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Ancient Aliens Part 3 - Artwork and Artifacts

Updated on January 20, 2015
Cave painting from the film Prometheus that somehow implies aliens
Cave painting from the film Prometheus that somehow implies aliens


This is part 3 in an ongoing series of hubs discussing the claims of ancient astronaut believers and explaining why they don't hold up to simple skepticism and scrutiny. While to some the claims of ancient astronaut “theorists” may seem silly these claims enjoy a certain amount of popularity within the world at large even launching one of the History Channels longest running, most popular, and most devoid of history, TV series.

In this hub we'll be taking a look at claims of ancient alien influence in ancient artwork and artifacts. I hope to show that pop culture assumptions about what aliens and their craft might look like and ignorance about the historical and cultural context are responsible.

So the aliens were phallic in shape?
So the aliens were phallic in shape?

The Aborigines Aliens?

Eerie cave paintings like the ones above are often cited by ancient astronaut believers to be evidence of extraterrestrial influence. The ancient people painting on these walls, they insist, are not simply using their imaginations but are describing something they actually saw and interacted with, namely alien beings. However when we stop to wonder how much sense this assumption really makes we are left with the ancients using their imaginations being a much more plausible explanation.

I would like to reiterate something about alien life that ancient astronaut theorists would have you forget if they could – WE DON'T KNOW WHAT INTELLIGENT ALIEN LIFE WOULD LOOK LIKE. We are talking about living beings that evolved on a different planet, in fact most believers in alien visitation put this planet outside of our solar system. So the idea that these beings would, as ancient astronaut believers suggest, look a lot like us, is an unfounded assumption.

Human beings evolved from an earlier ape ancestor and we share most of our DNA with modern extant species of apes along with looking and behaving like apes as well. We would not expect aliens on other worlds to look like they too had evolved from apes. Most of our conceptions of Aliens look vaguely human due to a combination of anthropomorphism and the fact that science fiction often simply doesn't have the budget for special effects to make the aliens anything but men in rubber costumes or with make-up applied. It is also hard for us to imagine what life might be like in form and function on other worlds because life on Earth is the only example we have.

However, as I said, we would not expect intelligent life to look like it had ALSO evolved from apes here on Earth, such a coincidence would be remarkable. Aliens that happen to look a lot like they evolved from apes happen to stumble upon Earth at a time in our history when humans happen to begin recording things on cave walls and in other artistic mediums.

Suddenly the idea of these paintings and artifacts as representations of spirits, gods, or perhaps simply something the artist saw in a dream make far more sense than the far-fetched idea that alien visitation was occurring and left behind no hard physical evidence other than an artistic rendition from the local cave painter. In fact when it comes to cave paintings done by the aborigines in Australia what we are seeing is often symbolic and must be looked at in the context of the mythology of Dreamtime.


Peruvian Top Gun?

Probably my favorite example of incompetent reasoning on the part of ancient astronaut proponents is their assertion that this small golden figurine is, in fact, a depiction of ancient alien technology. The figurine is actually an ancient funerary item found among thousands of others most of which depict animals and other familiar things but this one, for some reason, is different in the mind of ancient astronaut believers, because if you squint real hard, and use your imagination, it kinda looks like an airplane.

First of all this is face-palm level stupidity because aliens that travel vast interstellar distances would not fly around in planes powered by jet engines. The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek does not arrive at a new planet and send a small jet with a cockpit for one pilot down to scout the planet, they BEAM people down or, if needed, send a shuttle craft. The mental connection being made here is just like the assumption about aliens looking vaguely human. The figurine looks vaguely like a modern plane and it is a likeness the ancient astronaut con-artists will beat like a dead horse.

As many fellow skeptics have pointed out the figurine is likely a fish because it looks like one and most of the other figurines depict animals as well. On ancient aliens they attempted to scale the figurine up and prove it would fly and what they showed was apparently impressive. Apparently if you put an engine in it, completely change what it is made of, add landing gear and then remote control it you can create a small model airplane that shares some aesthetic similarities with the figurine.

The worst part is that even if this model DID show an airplane it wouldn't prove ALIENS - it wouldn't even suggest aliens. Hell, if anything it might tell us that someone in ancient South America was even smarter than Leonardo Da Vinci. The IDEA of human flight being possible does predate the actuality of human flight by thousands of years. Once again ancient astronaut theorists seek to belittle our ancestors with their bullshit.

Close Encounters of the Christ Kind

There are no shortage of people who believe that Jesus Christ was some sort of alien messenger or at least that he was an ordinary man touched by something extraterrestrial and extraordinary. Aside from the miracles which may be argued to be indistinguishable from magic (I'll talk a bit about this in a future hub about William Lane Craig) Jesus death is often depicted as having mysterious witnesses in the sky that look suspiciously like they're aliens.

This fresco in particular captures the imagination of ancient astronaut hopefuls and was probably the most compelling “evidence” I saw during my brief stint as an ancient astronaut believer. It definitively seems that two alien craft, complete with human looking pilots, are watching over Christ's death scene.

Unfortunately what we're seeing here is actually a long standing tradition in Christian artwork that recurs again in again in Crucifixion art. The two “UFOs” in the top corners are actually personifications of the sun and moon. This is not something I'm just making up either, you can research it for yourselves. What we have here are anthropomorphic representations of the sun and moon – not alien visitors.

Of course the biggest red-flag should be how strange it would be to see aliens over the scene of the Crucifixion. I know of no gospels we've discovered, be they canonical or otherwise, that feature such beings at the Crucifixion scene. Even in the four canonical gospels the angels (which might be assumed as aliens by believers) do not show up until later, at the tomb of Jesus, and are nowhere in any of the four versions of the death of Christ.

So at best these “UFOs” would be artistic additions made by ancient Christian artists but then the assumption that these are UFOs is ALSO based on a false assumption about what alien spacecraft would look like. It is easy for us to assume that an alien craft would have an insignia, a cockpit, etc, but there is no reason to assume that a craft capable of interstellar journeys would be designed that way. Rather we have modern reports of UFOs, flying saucers, and our own assumptions about what alien craft would look like, to blame for seeing aliens here where there are none.

Once again we have ancient alien believers imaginations running away with them and they are quick to remove artwork from its proper context in order to insert modern ideas about extraterrestrials. I understand where the confusion comes from. As human beings we have a tendency to over-estimate our own knowledge even on subjects we know nothing about. So a nineteen year old version of me sees a Fresco of the Crucifixion with the caption “UFOs in ancient art” and knowing nothing about artwork in that time period I am immediately convinced based on my false assumptions.

It is important, however, that we correct ourselves, one of the problems I see with many believers, in both religion and this sort of pseudoscience, is an inability to let go of the conclusion once reached.

Antikythera and other Ancient Artifacts

One of the biggest obstacles in showing why ancient astronaut theory is bunk is the average persons ignorance of history. I don't mean that in an insulting way as I too only have a layman's understanding of history, particularly of history before the 1700s or so. For many of us here in the United States history courses in public school did not involve much ancient history aside from a little bit of Greek and Roman and perhaps some stuff about Egypt and Sumeria. So for many there is an aura of absolute mystery as though anything and everything might have happened in the past and we would have no evidence.

So when an ancient astronaut con-artist, the sort that make their living peddling this stuff, comes along showing a photograph of some mysterious ancient device, or talking about how the ancient Greeks built automatons and that their scientists would have understood what a robot was or shows us a cave painting without even telling us where in the world it was made or by whom we tend to let our imaginations fill in the blanks. This can be dangerous because the ancient astronaut theorist will then tell us all kinds of wild nonsense associating these artifacts not with the real archeology attached to them but with shit they just made up.

The antikythera mechanism was hailed as an ancient computer, but its not the sort of thing we'd expect to see if aliens showed up and told ancient humans all kinds of secret knowledge
The antikythera mechanism was hailed as an ancient computer, but its not the sort of thing we'd expect to see if aliens showed up and told ancient humans all kinds of secret knowledge

Take the device above. It looks ancient and mysterious right? What's it called? It's an astrolabe, an ancient word that means STAR TAKER. Sounds even more ominous right? Saying such a thing paints an image in your mind, reminds you of something, now if I bring up the movie stargate, or insinuate that the ancients believed in portals to other worlds I could easily make you think this odd looking 16th century artifact is actually the key to some portal in the ancient world. It probably opens the throne-room to Atlantis allowing you and Indiana Jones to avoid the booby-traps outside.

Actually it's a device used to navigate and track the stars that ancient astronomers and astrologers made use of. Similarly the famous Antikythera mechanism made headlines as one of the first computers ever built, an amazing apparently Greek invention ancient astronaut theorists are quick to bring it up. All of these devices and artifacts are amazing and should be studied but they are evidence not of alien intervention but of human ingenuity.


One of the questions we can ask is if aliens visited planet Earth in the numbers required for them to build pyramids, inspire art, masquerade as gods and saviors, and basically do everything in human mythology and explain every mystery and non-mystery in archaeology is where is the hard evidence? Where are the spare spaceship parts? Where are the buried flying saucers lodged in the ancient antarctic ice? Why do we not see any evidence of the truly advanced technology we'd expect of an interstellar civilization? Why can we not find the healing ray Jesus used to raise Lazarus? Or the radioactive site where Elijah was carried into Heaven by a flying saucer?

The fact is we don't have evidence. We have speculation, we have imagination and we have an endless stream of deceptive pseudoscience that peddles this stuff to the credulous. Just like with religion what we have here are apologists writing for the credulous and the already duped.

In the next installment I will look at the claim that human beings were created by aliens. Are we actually a slave race that rebelled against our reptilian masters? Stay tuned!


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    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I remember the whole "chariots of the gods" craze from long ago. I never heard of any of these bits of "evidence" tho. I know there were no alien visitations, but I like to imagine that there were. The gods and goddesses of ancient Rome and Greece were actually stories about the aliens. The aliens like to make trouble and mate with humans. Then they got back in their spaceship and flew away. voted up ++

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Turkboys, perhaps you should be more careful in your contemplation of the word "millions." First, Titen never used the phrase "millions of years" in ANY of his three hubs on this subject, so I don't know why you chose to challenge him on that.

      Second, you claim that there have been "millions" of abductions, sightings and other experiences." Could you provide some documentation on this? I'm somewhat skeptical...

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 3 years ago from back in the lab again

      "Well, how do you know that they aren't here?"

      That's not how the burden of proof works. I don't know if they are or were ever here but I am going to base my beliefs on the best and most reliable reasoning/evidence. To date I know of no physical evidence of alien visitations now or in the ancient past. If someone wants to claim aliens are or were here on Earth they need to provide evidence - I do not need to provide evidence that aliens never visited Earth nor am I claiming that aliens never visited Earth. My position is one of disbelief, not one of absolute certainty.

      "R they all lying?"

      I myself have seen a UFO before so no, I do not believe most people are lying, they could easily be mistaken or deluded however. The human senses are not 100% reliable and can easily be fooled. Also we cannot say that simply because something is unidentified or unexplained that it is evidence of aliens, that would be an argument from ignorance.

    • profile image

      Turkboys 3 years ago

      Millions of years? Well, since modern Humans(homo sapneis) only arrived approx 100K years ago, I don't know where you get that info. You ask why not now??? Well, how do you know that they aren't here? Not saying they 100% R but: Astronauts, physicists, doctors, pilots, governors, Lawyers, pilots, FBI, CIA and countless others all are willing to testify in congress to the existence of Aliens. Not to mention millions of abductions, sightings and other experiences. R they all lying?

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 3 years ago from Michigan, USA

      I remember when I was a young boy in grade school, they showed us that stupid "Chariots of the Gods" movie and, not knowing any better, I thought it was an interesting and plausible hypothesis. Now that I'm older and have learned MUCH more about history, physics and astronomy, I can only shake my head at how far down the History Channel has fallen, broadcasting this sort of rubbish, instead of actual HISTORY.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 3 years ago from back in the lab again

      I used to watch it for the entertainment value alone but I found many of the claims so absurd they just pissed me off, like a contrived plot convenience in a movie that just makes you want to boo the screen.

      When I was growing up I believed in a little bit of everything, now looking at it from a skeptical perspective I still find it all very fascinating but feel comfortable to leave it as fiction. Like Mulder I always wanted to believe but while Mulder found evidence everywhere he turned when you actually look into this stuff you don't find anything remotely solid, not even anything you can experience firsthand like Mulder always got to.

      "it's reasonable to assume that alien life does exist. However, the likelihood that they are smart enough to come to Earth, and then erase all evidence that they came, is hilariously small."

      Indeed. And not just the idea that they are smart enough to come to Earth but the idea that they would want to stop here and want to build pyramids and inspire cave paintings. If they are an interstellar civilization they might not even give us the time of day in our current relatively primitive and volatile state, they might not even notice we're here.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 3 years ago from United States

      Ancient Aliens is an easy show to get sucked into. I watched about one and a half seasons before Netflix took it away. But, once the credits roll, as you say, it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Much like with Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, if something like that actually existed, we would know about it. Rather than having handfuls of weak (and unrelated) bits of evidence.

      If I ever got a chance to watch the show again, I would. But it's more so because of the narrative. A past founded on alien influence would make for one heck of a movie (or novel), and has many times over. Plus I do enjoy some of the historical mysteries. They might point to aliens as the architects, but that doesn't make underwater pyramids any less cool or interesting. And, while I don't believe either theory, aliens are slightly more believable than gods. (We're talking 0.01% more believable than a theory that is already unbelievable). I say that because, using Earth as the example of life in the universe, and taking into account all the potential planets out there in 'goldilocks' zones, it's reasonable to assume that alien life does exist. However, the likelihood that they are smart enough to come to Earth, and then erase all evidence that they came, is hilariously small.


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