Ancient astronaut theory is a term used to describe the theories of ancient extraterrestrial contact being involved in some way with the origin or development of human culture. Most notably popularized by authors such as Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin, this theory is an expansion or elaboration of the more basic Paleocontact theory.
These theories often claim that human beings are either the descendants or creations of aliens who landed on Earth millennia ago — ideas that are commonly dismissed by the scientific community.
Another element of this view is the suggestion that much of human wisdom or religion was given to man by extraterrestrial visitors in ancient times. This possibility has been considered by some scientists, including Carl Sagan and I.S. Shklovskii, but the lack of hard evidence and the nature of the concept makes it unpopular among the scientific community....
Ancient astronaut theories have been advanced by authors such as Charles Fort (1919), Morris K. Jessup (1955), George Hunt Williamson (1957), Peter Kolosimo (in his 1957 book, Il pianeta sconosciuto), Henri Lhote (1958), Matest M. Agrest (1959), W. Raymond Drake (1964), Erich von Däniken (1968), Robert Charroux (1969), Dr. S. Lunskaya (1970) Robert K. G. Temple (1976), Zecharia Sitchin (1978) and Richard Hoagland....Erich von Däniken was foremost in popularizing ancient astronaut theories in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the 1968 publication of his best-selling Chariots of the Gods and its sequels. The evidence that von Däniken put forward to support his vision of paleo-contact can be categorised as follows:
- Artifacts and monumental constructions have been found whose manufacture appears to have required a more sophisticated technological ability than that presumed to have been available to their associated contemporary cultures. These include objects and structures whose purpose or origins are not known, as well as those deemed to be beyond the capabilities of the societies attributed with their manufacture, at least in the eyes of Von Däniken and his supporters. Von Däniken maintains that these artifacts must have been manufactured either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts and monuments he cites include Stonehenge, the head statues of Easter Island, the Antikythera mechanism and the Ancient Baghdad Electric Batteries. (See OOPArt)
- In ancient art and iconography throughout the world, themes can be observed which can be interpreted to illustrate astronauts, air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, and artifacts of anachronistically-advanced technology. Von Däniken also identifies details that appear to be similar in the art of geographically-diverse historical cultures, which he argues imply a common origin.
- The origins of many religions could be interpreted or characterized as reactions to contacts of primitive humans with some alien race. In this view, the humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. According to von Däniken, the oral and written traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from stars and vehicles travelling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure, rather than symbolic or mythical fiction. One such is Ezekiel's revelation in the Old Testament, which Däniken interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft.
Since the publication of von Däniken's books, no substantial evidence has been found to verify his claims, while many of them have been disproven.Most historians regard his claims — as well of those of other ancient astronaut believers — as pseudoscience or pseudoarchaeology....
Zecharia Sitchin's continuing body of work The Earth Chronicles, beginning with the first installment The 12th Planet, revolves around Sitchin's interpretation of ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern texts and mysterious megalithic sites and anomalous artifacts from around the world. He theorizes the gods of old were actually astronauts from the planet Nibiru, which the Sumerians believed to be a remote "12th" planet (counting the Sun and Moon as planets) associated with the god Marduk. According to Sitchin, Nibiru continues to orbit our sun on a 3,600-year elongated orbit.
According to Sitchin, the Sumerians relate how 50 "Anunnaki" or inhabitants of Nibiru came to Earth approximately 400,000 years ago with the intent of mining raw materials for transport back to their own world. With their small numbers they soon tired of the task and set out to genetically engineer laborers to work the mines. After much trial and error they eventually created homo sapiens sapiens: the "Adapa" (model man) or Adam of later mythology.