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Ancient astronauts

    The '''ancient astronaut theory''' or '''paleocontact''' theory says that human beings are either the descendants of aliens who landed on Earth millennia ago or that much of our culture was given to us by extraterrestrial visitors in the time of pre-history
    Originally proposed in 1958 by the Russian ethnologist and mathematician Matest M. Agrest (born 1915) who asserted that the stone terracing at Baalbek had been used as a launch site for spaceships and that the destruction of the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah was the result of a nuclear explosion "paleocontact" refers to all aspects of theories that advanced extraterrestrials have played an influential role in the human origin and development as a civilization See the works of Henri Lhote Charles Fort Erich von Däniken Zecharia Sitchin and Richard Hoagland
    While artifact that would suggest a contact with higher developed civilization have not been found some authors think that they have been found For a brief list of such of "anachronisms" see the article Anachronism and travel]
    Evidence often consists of allegations that ancient monuments such as the pyramids of Egypt or Machu Picchu in Peru could not have been built without technical abilities beyond those of people at that time Such allegations are not unique in history Similar reasoning lay behind the wonder of the "Cyclopean" masonry walling at Mycenaean cities in the eyes of Greeks of the following "Dark Age" who envisaged the giant Cyclopes as builders of the walls Among the Anglo-Saxons who were skilled at carpentry but innocent of the arts of masonry the Roman remains of Britain had been built with the aid of Gog and Magog
    Although not taken seriously by mainstream science for many reasons this theory has many adherents and many variations It has been popularized by best-selling authors such as Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin Additionally the author Douglas Adams used a satirical version of the theory in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series
    Many other authors are using ancient mythologies to support their theories many of the extraordinary adventures of the gods being interpreted as being modern technologies as seen from the perspective of a simple-minded earthman One classical example is the Vimanas flying machines that can be found in the literature of India
    Also a frequent theme that can be encountered in many old mythologies: a person that comes from far away as a god or as the archetype of a "civilizing hero" brings knowledge to mankind; see Prometheus for the most well-known Western example
    Ancient astronauts are conjectured extraterrestrial visitors to Earth in its distant past whose existence was advocated by Peter Kolosimo in his 1957 book Il pianeta sconosciuto and later on by the more internationally known Erich von Däniken in his 1968 book Chariots of the Gods and its sequels
    Similar ideas could be found in the earlier horror fiction of H P. Lovecraft who was in turn influenced by Theosophy and Charles Fort Some earlier sources--while not referencing ancient astronats per se--suggest the creation of some monuments was beyond human means such as Saxo Grammaticus' suggestion that giants had created Denmark's massive dolmens or in tales that Merlin had assembled Stonehenge via magic
    The idea is viewed as pseudoscience (or pathological science) by most scientists and historians
    The evidence Däniken has put forward to support his theories can be categorised as follows:
    • Artifacts have been found which appear to represent higher technological knowledge than is presumed to have existed at times when they were manufactured Däniken maintains that these artifacts have been manufactured either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them Such artifacts include Stonehenge the head statues of Easter Island and the Antikythera mechanism
    • In ancient art throughout the world themes can be observed which can be interpreted to illustrate astronauts air and space vehicles non-human but intelligent creatures and artifacts of high technology Däniken also identifies details that are similar in art of unrelated cultures which he argues imply a common origin
    • The origins of many religions can be described as reactions to contacts of primitive humans with an alien race In this view the humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods According to Däniken the oral and literal traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from stars and vehicles travelling through air and space These he says should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure rather than symbolic or mythical fiction One such is Ezekiel's revelation in the Old Testament which Däniken interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft

    Since the publication of Däniken's books no substantial evidence has been found to verify his claims and experimenters and historians have made great progress in explaining how structures such as Stonehenge and the Pyramids were built As a result most historians regard his claims as pseudoscience or pseudoarchaeology and are of the opinion that he is drawing far-reaching conclusions from little evidence while disregarding more likely alternative hypotheses Nonetheless his theories remain popular with a large group of followers some of whom have written books of their own

    See also