Gods of the Mayas

Astronauts or Not?

In his forthcoming book Astronaut Gods of the Mayas: Extraterrestrial Technologies in the Temples and Sculptures (Inner Traditions, 2017), best-selling author, Erich von Däniken, the world’s best known proponent of the ancient astronaut hypothesis, shares more than 200 full-color, never-before-published, photographs from his personal collection, providing visual evidence, he believes, of ancient alien contact and technology among the archaeological sites of the Maya as well as Aztec and the Hindu and other ancient cultures. In this exclusive preview Atlantis Rising offers a few of the images you will find in the book, along with some of the author’s commentary. We are able to use only a few of the pictures with this article. Please understand that there are many more in the book. Page references given here pertain to this article only. —ED


On the Pacific coast of Guatemala, not far from Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, the clearing work done in 1860 brought some magnificent Mayan steles to light (today, they are known as the Bilbao monuments). The native population did not think much of it, because farmers repeatedly would encounter carved stones. News of the discovery reached the Austrian Dr. Habel, who explored the region in 1862, and had drawings made of the steles. He later showed them in Berlin to the director of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin at the time, Dr. Adolf Bastian (1826–1905). He was enthusiastic and wanted to install the steles in his museum, and he traveled to Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa in 1876. There, he bought the steles from the owner of the finca (farm) and contractually secured the rights to any future discoveries. But the trip from Guatemala to Berlin was arduous.

In the jungle terrain of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, there were neither flatbed wagons nor paved roads. A hastily summoned engineer suggested cutting the steles in half lengthwise and hollowing out the backsides. So it happened. The behemoths were loaded on oxcarts and transported up to 80 kilometers (50 mi.) to the San José harbor. When loading them on the ship there was another hitch: One stele broke loose from its ropes and sank to the bottom of the harbor—where it lies to this day.

The remaining eight steles were erected in Berlin and can still be admired at the entrance to the local ethnological museum. One stele obviously shows an offering scene with a priest, who is holding a ripped-out heart to the heavens. In the next image, a priest stretches something upward that looks like a facemask. Above him a godly being, surrounded by flames, descends toward the earth (figure 1). The next image shows a figure engulfed in flames from the head downward. In front of its chest dangles a fire disc, and there, where the feet should be, rudiments of wings are recognizable…

Because of so-called professional literature and our goal-oriented education, we are blind in one eye. We accept what is offered in clever books and on the Internet, and we do not notice how we repress understanding. With that I am not stating that my approach is the only correct one. But the interpretation up until now is not exactly the 
final word.

I saw a similar case of misunderstood technology in the statues of Tula, a place 70 kilometers (44 mi.) northwest of Mexico City. The figures—also known as Atlanteans, whatever that means—stand atop a pyramid-shaped platform (Figures 2 and 3). They carry boxes on their chests, and even the harnesses over their shoulders are recognizable (Figure 4, page 63). With two fingers, they clasp objects that look like drills and taper downward. Half of a spoked wheel is also recognizable on their shoes.

The experts’ interpretation is completely different. The boxes on their chests are “butterfly symbols,” the things in their hands are “a bundle of arrows” or “spinning devices,” and the wheels on their shoes are supposedly “flowers.” Then the covered ears could be—who knew it?—original headphones with a short antenna. Finally, the headdress in the eyes of the experts is a “box-shaped hat.” Some of the Tula statues are even furnished on the backside with engravings. There stands an Indian adorned with a feathered helmet with a hose through the nose and a figure in squatting position. From head to back, a hose runs into a tank. One can compare this with the stele of El Baúl.

If the items of evidence are not an individual case, if they are seemingly waving from everywhere, if we are speaking about the mythology of “descended gods” and “teachers,” if Teotihuacán turned out to be the model of the solar system and the Kukulkan pyramid of Chichén Itzá shows a light-and-shadow game year after year, as if this god descends the stairs, shouldn’t the experts start pricking up their ears?

Which experts? The specialists on Maya archaeology? The few that have something to say can be counted on one hand. They travel without exception on their old tracks; new rails are frowned upon. And the diligent students cannot affect the switch position in any way, because they are only let in if they ride in the old train. Therefore, new thinking must come from the outside, even if it takes a generation to get attention. After all, the Maya experts do concede the existence of a prodigious astronomy in their studies—only the gods could never be visitors from other stars. One must understand all of this psychologically, it is said with emphatic nodding. And—curiously enough—the currently prevailing “politically correct” line of thought makes the professional immune to any type of contrarian thinking. If one would see the gods as actual extraterrestrials, this would denigrate the achievement of the Indians: the pride of the Maya would be violated. This is obviously joined by the blessed doctrine of evolution.

People do not trouble themselves to understand another way of looking at things. Evolution, yes—but it does not explain everything. The statements by the experts ignore the fact that the temples and pyramids were built by people. And the remarkable pieces of art and mathematics were created by people. The initial impulse, however, came from outside. That is now verifiable, and the Maya say that themselves. The achievement of the people will not be devalued. The Berlin Symphony is not decreased when it plays Rhapsody in Blue, just because the composer George Gershwin was an American.

The Maya were addicted to astronomy. Their buildings and their religion, their entire spiritual thinking including their astronomically aligned pyramids, prove it. There are, at 1,500 meters (4,921 ft.) high, ruins at Xochicalco in the foothills of the Ajusco volcano in Mexico. For the temple up there, the Maya leveled off a mountaintop. The origin of Xochicalco is obscure, and up to now, only half of all the buildings have been unearthed. In the center is the stepped pyramid La Malinche and a so-called palace. Here, too, everything served astronomy. Two of the pyramids lie across from each other like mirror images (Figure 5, page 64). The sun rises at the equinoxes exactly over the centers of the buildings.

La Malinche stands on a nearly square surface (18.6 × 21 m.; 61 × 68.9 ft.) and is aligned north-south. The outer wall carries magnificent reliefs of eight, feathered snakes that wind themselves around the building as if they are trying to lift up the platform. On the other side of the world, in China, monsters were shown as flying dragons (Figure 6, pages 64). The reliefs were cut with unidentified hard chisels directly in the andesite slabs and seamlessly joined together. Originally the pyramid must have glowed magnificently to the heavens, because paint residues are still stuck between the joints.

Ten meters (33 ft.) under the ground there is a room scraped out of the rock that people called an observatory, accessible through a side entry. From the ceiling of the room is a 9-meter (29.5 ft.) long shaft to the surface (Figure 7, page 64). It is made so ingeniously that year after year, on June 21 at noon, a unique scenario replays itself.

At noon a small procession of Indians with lighted candles enters the room. They carry with them amulets and a small vessel of water, which is placed directly under the light shaft. Outside, the sun climbs higher, and exactly at 12:30 it stands in the center of the opening. Tentative at first, the beam of light glides along the walls as if searching; then the band of light broadens until it fills the shaft and illuminates the chamber underneath. Now the light engulfs the amulets and water tank on the ground, permeating them and causing them to reflect. Like luminous laser fingers they flash around and slowly pass over the people with their candles in their hands. This fascinating spectacle lasts approximately twenty minutes. The Indians, saying prayers, look to the shaft opening over them. As soon as the sun moves on, it would become dark in the underworld if it were not for the flickering light of the small candles. The Indians take their amulets and water vessel that—according to their beliefs—are now animated with divine power, and walk silently outside. But then there is laughing, music, dancing, and expressions of gratitude for the divine power.

This occurs every year on June 21, even to this day. This sun cult reminds me of the Stone Age installation at Newgrange, 10,000 kilometers (6,214 mi.) away from Mexico in Ireland. Also occurring every year, and for a good 5,000 years now, is a similar spectacle, not on June 21, but on December 21. During the sunrise the blazing sun passes through a deliberately placed rectangular opening. The sunlight shines down a 24-meter (79 ft.) passageway and, like a laser beam, strikes a stone with various scraped-out bowls. The rest is a magical symphony. The rays of light flicker in different directions, at all times directed precisely at cultic signs, but also above through a dead-straight and artfully made stone shaft—as in Xochicalco, Mexico.

Who actually devised this eccentric sunlight game? And it is not only in Mexico and Ireland. There are similar examples around the world. Who calculated the degree slope for the shafts for June 21 in Mexico and December 21 in Ireland? Were divine figures revered in the chambers? Did the astronomers construct their square shafts as a reference to the spectral colors of the rainbow? Were materials in the room treated so that they could only be seen in polarized light? Or was there some kind of luminescence down there that escaped the excavator?

By Erich Von Däniken