One of the key tenets of the ancient astronaut theory (hypothesis, really) is that prehistoric art depicts extraterrestrial beings drawn from life because ancient peoples were incapable of drawing what they were unable to see firsthand. Thus, depictions of long, lithe beings with large heads and awkward eyes must be images of actual Grey aliens, or another species.
One of the most famous examples is found in Australian Aboriginal cave art, like this:
Against this suggestion, I’d like to offer the following drawings of wooden carvings created in the 1920s by a Melanesian islander named Maike with very little contact with the outside world and a strong native art tradition handed down from generation to generation for a thousand years or more.
At first glance, this appears to be another entry in the ancient astronaut canon. We see two tall, mysterious creatures wearing what appear to be strange helmets, a belted space-suit, and astronaut boots. The faces have fangs, nasal openings without a nose, and slanted eyes resembling the stereotypical “Grey” alien. The one on the left wears a mask.
But are these aliens?
Here is where I confess that I have slightly manipulated the image, taken from Headhunting in the Solomon Islands: Around the Coral Sea (1942). I have restored this picture to the way Maike first carved it, before American painter Caroline Mytinger objected that the images failed to do her and her female traveling companion, Margaret Warner, justice. Specifically, Mytinger failed to recognize them as portraits of her and her friend and thought they were merely generic, stylized deities or ancestors. To please Mytinger, Maike added breasts to both images, as well as a cigarette for Mytinger and a guitar for Warner:
And lest you think the artist was capturing the true Mytinger, this is what she looked like:
If it were not for the guitar in Maike's carving, his images would instantly be mistaken for prehistoric depictions of extraterrestrials and added to the list of “evidence” for ancient astronauts.
“All the time he was drawing, he never once referred to us for data,” Mytinger wrote. “He drew the representative human figure as it has been carved for generations in this lagoon…”
If it was possible for a Melanesian artist to “see” actual flesh and blood human women as “Grey” aliens in the 1920s, what warrant do we have to assume that the stylized images of earlier peoples’ art are anything but stylized humans on the same order?
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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