’ve heard many times before, particularly Pakal’s coffin lid as a so-called “rocket ship,” a claim going back to Chariots of the Gods. To this, they added a bunch of claims about various pieces of world art that look like 1960s space suits or midcentury aliens and robots, mostly taken from Chariots and its imitators.
More humorously, the show’s budget copy-and-paste research fails them when they misidentify the Columbian gold bees—the “airplane” that Giorgio Tsoukalos wears on his label as an “Olmec bird monster.” So when Pope claims that the “bird monster” is an “exact” duplicate of a modern delta-wing fighter jet, is he just agreeing with the producers sight-unseen, or does he not understand the material he claims to be an expert on? Pope claims that “some” people identify dragons and Quetzalcoatl as spaceships with exhaust flames. Yes. That’s Ancient Aliens, where the claim dribbled out of Tsoukalos’s lips several times.
Another segment gives Zecharia Sitchin’s views of Sumerian and Babylonian culture, without crediting him, and Pope tells us that ziggurats were used as UFO landing pads, as though mud brick could withstand having a giant space ship plunk down atop their fragile towers. Dolan claims that pyramids and ziggurats all could be connected “more than we have realized” because he doesn’t understand that tapered buildings are the most stable when building high in the absence of steel frames. The narrator adds that people around the world couldn’t have developed the same intellectual level and interests without UFO guidance. What knowledge was this? Piling rocks atop one another, except when it was dirt or mud bricks.
The show also cites Sitchin’s “translations” of Mesopotamian texts to “prove” that aliens called Annunaki created human beings. But here the show is extremely deceptive. It alleges that no one understood Mesopotamian texts until Zecharia Sitchin became part of a “new generation” who translated tablets that had been “forgotten” for a century, as though all of the scholarly work between their discovery in the 1800s and Sitchin in 1976 never happened. Never mind that Sitchin’s translations are wrong, conflating different languages and mixing and matching elements of language and grammar at will.
According to the show, handbags held by various world gods prove that aliens spread knowledge of fashionable accessorizing around the world because otherwise who would ever think to put a handle on a pouch in order to carry things?
Overall, the program was a rather straightforward plagiarism of Ancient Aliens, right down to its choice of talking heads. The only thing that was truly interesting is the discovery that even on the Discovery family of networks a bizarre double-standard occurs: Any show that looks at ancient astronaut theories skeptically must include ancient astronaut theorists for “balance,” but any show that advocates ancient astronaut theories uncritically can have on only ancient astronaut theorists with no opposing view.
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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