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What is the Ancient Astronaut Theory?

Updated on October 30, 2015

The Ancient Astronaut Theory is a theory that has been gathering criticisms as much as it is gaining followers. Experts and scholars are torn on its credibility, but the evidences of its presence are yet to be explained. It even goes as far as saying that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution might not be true. There is also the idea that Ancient Astronauts might have influenced religions. But what exactly is AAT and can it be considered believable?

Claims of the Theory

According to Ancient Astronaut Theory, the earlier civilizations have been visited by extra-terrestrial beings, which they refer to as “men from the stars.” These beings are apparently more advanced in the field of science and technology and they have shared their knowledge with humans of that time in order to come up with architecture and innovations more advanced than their time. These beings, which are often depicted to come to earth through circular discs or space crafts, could have also given rise to religion, with their advancements misunderstood by ancient people as a sign of their divinity. Also according to one aspect of the theory, these god-like beings disagreed with the evil deeds of men and had decided to eradicate them with a great flood, leaving only a couple of survivors from whom the line of modern men came from.


Throughout decades, different scholars have devoted themselves to the study of Ancient Astronauts. Some study various cultures, while others interpret ancient drawings and evidences. There are also references even in the Bible and other religious scriptures that these proponents claim are proof of the presence of Ancient Astronauts. Some of the theory’s proponents are:

  • Craig Stanford – Stanford claims that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is full of inaccuracies because of the limited information on the amount of time since hominids started walking upright, used tools, and developed forms of communication.

  • Erich von Daniken – Daniken led the proponents of the theory when it became popular in the late 1960s until the 1970s. His biggest contribution is the book Chariots of the Gods. Daniken believes that the artifacts and constructions associated with ancient cultures could have been the work of extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who have been taught a more sophisticated way of technology by these extraterrestrial beings in order to be capable of such constructions.

  • Zecharia Sitchin – Sitchin had an interpretation of the text and artifacts of the Sumerian and Middle Eastern inhabitants which he presented in the series The Earth Chronicles.

  • Giorgio A. Tsoukalos – The publisher of Legendary Times, Tsoukalos also directed the Center for Ancient Astronaut Research and has appeared on different channels to speak about his views on Ancient Astronauts. He is also a consulting producer in the TV show “Ancient Aliens.”

  • Robert K. G. Temple – Temple’s book The Sirius Mystery says that the Dogon people of Mali had an extraterrestrial encounter some 5000 years ago which brought them advancements in the field of astronomy.

The Theory in Media and Pop Culture

Ancient Astronauts Theory is a popular theme in science fiction which has seen a rise in the 20th century. The theory that people “from the stars” came to help early civilizations and have provided them with information about a better way of life is a recurring theme since the 1960s. During that time, a huge wave of apparent UFO sightings were reported; the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was also released in 1968 and grew to popularity. Von Daniken also released the book entitled Chariots of the Gods in the same year containing his theories about technologies and religions being influenced by these people with great advancements. Von Daniken also appeared in 2010 in a series called Ancient Aliens, a History Channel mini-series. Gods of the New Millennium, a book published in 1996, also explained the hypothesis.

Even earlier than the 1960s, the hypothesis could already be seen in popular culture. The Call of Cthulhu in 1926 and At the Mountains of Madness in 1931 were some of Lovecraft’s earlier works involving the theory. Lovecraft was also responsible for the hit TV series The X-Files and Earth: The Final Conflict. Other works involving extraterrestrial interventions are Stargate, Alien vs Predator, Knowing, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Prometheus. Various comic books and manga also contain the same theme. Even video games about aliens exist.

Unexplained Physical “Specimens”

  • Stone Henge – Located in England, this monument is one of the most famous evidence used by proponents of the theory. These are the remains of standing stones forming a ring that could have been a burial ground.

  • Nazca Lines – The Nazca Lines of Peru are images that could be appreciated from a higher altitude which some proponents say could be information about landing of extraterrestrial visitors.

  • Moai of Easter Island – These monolithic statues constructed using a minimalist style feature very large heads.

  • Puma Punku – This mound is part of a temple, complex, or group of monuments.

  • Pacal’s Sarcophagus – Some say that the depiction of Pacal journeying to the underworld looks more like him manning a spacecraft.

  • Skull of Akhenaten – According to some theorists, extraterrestrial beings had elongated skulls and bred with humans to create the homo sapiens. Sculptures and the supposed skull of Akhenaten show him with what appears to be an elongated skull.

  • Great Pyramid of Giza – This pyramid was the tallest man-made structure until the Lincoln Cathedral was finished in 1300.

  • Teotihuacan – This is known as an architecturally significant site because of its complex compounds.

  • Cave paintings and carvings – Various cave paintings and carvings among different ancient cultures have images of strange creatures with circles around their head likened to those that are worn by astronauts of today. Discs flying across the skies is another theme that is found among different civilizations.

Consistency over Great Distances

One of the most notable evidences proponents of the theory call out is the fact that in ancient times, there was no means of communication among Sumerians and other civilizations, but the similarities in the carvings, cave paintings, and other illustrations are not hard to see. The pyramids, which have appeared all over the world, seem to have the same proportions which proponents say could mean that they were created by the same person or that at least they were influenced by the same group of individuals. The salient features that are seen in evidences for the theory are men with “helmets” or “halos” around their head which is similar to what an astronaut of the present time wears. Ancient civilizations that had no way of communicating with one another also have various but similar paintings of flying discs with people observing them, which could signify their observation of these ancient astronauts “coming from the stars.”

AAT: Real or Unfounded?

With the presence of countless evidence from ancient civilizations, one has to wonder whether the Ancient Astronaut Theory can be considered valid or if it is unfounded as most experts say. While it is interesting, if not troubling, to consider the possibility of non-human visitors with more advanced methods in science and technology, it could be looked at as a major milestone in human history, should it be proven to be true. However, most of the proofs given by the proponents of the theory have been rebuffed by other experts which means that, if it is indeed true, it still needs more concrete proof. The openness to interpretation of scriptures, ancient paintings, ways of communication, and old beliefs makes them pliable to whatever belief an individual conforms with.

With this said, there is no denying the similarities of the drawings and paintings, but one has to remember that these are ancient and that what they mean cannot be interpreted accurately. As to whether the theory is real or not, more concrete evidence is needed. For the meantime, people can be open-minded about the theory.

So what do you think about the Ancient Astronaut Theory?

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  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    Thanks, @Jodi! James Joyce was one hella novelist though. :D

  • profile image

    Jodi 3 years ago

    I actually found this more enrtitaening than James Joyce.

  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    Thanks, @starchaser! Glad that you think so. :)

  • profile image

    starchaser 3 years ago

    Very interesting, well written, thank you!