Ancient Astronauts or Guiding Spirit?

The Mysterious Origins of Ancient Technology

In 1968 Swiss author Erich von Daniken popularized ideas previously suggested by others when he published Chariots of the Gods. From the lofty terraces of Peru’s Machu Picchu to the immense megaliths of Stonehenge in England, from the staggering complexity of Egypt’s Great Pyramid to the advanced plumbing of Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, the remarkable technical achievements of our “primitive” ancestors in every quarter of the globe millennia ago, could be explained, it is argued, only by postulating the guidance and assistance of aliens from other star systems. The idea continues to be promoted by von Daniken’s fellow Swiss (of Austrian and Greek ancestry) Giorgio Tsoukalos, editor of Legendary Times Magazine and host of the Ancient Aliens television series. It is entirely possible, of course, that they are correct, although I would suggest that they consider not only other solar systems but our own planetary neighbors Mars and Venus, which in the distant past were very different worlds from what they are today.

I would also suggest that, given the evidence for the extreme antiquity of our species and the evidence for advanced technology in the remote past, we ourselves might be those “ancient aliens.” For all we know, people related to our ancestors may have achieved space flight countless thousands of years ago…in fact, the mysterious structures now seen on Mars and on our Moon may have been built by people from right here. But if aliens guided us, who helped the aliens develop their own technology? Other aliens? Where did it all begin? Is it not possible that we developed our own technology, that our remote ancestors were not so dim-witted and primitive as some imagine? There is a logical principle called “Occam’s Razor,” developed by the English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, William of Occam (1288-1348). Simply put, it states that, as a general rule (but not always), the simplest explanation for anything is the correct one. But there is yet another possibility.

Throughout the ages, many have believed in guiding spirits. The Greeks had their nine Muses, and many believed in “daemons” (not to be confused with Judeo-Christian demons). The Muses and daemons were seen as generally benevolent minor gods, who inspired, for example, art, poetry, and music. Many modern writers, artists, musicians, inventors, and scientists have felt that some of their best ideas came from somewhere outside themselves. Perhaps the classic case is that of German chemist Friedrich August Kekule, who figured out the structure of the benzene ring in 1865 after a kind of waking dream of serpents seizing their own tails.

Some ancient (and even modern) inventions seem fairly simple, and it is not hard to imagine how people could have hit upon the idea. Woven fabrics date back at least to 28,000 BP (before the present) in that part of Europe which is now the Czech Republic. Understand that fabrics do not age well, and all of the technologies I am describing here may have been invented much earlier, and repeatedly in different places. Michael Cremo and others have gathered evidence of human beings and even advanced cultures dating back literally millions of years. But as for fabrics, people could, quite naturally, build shelters of poles, bark, and grass, as well as skins, and it would, it seems, be only natural to weave the bark or grass around the poles. From this, it would be a simple advance to mats and baskets and then to true fabrics…looms would come much later.

Fired ceramic figurines were found in the same area of the Czech Republic and dated to about the same time. Again, people might easily mold clay into shapes; unfired statues of animals are found in some of the same European caves that are also adorned with ancient paintings. If the figurines were dried and left near the fire, or if a hearth was made of clay to shield the fire from the wind, true ceramics would be developed almost by accident.

Dugout canoes, which can be quite large and are actually stronger and less prone to leaking than plank-built boats, are another example of a technology that could have evolved gradually. People would naturally wade and swim in rivers, lakes, and oceans to spear or net fish. Sitting astride a log would make this easier and safer. Flattening the top of the log, and later hollowing it out, would improve balance and comfort, and gradually people would learn to shape the ends of the log, especially the bow, to reduce water resistance. It would be only natural to paddle with the hands, and then (particularly if the water was cold) with wooden poles, and then to form the poles into paddles, which are shaped like the human hand and arm. The presence of people in areas like Australia, Crete, and the various Pacific islands indicates that our species has been seafaring for tens of thousands of years. People would soon notice that paddling against the wind was more difficult than traveling on a day with little or no air movement and traveling downwind was easier. They would naturally try to hunker down going against the wind and learn to sit up straight when the wind was with them. From this, they would learn to hold up skins, then skins or fabric tied to paddles, and so masts and sails would naturally evolve. Dugout canoes and paddles dating back to 9,500-10,000 BP have been unearthed in northwestern Europe, and there is a painting of a sailboat on an Egyptian vase dating to 5,100 BP, but these are certainly not the first ones.

Even the wheel, as well as other basic, simple machines like the lever and inclined plane, could have evolved gradually without the assistance of either aliens or spirits. People would drag heavy loads, and then learn to roll them on logs, and then figure ways to attach the rollers to the object or to a sledge holding the load. Then they could eliminate the heavy inside part of the log and attach the wheels to short axles on the outside of the sledge, or reduce the inner part of the log to a relatively slender axle.

Stone buildings could evolve from crude, low walls of uncut stone to higher ones of rocks shaped to fit. Agriculture, perhaps developed by women, could have resulted from accidentally dropping seeds in a village. Earlier developments, like sharpening sticks to use as spears, or using sharp stones as tools and weapons and then learning to shape them, could have evolved gradually, and the fossil record shows just that. Even writing could have evolved gradually from pictures to stylized and simplified pictures to the use of the rebus principle in hieroglyphics to a true alphabet. Some pre-historic European paintings include symbols that we cannot decipher. The origin of the alphabet is still a mystery, although examples date from Egypt (3,500 BP), Israel (3,700 BP), and, possibly, in Egypt as far back as 3,900 BP.

But some developments are hard to explain, even allowing people a great deal of intelligence and creativity. People might learn to warm themselves around fires set by lightning, and then to add fuel, but how did they learn to make fire? We know that they were at least using small fires in Africa by 1,000,000 years BP. We can imagine people making flint tools noticing sparks and somehow making the connection, but this is a pretty big leap; and anyone who has tried to start a fire with flints knows how difficult this is. And how could people have evolved the fire drill, or even learned to rub sticks together to produce a spark? Again, anyone who has tried this knows how hard it is.

The use of bows and arrows is almost impossible to explain. There is some evidence that they were in use in South Africa around 60-70,000 BP, and in Spain by 18-20,000 BP, and certainly in Germany by 12,000 BP There is absolutely nothing obvious about the idea of bending a pole with a cord attached to the ends and using stored energy to fire arrows to great distances. Consider that long bows and composite bows have an accurate and effective range exceeding that of eighteenth century smooth bore muskets, as well as a higher rate of fire. Bows are simple but very effective technology, and it is impossible to imagine how they could have evolved gradually. Equally hard to explain are blowguns, used in Indonesia and parts of the Americas, mostly tropical South America, to shoot darts, often poison darts. Stranger still is the boomerang; throwing sticks were used in many areas, but some boomerangs, certainly the ones found in Australia (and dated to 10,000 BP) are true airfoils with a flat lower surface and a curved upper surface. This is very sophisticated technology for people who, in all other regards, seemed to be primitive hunter-gatherers.

And, from the animal world, there is real evidence that the Supreme Being, whether operating directly or through lesser spirits, has inspired what can only be called technology. Space forbids a discussion of most of the evidence for intelligent design (as opposed to Darwinism), but it is, to many of us, very convincing. And if the Designer shaped the “hardware,” the physical structures of plants, animals, and other organisms, He must also have installed the “software,” the behavior patterns of animals. A bird, for example, must have wings, control surfaces, flight muscles, etc., but must also be a skillful “pilot.” Like so many things in the natural world, this is all or nothing, irreducible complexity. Nature’s IQ, by Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi (Torchlight Publishing, 2009), lists many examples of what can only be de­scribed as animal technology.

Bees build complex nests with hexagonal cells of wax, store honey, and communicate with one another using a complex kind of dance. They tell one another the distance and direction (relative to the Sun) to flowers. Numerous other animals, although they may not communicate like the bees, dig burrows and tunnels or make nests. Many wasps make a kind of paper to build their nests, but the potter wasp makes nests of mud…a sort of unbaked ceramic. Swallows also build mud nests, surprisingly stable and durable, and many birds make nests of carefully woven plant fibers; the nests of the weaver bird are sacks hanging from branches and are able to support weight. And birds also navigate precisely over vast distances, apparently using the Sun and the stars and even sensing Earth’s magnetic field.

Not only bees and wasps, but all of the social insects have a kind of technology. Leaf cutter ants (Atta and Acromyrmex) harvest leaves, chew them, inoculate them with spores, and, in underground chambers, grow a fungus that is their main food. Some ants protect aphids and herd them back and forth, eating their secretion called “honeydew.” These are examples of what can only be called farming and herding, as well as symbiosis, and I would challenge any Darwinist to propose a believable scenario showing how such behaviors could have “evolved.” In fact, symbiotic relationships in general are a major thorn in the side of Darwinism, even without the added burden of technology…consider the necessarily simultaneous appearance of angiosperms and pollinators. Bullhorn acacia ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) live on a particular acacia plant in the tropical Americas that grows hollow thorns, which they use for shelter, and small fruit-likebodies which they eat. In return, they savagely attack any intruders that might harm the plant (I can personally attest to this), except that they sometimes herd scale insects for their honeydew. A similar acacia and a similar ant enjoy a similar relationship in Africa. Some of the termites in the tropical Americas live in underground nests whose tunnels and chambers have flat floors and arched ceilings to prevent collapse, but above the nests are mounds of dried mud averaging seven to eight feet in height, with a few as high as 30 feet and weighing 60 tons. These are used to catch breezes for ventilation, and the termites hurry about, opening and closing vents to adjust the internal temperature. Cool air enters at the base of such a mound, and warm air rises up a kind of chimney opening at or near the top. Chambers containing the larvae are always kept warmer. As if that is not enough, some of the termites also grow and eat a fungus.

Even larger than the termite mounds are some of the dams constructed by beavers, including the North American species (Castor camadensis) and the Eurasian (Castor fiber). After the capybaras of South America, beavers are the world’s largest rodent, and a prehistoric Eurasian beaver, Trogoutherium cuvieri, was much larger. Beavers build huge dams of logs, sticks, and mud to block streams and create ponds. In the ponds they build their lodges, imposing structures with thick walls and underwater entrances, where, above the water line, they can rear their young in comparative safety. As if this is not enough, they actually dig canals so they can float small trees and branches too heavy for them to lift or drag, bringing them into their pond so that they can feed on the bark and young shoots. At least one Darwinist skeptic has claimed that the canals are just collapsed tunnels, but they are not collapsed tunnels. They are canals. And tunnel building by many animals, including even “primitive” invertebrates, is itself remarkable. The Darwinists will seemingly go to any lengths to deny the obvious truth: this is very sophisticated technology. But beavers show no other evidence of intelligence; although they can adapt to different environments and build lodges on natural islands on rivers too deep and wide to dam (as they do 300 yards from where I am sitting as I write this), their technology never advances, and it seems to be not so much learned as instinctive, or “hard wired.”

Clearly, our ancestors could have observed animals and simply copied some of their technology. And truly brilliant people in the remote past and today may have invented things purely on their own. Or maybe aliens from some distant world were our teachers, as some believe. But, given our own traditions of Muses and the like, and the examples from the animal world, it seems possible that the Supreme Being has taught us the arts and sciences. And if this was done through lesser spirits, could they also have been responsible for our “hardware”? Could the same beings be responsible for intelligent design, for creating new species, and for teaching us? Many people believe that they have been abducted by strange beings, and these encounters often seem to run in certain families, certain bloodlines. Could the “aliens” doing the abduction actually be the nature spirits that control our evolution and inspire our achievements?


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