1. "Beyond the Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis: A General Reassessment with an Alternate Proposal"
“BEYOND THE ANCIENT ASTRONAUT HYPOTHESIS:
A CRITIQUE WITH AN ALTERNATE PROPOSAL”
by Judd H. Burton, Ph.D.
One cannot proceed very far in researching ancient mysteries and alternative approaches to history without encountering
the Ancient Astronaut Hypothesis (hereafter AAH). It is prolific in the public
sphere, receiving coverage on television programs, radio broadcasts, websites, publications, and veritable parade of other
media. Due to the fact that there is often an intersection of themes and ideas
between the AAH and the ancient Watchers and giants, a new treatment and critical analysis of the AAH is in order. In addition, I will propose an alternate hypothesis.
Before I begin, I would like to make a few qualifying remarks. I believe
in a supernatural universe. We live in a world of extreme possibilities, some
of which are real. However, the burden of proof is heavy on extreme possibilities: extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proofs.
So, while I am critically analyzing the AAH, I want readers to remember that I am not peripheralizing the seemingly
Any analysis of the AAH must begin with an understanding of the elements of the idea itself. In general the AAH contends that, at various times from prehistory through antiquity, various species of
extraterrestrial biological entities (EBE hereafter) took part in expeditions
to planet Earth. They brought with them a sophisticated technology and advanced
knowledge through which they developed the earliest civilizations. The primeval
civilizations took them to be their gods, as the members of these races passed along the science to construct megaliths (or
build such monuments themselves) and wielded abilities whose complexity earned them the status of magical or godlike in the
eyes of these antique societies. In some variations, the EBEs are depicted as
having seeded human life in prehistory as part of a panspermic exercise. AAH
proponents often attribute EBE origins to ancient artifacts, features, and structures whose nature and origins have both consensus
in some cases and are debated in others (ie pyramids, crystals skulls, etc.). At
some point in antiquity, after developing civilization, the EBE forefathers departed the planet. Although a host of writers and researchers routinely produce publications on the subject, writers such
as Eric Von Daniken, Zechariah Sitchin, and William Henry are generally regarded as the greatest apostles of the idea. This, in essence, is the AAH.
FAILURES OF THE AAH
The quantitative and qualitative problems with the AAH are numerous. However,
there are shortcomings that stand out from the other issues of validity. The
first significant fault of the AAH is the veritable parade of researchers who are wholly unqualified to scrutinize the ancient
materials with which they purport to have expertise. Academic or other training
in history, archaeology, anthropology, languages, and often, religious studies, is necessary to honestly traverse the complexity
of the human past. That is not to say one must have a degree per se, for there
are plenty of avocationals and autodidacts who have successfully received tutelage or have learned on their own, the bodies
and methods of these disciplines. Persons such as the late linguist Michael Vintris
(Linear A and B Greek) and archaeologist Frank Calvert (Troy) come to mind. However,
simple interest in the past does not a historian/archaeologist/anthropologist/linguist make.
One of the biggest offenders in this regard is Zechariah Sitchin, famed author of The
Twelfth Planet and Genesis Revisited, and many other such volumes on the EBE
foundation of Sumerian civilization. Chief in his arguments is the planet Nibiru,
which he contends is planet/spaceship sent to Earth by the Annunaki, EBEs that the Sumerians regarded as gods. The problem here is the lack of training—Sitchin claimed to be able to read cuneiform but always
refused to produce his credentials. Why is that important? If he had really been trained in cuneiform, he would be well aware of the firmly established precedent
in both modern and ancient grammars (written by the Mesopotamians themselves!) that the Sumerians and later Mesopotamians
referred to Nibiru as “Marduk’s (the Zeus of Mesopotamian myth) Star,” which in their astrology was the
planet Jupiter. Nibiru is Jupiter, not a rogue planet. Picking up the mantle of Sitchin, who passed away in 2010, is self-described “investigative mythologist”
William Henry, whose linguistic tools for all ancient words are the etymological notes in Webster’s Dictionary—not
grammars for Egyptian, or Sumerian, or Mayan—Webster’s dictionaries. This
approach, among other things, has led him to conclude that the crucifixion of Jesus was actually a stargate event. The reason? According to Henry Jesus ascended to the stars
through a portal for no other reason than Golgotha—the Hebrew name for Calvary, meaning “place of the skull”—sounds
like Gilgamesh, the hero of the ancient Sumerian epic.
Erich von Daniken, famed author of Chariots of the Gods?, and godfather
of the AAH movement, is also culpable in spreading this fractured approach to the ancient world. With alarming alacrity von Daniken proposes that the Sons of God of Genesis 6 were EBEs. He goes on to contend that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by atomic bombs, and that Ezekiel’s
vision was a spacecraft. Almost every society at one point had contact with these
ancient EBEs, embraced them as gods, and then used their technology after they departed.
Von Daniken leaves next to no room for human agency of the master craftsmanship of the ancient world, which he says
was either directly built by or with techniques from these ancient EBE forebears.
Herein lies another shortcoming of the AAH: its tendency to leave no or
little margin for human agency in the building of ancient civilizations. Even
if the Great pyramid of Giza could not possibly have been built in 20 years given the immensity of its constituent stones,
this does not mean humans were not responsible. As I tell my students, in many
cases we have to admit that we have simply lost the technology or techniques to accomplish some of the megalithic feats of
the ancients, and that this loss does not immediately equate to some alien influence.
For instance, the great antiquity of the Sphinx has been quantitatively demonstrated (c.10,000-7,000 BC) by geologist
Dr. Robert Schoch, and that humans had all the ability to construct it. Noted
alternative historian Graham Hancock, has also done tremendous work in the evidence for antediluvian and prehistoric civilizations. He does not discount extreme possibilities, but in most cases believes in human agency
for the construction of so-called “unexplained” ancient phenomena.
A third deficit of the AAH has to do with the mechanics of space travel and the alleged sophistication of the ancient
astronaut. Consider the following. Let
us suppose that a race of EBEs had developed an advanced civilization whose intellectual accomplishments included the ability
to safely travel vast distances through space-time by means of a superior propulsion, or wormhole, or other medium. Given the staggering mastery of higher mathematics and physical laws (some of which we may not even be
aware of as yet) necessary to make this voyage safely, one would expect that upon arriving at Earth and helping to build the
earliest civilizations, that their monuments would bear the imprint of more exactitude.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, for instance, has small errors in its construction which are not structurally significant,
but are errors nonetheless. The sides of the megalith have an average error of
about three arc minutes off of the true compass direction to which they are aligned—now that is marginal, but these
are mistakes nonetheless. The mathematical precision required for traversing
light years of oceans of stars, planets, and debris does not allow for these infractions of alignment and masonry. Even most megaliths aligned to solar or celestial events, have general alignments, with deviations of error. Again, why the slight variations and little mistakes?
“What if this is just ancient technology passed along to humans?”
Alright, wouldn’t we expect the tutelage of these beneficent EBEs to be complete and include all the pertinent
knowledge to make these structures geometrically perfect? I think one must, if
one is to believe the AAH.
The fourth and last major shortcoming of the AAH, is that there is a disturbing trend toward presentism by its proponents.. Presentism is one of the chief historical infractions historians and archaeologists
are warned against in their early training. I summary, presentism is the projection
of modern or personal value systems onto past human societies—their ideological and material culture—and making
historical judgments based upon such contextualization. This trap is one into
which many an AAH researcher has fallen. Take, for example, the Mayan depiction
on the sarcophagus of Pacal, a ruler of Palenque. This artifact is one of the
most amazing finds in the Mayan world, and consequently, one of the most referenced artifacts in the litany of AAH errors. AAH proponents have contended that the image depicts Pacal riding in a rocket ship
into the heavens, himself wearing a kind of space suit. Mayanists demonstrate
clearly that the backdrop of the image is the world tree, the “rocket” is the sun monster, and Pacal is riding
him into the underworld. This bastardization of a Classic Mayan depiction is
a clear example of presentism, and is typical of the kinds of analytical and contextual blunders characteristic of AAH research.
Obviously, from an archaeological perspective, we have only excavated a statistically minor percentage of the earth’s
crust. We do not have a complete picture of the past, especially the farther
back in time one goes. We must, nonetheless, concede that there were feats of
incredible engineering and building whose technological bases have been lost to us.
This should not lead us to conclude that because we do not know the nature of the technology, that we can immediately
attribute its complexity and perceived otherworldliness as extraterrestrial in origin.
Amazing and extraordinary events did transpire in the prehistoric and antique past.
Just as today, unexplained events and aerial phenomena transpire almost daily.
Something strange, perhaps supernatural, and not immediately quantifiable,
was and is happening. There are reports of strange phenomena in our atmosphere
increasing in frequency. Some individuals even claim to have contact with EBEs
associated with these aerial phenomena. Many of those instances involved medical
procedures aimed at the reproductive systems of humans, horrific and traumatizing occurrences.
Even researchers like the esteemed Jacques Valle and J. Allen Hynek concluded that the EBEs conducting these procedures
ultimately meant us harm, and sought to obfuscate their true intentions, giving the entire phenomenon a dark hue. Speaking to the sinister nature of the EBEs, Vallee observed in his Messengers
of Deception “Human beings are under the control of a strange force that bends them in absurd ways, forcing them
to play a role in a dark game of deception.” In his recent work Confrontations he further characterizes the nature of the procedures conducted on humans as “sadistic sexual
manipulation” that are “reminiscent of the medieval tales of encounters with demons.” The data is mounting and while it can be marginalized by an incredulous
audience, in the long term it cannot be denied.
Is it possible that such visitations occurred in the past? If so, why
could not these EBEs have been responsible for the civilizations of the world? At
no point have I ever discounted the possibility of a highly sophisticated supernatural presence in our antique past. In fact, in light of reasons outlined in the preceding narrative, an EBE explanation
meets some of the requirements for the events that are alleged by countless societies to have occurred in our distant past. There is a theory that is more tenable than the popularly accepted AAH and can begin
to explain some of the questions which the AAH claims to answer.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE AAH
The more tenable theory is to be found in an ancient text, one whose veracity and historicity has been established
by centuries of scholarship. It is a work of faith and of history and is well-known
throughout the world: the Bible and related non-canon works. Specifically, the passage in Genesis 6 concerning the Sons of God and the birth of giants is pertinent
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face
of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they
were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive
with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There
were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they
bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Gen. 6:1-4)
“Sons of God” is a Hebrew appellation used
to describe angels, in this case, fallen angels. They mated with human females
in order to produce a race of giants. This genetic access mirrors analogous themes
in modern abduction scenarios, interestingly. The Hebrew tradition goes on to
corroboratively narrate in apocryphal works (which are congruent with the Old Testament) like the Book of Enoch:
And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days
were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them,
and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' 3. And Semjâzâ,
who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the
penalty of a great sin.' 4. And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual
imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.' 5. Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual
imprecations upon it. 6. And they were in all two hundred; who descended ⌈in the
days⌉ of Jared on the summit of Mount
Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 7. And
these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl,
Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8. These are their chiefs of tens. (1
The following chapters enumerate in greater detail the nature of the
exchange—knowledge and the rudiments of civilization for genetic access:
1. And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives,
and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them
charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. 2. And they became pregnant, and
they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: 3. Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could
no longer sustain them, 4. the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5. And they began to sin against birds, and
beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood. 6. Then the earth laid accusation
against the lawless ones. (1 Enoch 7)
1. And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and
shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth〉 and the art of
working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of
costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they
were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving
of enchantments, Barâqîjâl, (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl
the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun〉, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished,
they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . . (1 Enoch 8)
Very clearly, this is an account of extradimensional creatures—fallen
angels—descending on Mt. Hermon in our space-time, and manipulating that reality to their own ends.
Fantastical as it may seem, I am inclined to believe
this narrative in favor of the AAH for a number of reasons. First, it has been
demonstrated that the notion of benevolent and advanced space travelers from other galaxies has some substantial short-comings
in its validity. Second, as a scholar, I am compelled to look at the evidence
supporting the historicity of other portions of the Biblical record. A quick
perusal of antiquities gives one a sampling of the historicity of the Bible: congruent
flood epics with neighbors, code of Hammurabi echoed in Exodus, the Nuzi tablets, the existence of the Hittites, Egyptian Merneptah Stele (one of the earliest outside references to Israel), commemoration of Shishak’s
invasion of Israel at Temple of Amon, the Obelisk of Shalmaneser III which records King Jehu, the cache of coins from Egypt
bearing the likeness of Joseph, to name a few. Add to that the thorough excavations
of the myriad cities of the Biblical world—Jerusalem, Jericho, Lachish, Gath, Dan, Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer, Banias, Capernaum,
and a veritable host of other sites—and you have a considerable validation for the historicity of the Biblical narrative. If such veracity exists for the mundane and natural, perhaps the supernatural elements
have grounding in reality as well. It puts the Genesis 6 narrative in a different
One might call this the Ancient Ouranaut Theory, after the Greek word ouranoV (ouranos), meaning “heavens,”
because it is not EBEs that interact with humanity in the antique past, but extra-dimensional beings of supernatural origins,
which the Bible refers to as angels. It is a specific class of angel: the Sons of God, or Watchers. They seem to have come to our space-time for selfish ends, and to achieve
them, they taught humankind a mixture of practical sciences and occult knowledge (yet another theme in world mythology). The result of this exchange was a race of giants that all but destroyed the antediluvian
world, and whose later descendants wreaked havoc on the peoples of the world in the historical era. Here is a tradition supported by oral tradition, mythology, and the historical and archaeological records.
This world is a place of high strangeness. To a degree it is knowable
and quantifiable, but there remain many unexplained phenomena. However, I believe
the events that led to interaction between extradimensional creatures (angels) and humans, are largely knowable and demonstrable,
and frankly more tenable than the AAH, for reasons herein. The analyses and positions
in this paper constitute materials toward a more comprehensive theory regarding the founding of human civilizations and potential
supernatural influence, while not marginalizing human agency in the building of those societies.
VIP Guest, The Out of this World Conference, Edinburg, Texas, August 2015
"The Antediluvian Origins of Folkloric Monsters," Podium Presentation, Sons of God, Giants of Old III Conference, Lubbock,
Texas, December 2015