Monday, November 14, 2011

Were We Alone? Part I by Philip Coppens

Have we been visited by extra-terrestrial beings in the past? Did these “ancient aliens” contribute to the birth of human civilization? Do our ancient monuments contain evidence of their presence?

In 1968, Swiss hotelier Erich von Däniken posed these questions and sold more than 63 million copies of his book, Chariots of the Gods, proving that millions of people in the Western world were open to the notion that we might have been visited by extraterrestrial beings in the past. Thirty-five years on, there is still tremendous popular interest in the “Ancient Alien Question”. The US television series Ancient Aliens is continuously rated as The History Channel’s most watched documentary. It reaches an audience, worldwide, of 100 million people. What was originally conceived as a two hour special, grew into a phenomenon that saw more seasons added, each with more shows than before.

But despite media and public interest, the phrase “ancient aliens” remains taboo within the scientific community. Whether or not we were alone in the human adventure that is civilization, is a question that is still not answered, or even addressed. The closest topic explored by science is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), executed by a handful of radio astronomers, each one of them who continuously sees their budgets challenged then removed because they are perceived to be a niche discipline. The likes of Hollywood, in the form of actress Jodi Foster had to make a public appeal to support the initiative to rescue it from an unfortunate demise. Even so, SETI merely investigates whether there are extraterrestrial civilizations somewhere out there, in the depths of the universe. As a subject of study, it is far less controversial than the Ancient Alien Question, about which science states that it knows that there were no alien interventions in our past. Is science right?

In Chariots of the Gods, von Däniken posed more than 230 questions, each one of them challenging the scientific paradigm of the late 1960s: demonstrating that science had not properly explained a structure, artifact or legend, he then queried whether they could be evidence of an alien visitation or intervention. He pointed at the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the phenomenally intricate walls at many of the Peruvian archaeological sites, like Sacsayhuaman, where the most odd-shaped stones, some weighing over 100 tons, fit perfectly together, as if first designed on a computer screen. There are the quaint descriptions in the bible, as to how Lot’s wife could possibly turn to salt when looking back at Sodom being destroyed by God. And what to make of Genesis 6, where there are references to giants and “the sons of God” coming down to mate with “the daughters of men”? Other biblical and apocryphal texts even list the number of these giants – over four million – and even describe how most women that were impregnated by these creatures – the fathers of the giants – normally died during childbirth, as the children were of such size they could not pass through the birth canal. And what to make of the thousand legends and myths worldwide that say that the gods were once physically incarnate on this planet?

The question of alien intervention in our Earth’s history was and has continued to be posed since… and only in the rarest of occasions, has science provided an answer, because it prefers instead to claim that the ancient myths and legends are ancient examples of science fiction.

Science feels it should not have to answer the ancient alien question, as in their eyes, they are posed by an idiot, though on occasion they will try to find a nicer word for it. When Erich von Däniken spoke at Northwestern University in Evanton (Illinois), on December 2, 1973, he invited the audience to look at the evidence with “today’s Space-age eyes – not the eyes of yesterday.” During the questions afterwards, he was asked if he had received any academic degrees, to which he replied “if a degree were offered in my subject, I would be the professor.” On February 12, 1975, the University of Bolivia actually bestowed him with the degree of Honorary Doctor, for his valuable services for the enrichment of the academic and scientific heritage of the University, as well as for bringing to the attention of the world the importance of the archaeological treasures which exist in the altiplano of the Andes.

What von Däniken did in 1968 is the underlying principle of the ancient alien theory: that we need to re-examine all our archaeological records with the eyes of the late 20th and early 21st century, as we might have failed to recognize that they were built with highly technological means and/or were built by, or with the help of, non-human intelligences.

Though science as a whole has refused to take up this invitation, individual scientists have. Dr. Herman Oberth, the father of modern rocketry, was once asked about the ancient alien theory, and replied that he was convinced there were other intelligences in the universe and they had probably visited Earth in ancient times. He added: “Most conservative scientists are against everything that is new, just as they were against my plans to build rockets that could take man to the Moon. Scientists who considered themselves to be very modern-thinking people announced that man might reach the moon, but not before many, many thousands of years.”

Skeptical scholars have claimed that they do not need to look at the question, that since 1968, von Däniken has been proven wrong. Indeed, on a very small number of questions, the evidence proved to be negative. Certain sites, like the famous Nazca Lines, were hardly explored by scientists at the time von Däniken brought them to global attention. The Nazca lines are hundreds of lines drawn on the desert sands of Peru, somewhat resembling the layout of a modern airport. Could it be an ancient airport, von Däniken pondered?

The suggestion has since become one of the most famous examples of the Ancient Alien Question. By posing it, von Däniken forced scientists to look and study the lines closely, after decades of neglect. He forced science to come up with an answer. Though the answer revealed that the Nazca lines were not the product of an alien civilization or intervention, the investigation did radically alter science’s understanding of this region and the local civilization, discovering that it was far more advanced than previously assumed. There is even speculation that the people who created these geoglyphs between 450 to 600 AD, possessed hot air balloons!

On rare occasions, science has therefore addressed the Ancient Alien Question, but more than forty years later, most of the 230 questions posed by von Däniken remain unanswered by science. Worse, science refuses to pose the question itself and almost half a century later, it therefore remains the task of people outside the scientific community to ask the question again for a number of monuments and artifacts, for today, there is even more evidence than in 1968 that “they” might have been here.

Not only do many of the old questions remain, since 1968, many new archaeological discoveries have been made. Some, like the pyramid complex outside of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo (discovered in late 2005 and which in 2010 had the distinction of being the largest archaeological excavation in the world), have clearly illustrated the stand-off between traditional historians and archaeologists and discoveries that challenge our accepted view of history. Western European and American archaeologists even declared a boycott: they all agreed that they would not provide archaeological services for the Bosnian pyramid project. I participated in a scientific conference on these pyramids in August 2008, which was attended by more than fifty academics, including twenty leading Egyptologists, amongst them the deans of archaeology of Ain Shams and Cairo University. During the debates, the audience was astonished to learn that these leading Egyptologists did not know that officially a) the oldest pyramid is now in Peru (dated to 3200 BC, almost a millennium older than those of Egypt) and b) the largest pyramid is in Mexico (Cholula). When the leading archaeologists of our time do not even know, or can accept, the latest scientific findings in their own field, is there any hope that they will ever be willing, let alone be comfortable, with addressing the Ancient Alien Question?

The answer is a clear “no” and is in evidence in one of the favorite topics of the Ancient Alien Question: the Great Pyramid. Elements of the Giza Plateau continue to pose serious problems to established archaeologists. Egyptologists declare that the blocks of the Great Pyramid were hewn from a nearby quarry. 

But French scholar Joseph Davidovits strongly disagrees. Davidovits is internationally known and respected as the father of the new science of geopolymers. Geopolymerisation is a chemical process through which artificial stone can be created that is hard to be distinguished from natural rock. The science is considered to be a revolution in the modern building industry. Davidovits has identified that the blocks of the Great Pyramid are geopolymers, not natural rock, a conclusion he has reached both through chemical and observational analyses. However, leading Egyptologists, like Zahi Hawass, misinterpret his conclusion by thinking that Davidovits is saying the blocks are “cement” and vociferously proclaim that the Great Pyramid is clearly not made of cement and therefore Davidovits is wrong! Hawass’ approach to new and radical conclusions is typical of science as a whole when confronted with these new discoveries: rather than trying to answer a most scientific theory, supported by substantial evidence, Egyptologists prefer to ridicule and push aside this most esteemed scholar. Of course, assuming that Davidovits is right – and he more than likely is – the next question to be asked is how the builders of the Great Pyramid were familiar with a chemical science that was only (re)discovered in the late 20th century?

That is specifically the question Egyptologists do not want to hear asked, for it automatically results in the Ancient Alien Question to be posed next.

Today, there are hundreds of sites across the world that display signs that the history of these monuments is far more intricate than mainstream archaeology portrays them to be. One of the more intriguing locations is Puma Punku, a small archaeological site that is part of Tiahuanaco on the Bolivian altiplano near Lake Titicaca. The site has stones that are not only carefully assembled so that a razor blade cannot be inserted between them, but some of the stones also weigh more than 100 metric tons. Most critically, some stones are in the most odd-shaped formats. One block has a six-sided opening that on another side of the same stone becomes – somehow – a five-sided opening. Why anyone wanted or needed a stone with an opening that goes from a hexagram to a pentagram is a question archaeology has not posed, maybe because even in the 21st century, modern science has no need for such intricate designs. There is also one stone which has a 6mm wide groove, containing equidistant drilled holes, which is an incredibly intricate feature to accomplish today, but which had clearly some purpose to the site’s builders 1500 years ago. Archaeology remains largely silent about Puma Punku, so that the question how this civilization was able to accomplish this should not be posed.

All of this and far more evidence makes it clear that the Ancient Alien Question is a worldwide problem. When we look at Cuzco (Peru), we see intricate walls, some having twelve angles to each stone, on top of which very basic stones have been piled. It is clear that the lower levels are of a technologically sophisticated society, predating the Inca civilization, which used it as a foundation for their own buildings. But which civilization that was, is once again a question not posed by science.

There is the gigantic standing stone in Carnac (France), where the Grand Menhir, weighing 340 tons, was cut from a single piece of granite-like rock and transported “by a means we do not understand for certain,” according to the site leaflet. There are three 800 tones stones incorporated into the base of the Temple of Baalbek in the Lebanon, while one weighing more than 1200 tons lies abandoned in a nearby quarry. At the end of the 20th century, we had equipment to lift up to 2000 tons, but were still unable to transport these blocks. It means that the engineers of Baalbek possessed a technology that surpassed modern capabilities. Archaeology has never been able to explain how our ancestors were able to accomplish this.

Because archaeology and history is so insular – always looking within a culture but never across cultures – a series of questions are never asked, let alone answered. Why is it, for example, that in 2500 BC (when we use the accepted dating), the three pyramids of the Giza Complex in Egypt were laid out in the formation of Orion’s Belt, and that ca. two millennia later, the three pyramids of Teotihuacán in Mexico, on the other side of the world, were constructed similarly? Clearly, there was a common understanding or an exchange of ideas, yet science dogmatically states that there was no such contact: the cultures of Egypt and Central America developed completely independently from each other until Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. Equally, why is it that cultures that supposedly never met still held gold to be the metal of the gods, even though gold as such has little practical value or usage? Such evidence makes it clear that our ancestors communicated far more frequently than accepted history dictates; at “worst”, a group of experts travelled around the world, sharing advanced knowledge amongst many ancient civilizations.

The Ancient Alien Question needs to be asked again – even more so than ever before. And by posing this question, it will become clear whether civilization (agriculture, organized religion, etc.), that great adventure that our ancestors began several thousands of years ago, was a purely human enterprise or was aided by otherworldly intelligences. The jury is still out, but the forecast is that the truth about our past is far more interesting than what we all too quickly and previously have believed.

Indeed, what astronomy is discovering is that the building blocks of life itself did not originate on Earth, but came here from outer space. In the early 1970s, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, argued that DNA was too complex and intricate to have been accidentally created in primordial ooze on Planet Earth. Half a century on, he is being proven correct. Scientific juggernauts like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are now proposing that comets brought amino acids to our planet. All life on Earth is therefore likely to be of extra-terrestrial origins, with the building blocks of DNA, according to the latest scientific research, even spontaneously being created in interstellar space. It suggests that DNA-based life is intrinsic to the very fabric of the universe; it means that somewhere out there, the odds are on that we can find life as it exists on our planet. The Ancient Alien Question should therefore today be formulated as whether someone found us, before we found them, and whether today we are a species that is in denial about certain key aspects of our history. And there is substantial evidence, from the Giza Plateau to the mountainous heights of Peru, that the answer to the question is “yes” – we were not alone.

Read Part II Here

Philip Coppens is an internationally renowned investigative journalist, author, and regular contributor to magazines such as Atlantis Rising and NEXUS Magazine. He is labeled a skeptic by the believers, and a believer by the skeptics—a unique position which makes him a well-recognized voice of reason. He is the author of six books, including The New Pyramid Age, and is one of the leading contributors to The History Channel’s popular series, Ancient Aliens. He lives in Edinburgh and Los Angeles, California.

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