About Ancient Astronaut Theory
Ancient astronaut theories or paleocontact are various proposals that intelligent extraterrestrial beings (called ancient astronauts or ancient aliens) have visited Earth and that this contact is linked to the origins or development of human cultures, technologies, and/or religions.
Some of these theories suggest that deities from most—if not all—religions are actually extraterrestrials, and their technologies were taken as evidence of their divine status.
Ancient astronaut theories have not received support within the scientific community, and have garnered little—if any—attention in peer-reviewed studies from scientific journals. These theories have been popularized, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, by writers Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin and Robert K.G. Temple.
Ancient astronaut adherents often claim that humans are either descendants or creations of beings who landed on Earth millennia ago. An associated theory is that much of human knowledge, religion and culture came from extraterrestrial visitors in ancient times, in that ancient astronauts acted as a “mother culture”. These ideas are generally discounted by the scientific community.
Ancient astronaut theories also may include the idea that civilization may have evolved on Earth twice, and that the visitation of ancient astronauts may reflect the return of descendants of ancient humans whose population was separated from earthbound humans.
Proponents of ancient astronaut theories point to what they perceive as gaps in historical and archaeological records, and to what they see as absent or incomplete explanations of historical or archaeological data. Ancient astronaut proponents cite evidence that they argue supports their assertions, notably, archaeological artifacts that they argue are anachronistic or beyond the presumed technical capabilities of the historical cultures with which they are associated (sometimes referred to as “Out-of-place artifacts”); and artwork and legends which are interpreted as depicting extraterrestrial contact or technologies.
Scientists maintain that gaps in contemporary knowledge of the past do not demonstrate that such speculative ancient astronaut ideas are a necessary, or even plausible, conclusion to draw. The scientific community remains generally skeptical, and the dominant view is that there is no evidence to support ancient astronaut and paleocontact theories.
In their 1966 book Intelligent Life in the Universe astrophysicists I.S. Shklovski and Carl Sagan devote a chapter to arguments that scientists and historians should seriously consider the possibility that extraterrestrial contact occurred during recorded history. However, Shklovsky and Sagan stressed that their ideas were speculative and unproven.
Shklovski and Sagan argued that sub-lightspeed interstellar travel by extraterrestrial life was a certainty when considering technologies that were established or feasible in the late ’60s; that repeated instances of extraterrestrial visitation to Earth were plausible; and that pre-scientific narratives can offer a potentially reliable means of describing contact with outsiders.
Additionally, Shklovski and Sagan cited tales of Oannes, a fishlike being attributed with teaching agriculture, mathematics and the arts to early Sumerians, as deserving closer scrutiny as a possible instance of paleocontact due to its consistency and detail.
In his 1979 book Broca’s Brain, Sagan suggested that he and Shklovski might have inspired the wave of ’70s ancient astronaut books, expressing disapproval of “von Daniken and other uncritical writers” who seemingly built on these ideas not as guarded speculations but as “valid evidence of extraterrestrial contact.” Sagan argued that while many legends, artifacts and purported OOPARTs were cited in support of ancient astronaut theories, “very few require more than passing mention” and could be easily explained with more conventional theories. Sagan also reiterated his earlier conclusion that extraterrestrial visits to Earth were possible but unproven, and perhaps improbable.