Lost Civilizations Uncovered
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A Personal Note

One man's reflection on his long journey from ancient astronaut theory believer through his disenchantment with the idea to the serious doubts he developed.

> Read more about this topic in THE CULT OF ALIEN GODS

When I was a kid, I had a brilliant idea after watching one too many cartoons where Bugs Bunny ended up on a space station outsmarting the surrogate red menace, the dreaded Martian. In the cartoons, Bugs represented the virtue and intelligence of the American spirit, so naturally he always got the better of the coldly scientific Martian pseudo-communist. Of all the Looney Tunes, I liked the ones with the Martian most, second only to the Road Runner and Coyote cartoons. So as I watched Bugs bring to earth a bowl of dehydrated instant Martians (just add water), it got me thinking. What if it were real?

When I thought about the ease with which ancient Martians, or their extra-galactic cousins, could have swept across interstellar space to originate life on earth, I had no concept that this very thought had been seriously proposed as a solid and scientific explanation for life's origins. Not long after I thought up this concept, I came across a tattered and worn copy of
Erich von Däniken's Gold of the Gods (1972) that my father had purchased during the first heady years of the alien ancestors frenzy. I flipped throught the pages and gazed, transfixed, at the color plates of strange statues, inexplicable art and improbable construction.

Von Däniken's soaring theories of antediluvian cosmonauts sailing across galaxies to bring civilization, morality and light into a dark and Darwinian young earth captured my imagination, as they did that of so many people before me. I read Gold of the Gods and then its predecessors Chariots of the Gods(1969) and Gods from Outer Space (1970) without giving second thought to the veracity of the words printed therein. I was young; I naturally assumed that books labelled non-fiction must be true. Little did I know that "non-fiction" was not synonymous with "fact." Incidentally, I picked up Chariots of the Gods and Gods from Outer Space at a yardsale; the two volumes cost me twenty-five cents.

I was intrigued by the subject. The pyramids were an endlessly fascinating topic, and history had always been something I loved. It seemed for all the world that von Däniken was right, that he must be right, for his theories seemed to make so much sense at an emotional level. Besides, how could the book companies and television documentary people ever let these theories get through if they were not true? After all, was there not corroborating evidence in the many UFO sightings and abductions seeming to plague the less intelligent parts of the population?

I was particularly susceptible to this line of reasoning. During the summer after my freshman year of high school, my brother was golfing in the back yard of my upstate New York home. He came running up the side yard shouting, "Look up there!" When I looked up, I saw a round, shiny disc hovering in the sky. It stayed up there for a few minutes before vanishing. It remains unexplained.

In the year that followed, I read everything I could on extraterrestrials,
UFOs, alien abductions and such. I studied the so-called Roswell Incident and read the original FBI cables about so-called flying discs recovered in the New Mexico desert and secreted to Ohio (yes, Ohio) and then the forbidden Area 51 where they became the basis for the Stealth Fighter jets.

But I quickly realized that this was nothing more than a modern myth. The original FBI cable said the disc was small and at the end of a balloon (something ufologists ignore when trumpeting the case). I thought, why would space aliens need a balloon? If they could cross galaxies, why not New Mexico? Then I found out that the celebrated abduction of Betty and Barney Hill that launched the modern alien abduction hysteria could all but conclusively be shown to descend from the movie Invaders from Mars and an episode of "The Outer Limits" that aired only days before the "abduction." Key to the case: the Hill abduction featured the now-stereotypical bug-eyed aliens unknown in 1960s Hollywood. Yet that "Outer Limits" episode featured aliens fitting the exact description of the Hills.

After I found out how many UFO photographs were faked (and badly!), suddenly, UFOs seemed a lot less interesting to me. Soon enough I came to the conclusion (despite what the
Disclosure Project and the "X-Files" say) that aliens probably were not visiting earth since it would take millennia to transverse to infinities between star systems.

So what about the evidence for ancient aliens?

In 1996, I found what seemed to be a logical answer on an episode of A&E's "Ancient Mysteries" where Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy introduced me to
Graham Hancock whose book Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) allowed all the anomalous evidence for ancient aliens to stand intact without the need for extraterrestrial visitation. All the stories about higher beings that von Däniken had interpreted as aliens now became the representatives of an advanced lost civilization. What could make more intuitive sense?

In the last months before the internet revolution transformed bookselling, the local bookstore was the only place to seek out titles of interest. Late that year I went to Barnes & Noble looking for a copy of Fingerprints, but there was none to be had. The clerk told me that the book was so immensely popular that the store could not keep it in stock. I ordered onem, and six weeks later I plunged into a rip-roaring adventure in the style of Indiana Jones. Hancock's book was magical, and for me the only training in mythology and ancient history I had recieved thanks to a failing public school system. And with a monstrous set of end notes and book-length bibliography, how could I doubt the formidable volume?

In short order I read Hancock's sequel Message of the Sphinx (1996) and his original exploration of an ancient mystery, The Sign and the Seal (1992). To this day, I find The Sign and the Seal a fascinating and imposing work of journalism, if not history.

Intrigued by the material presented uncritically before me, I devoured every book on the subject that I could find. I read classics in the genre like Gerald Hawkins's Beyond Stonehenge (1973) and more recent works like
Robert Bauval's Orion Mystery (1994). Expanding still further from the core mysteries, I read works on the origin of man like Michael Cremo's and Richard Thompson's infamous and pseudo-scholarly Forbidden Archaeology (1993). I read about the life of Jesus and his children in Laurence Gardner's Bloodline of the Holy Grail (1996). I took on Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend's dense and enigmatic Hamlet's Mill (1969), and unlike Graham Hancock, I needed to read it but once to understand what was being said. Then I explored Robert Temple's unique vision of the world by reading his The Sirius Mystery (1998 revised edition). I quickly rejected the alien ancestor part of the book, but the almost scholarly ethnographic analysis of the descent of Africa's Dogon tribe from Ancient Egyptian stock made perfect sense.

Needless to say, by the time I had entered college, I decided to minor in anthropology because these books had so inspired me. Then it all began to fall apart.

I read a short paper on a website run by
Filip Coppens that more or less completely demolished the central thesis of the Sirius Mystery, that Egyptian knowledge of the binary Sirius star system had passed to the Dogon tribe where French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen had discovered this latent tradition intact in 1935. Coppens quoted anthropologist Walter van Beek, who tried to confirm the Sirius-lore reported by Griaule. Van Beek talked to the Dogon about Sirius: "All agree... that they learned about the star from Griaule." Coppens judgment was harsh: "The Sirius Mystery influenced more than twenty years of thinking about our possible ancestry from 'forefathers' who have come from the stars... And various popular authors and readers have since been led into a modern mythology..."

I had already known that the alien ancestor hypothesis was plainly ridiculous, but if the whole of the Sirius Mystery was built on a bed of lies, then what of those books which followed it? I knew, for example, that Robert Bauval was inspired to write the Orion Mystery because of the Temple book. Despite Bauval's later denials, this is what he wrote:

"In 1979, at London-Heathrow airport I bought a book called The Sirius Mystery by Robert Temple [which] explored aspects of Ancient Egyptian astronomy, and as I was both an amateur Egyptologist and a keen student of Ancient Egyptian astronomy, it seemed like a good book to take to the Sudan... Temple had uncovered a mystery worthy of further investigation. If the Dogon had inherited their knowledge of Sirius B from the Ancient Egyptians, what other knowledge might these ancients have had concerning the stars?... It seemed obvious to me that the place to look for evidence of this lost knowledge was not among the tribes of Mali but in Egypt itself." (The Orion Mystery p. 7-9)
Temple had a further influence on the developing theory that the pyramids represented the stars Temple found important to the Ancient Egyptians: "After all, the pyramids were built at the time Robert Temple believed the star religion to have been of the greatest importance. Perhaps then the two were linked." (The Orion Mystery p. 82) Temple had postulated that cities in ancient Egypt and Greece were planned to resemble the constellation Argo. Bauval applied the star-mirroring idea to the pyramids and "discovered" that the three Giza pyramids represented the belt stars of the constellation Orion.

For the record, Robert Bauval told me on April 8, 2001 that "[While] I also know Robert Temple personally, it also does not mean that I support his ideas either." (see
grahamhancock.com message board archives)

Yet I had the explicit evidence in his own words that he did in fact support Temple's thesis, and not only that, he used it to support the Orion Correlation Theory. Since I knew that Temple was demonstrably wrong, I had no choice but to conclude that the pyramids might well represent Orion, but the theoretical basis for the theory relied so heavily on Temple's work that it must be discarded along with the proposed target date of 10,500 BC which the theory suggests the pyramids target.

Incidentally, I later learned this date derives ultimately from "sleeping prophet" Edgar Cayce's descriptions of his past life in Atlantis in that year. Also, alternative historian
John Anthony West used the Cayce date to extend geologist Robert Schoch's "redating" of the Sphinx back farther. Schoch proposed on the basis of water erosion a 5000 BC building date while West arbitrarily made the date agree with Cayce without providing geologic evidence.

Since Graham Hancock built on Bauval, what of him? He had said, "One unsolved mystery is the remote date transcribed by the astronomy of the [Giza] monuments - the date of 10,500 BC that accords so well with the geology of the Sphinx. Is it a coincidence?" (Heaven's Mirror [1998] p. 99) He claimed that this date is when he and Bauval believe the Lost Civilization met its end.

Since all but the most generous Sphinx redating put it only as far back as 5000 BC (and that was a stretch), I saw that Hancock's arguments held no water. His lost civilization was built on the foundations of shaky science and Temple's disproved theories.

With that, I had to sadly conclude that I had been deceived. Even though I loved these books, I knew they were not true. Sure, there were anomalies worthy of investigation and even a possibility that somewhere in the distant past there was some sort of link between cultures, but this evidence was not the answer. I had hoped that it was true; I had wanted it to be true. But I can't prove it, and neither can they.

Hancock is working on a new book that he says will provide scientific evidence of the Lost Civilization. It would be fascinating and wonderful if he could show an ancient and unknown culture because the thrill of discovery is ever great. Unfortunately, today there is no ancient civilization and those who see only the media portrayals of these authors and their work are easily led to believe that somehow a "coverup" is hiding the wonders of the ancient past from plebian eyes.

I started this magazine to bring to light the hidden stories about the formation of this modern mythology and to expose the mistakes, misinterpretations and misrepresentations that carried the ancient astronaut and lost civilization hypotheses across the centuries and into today.

If someday a lost civilization or extraterrestrial culture comes to light, I will gladly post it across the front page of this magazine. Until then I hope these pages will make plain the facts behind the facade and bring out the truth from wherever it hides. This is our mission. Come join us.

© 2001-2003 Jason Colavito. All rights reserved.