The evolution of modern man has long been one of the greatest mysteries of time. When did “modern” humans first appear? When did they make the first art? When did they build the first temples? When were the first true cities constructed? And what was it that inspired these developments? These questions form a huge puzzle but the puzzle’s pieces continue to change. For example, what archaeological site across the world is accepted as the “first city?” What specific caves contain the “first art?” Nearly every year archaeologists announce the discovery of older building complexes and older art. Despite this problem, a series of recent developments may have provided us with a startling answer.
In his newest book, The Cygnus Mystery (2007),1 famed British science writer Andrew Collins may well have uncovered the key-missing element of the mystery of evolution. His first clues were found at archaeological sites but the ending of his quest came in space science and genetics. Collins begins by presenting a remarkable wealth of information from excavated ruins and ancient beliefs about the origin and destiny of the soul. Both the ruins and religious beliefs of these ancient peoples consistently focused on a specific northern constellation of the night sky—Cygnus— one of the stars of which served as the North Pole star in 17,000 BP. As Collins was completing the book, he discovered a startling fact about this specific area of the sky. Ongoing research by NASA showed that Cygnus was the source of the highest energy cosmic rays ever to strike the earth. Furthermore, many scientists, including Carl Sagan, have asserted that cosmic rays provided the spark for human evolution. Now, the most recent developments in evolutionary genetics, a relatively new field, may have proven Collins correct.
The Cygnus Mystery
Collins begins his book by describing the ruins of what archaeologists have called “the oldest temple site in the world.” The site, Göbekli Tepe, is located in southeast Turkey and is actually one of several similar (underground) sub-surface temple complexes in the region. As Collins writes, “Excavations began at Göbekli Tepe in 1995” … and a 2006 book by the German archaeologists who excavated the site proposed that “Göbekli Tepe was begun 12,000 years ago…” Collins relates, “These people were star worshippers,” an important component in his new theory.
As he contemplated the arrangement of the outer openings of the temples at Göbekli Tepe, Collins realized that the underground complex was clearly oriented to the north. Using a computer astronomy program, he found that in 9500 B.C. the site was focused on the northern constellation of Cygnus, especially the star Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus. Cygnus, referred to in Native American tribal lore as the (Northern) Cross Star (or Bird’s Foot), is typically depicted as a swan or other bird, depending on the specific type of migrating bird found in a particular region. Collins then found Arabian astronomical lore regarding Cygnus and he gathered information from archaeoastronomers regarding alignments to Cygnus at other sites. The list of sites archaeoastronomers have linked to Cygnus is mind-boggling.
For example, in the UK, Newgrange, Avebury, Weylon Smithy, and Callanish all show definite orientations to Cygnus. In Central and South America, archaeoastronomers have found Cygnus alignments at the important sites of La-Venta and Cuzco. In North America, Collins himself discovered that the incredible complex of mounds and earthworks at Newark, Ohio appeared to focus on the Milky Way and the rising of Cygnus.
Turning his attention to the incredible art found on the walls of deep caves in Europe, Collins found that archaeologists had asserted that the oldest cave art actually depicted the constellation of Cygnus. European cave art is known to have flourished around 17,000 years ago, with the Lauscaux complex in France literally showing the night sky with the Cygnus star, Deneb, as the focal point. (As an important side note, 2001 research2 has given strong indications that a brief “pulse” of cave art may have occurred in Europe as long ago as 34,000 years, but this culture seems to have vanished until cave art reappeared 17,000 years later.)
The reason Cygnus was so important to the ancients is most easily answered by a previously mentioned fact. The brightest star of the Cygnus constellation is Deneb, which was the pole star 17,000 years ago. But there is an even more intriguing aspect to this. Cygnus lies at a critical juncture in the Milky Way known as the Great Rift. It is at this spot that the Milky Way splits into two long sides with a dark, murky area dividing it. This precise location of the Milky Way has served as a key component in many ancient religious systems.
The most mysterious and important religious beliefs held by ancient people concerned the origin and destiny of souls. The Milky Way, and the Great Rift, are the specific geographical locations central to ancient beliefs about the soul. For example, Native American religious beliefs assert that the souls of the departed follow a path or river to a specific location in the northern sky, often depicted in Native American art as the Northern Cross—Cygnus. In brief, Cygnus was seen as the doorway between this world and the sky world. The ancients symbolized the transport of the soul to the Great Rift on the wings of a bird—the constellation of Cygnus. Investigation of the sky lore of various ancient cultures revealed that India, China, and even ancient Egypt shared a similar belief to that of Native Americans. And since the first Native Americans entered the Americas by 9500 B.C.—or before—Collins reasoned that the core beliefs about the constellation of Cygnus had to have been carried around the world by people who shared the same ideology.
Giza as Cygnus
As Collins was writing The Cygnus Mystery, a British engineer, Rodney Hale, consulted with Collins on the stellar alignments of ancient sites. As Collins relates in the book, one night Hale was unable to sleep because he was frustrated with trying to make the three main pyramids at Giza match the three stars of Orion’s Belt. As readers of Atlantis Rising are well aware, the 1994 book The Orion Mystery, by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, asserted that the three main pyramids at Giza were built to reflect the inverted image of Orion’s Belt. While this idea is widely embraced within the alternative history community, the simple fact is that Orion’s Belt actually doesn’t match the three pyramids. Precise astronomical calculations by numerous astronomers and Bauval alike have shown that no matter which image, survey, or map of Giza is used, the smallest of the stars of Orion’s Belt, Mintaka, actually doesn’t touch the third—or smallest—pyramid.
Much to Collins’ surprise, Rodney Hale reported that he had, on a lark, taken the three “cross-bar” stars of Cygnus and entered them into an astronomy program that took the Egyptian sky back to 2600 B.C.—the accepted construction date of the pyramids. Not only did these three stars fit nicely onto all three pyramids, the remaining stars of Cygnus fell onto important areas of Giza. Most interestingly, one of the other key stars falls upon a large, sacred “mound” called Gebel Ghibili, adjacent to a little-known Islamic cemetery in the southeast corner of the plateau. Collins soon visited the site and found a deep, stone-lined well, which village elders related was actually the entrance to a complex of tunnels leading to an underground ‘city’ or ‘palace’. While this aspect is beyond the focus of this article, this entrance fits Edgar Cayce’s description of the tunnel entrance to the Egyptian Hall of Records, which was said to lie beneath a pyramid-like hill facing the Sphinx monument.
The alignment of Cygnus at Giza set off a firestorm of activity by Bauval and other Orion supporters who subsequently compared the Orion and Cygnus orientations at Giza. In every case, the stars of Cygnus fit onto all three pyramids while the third star of Orion’s Belt always missed the third pyramid entirely. Interestingly, Collins also found that Giza appeared to be built to reflect the 2600 B.C. rising of Cygnus to the NE over Heliopolis and the setting of the constellation to the SW NW and that when viewed from Gebel Ghibli, Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus, sets directly into the apex of the Second Pyramid, just one of the many bizarre Cygnus-related alignments currently under investigation by Collins and his team. Furthermore, Cygnus is depicted on the famous Dendera zodiac stone of Egypt; and Collins found that the Great Rift of the Milky Way, a personification of the Egyptian sky-goddess Nut, was seen as the “birthplace” of the sun-god Horus, with whom every pharaoh associated himself in life. Since the 2007 U.S. publication of his book, Collins has found even more evidence linking Cygnus to Giza and ancient Egyptian beliefs. But the important issue in regard to the present article is how the ancient veneration of Cygnus might relate to human evolution.
Because he found so much evidence showing that ancient people saw Cygnus as the origin of the soul, Collins subsequently began researching what space scientists had found about the constellation. What he discovered was either a stunning coincidence or confirmation of what could be one of the most important discoveries ever.
NASA Discovers Cygnus X-3
In 1973, about the same time that Carl Sagan asserted that cosmic rays might have sparked human evolution, a group of international astronomers headed by NASA attempted to observe the activity of an invisible star located in the heart of the Cygnus constellation. That star, called Cygnus X-3,3 was the source of a powerful burst of X-ray activity recorded from that region of the sky in 1972. These early attempts found highly unusual activity coming from the star, but the precise nature and strength of the activity wasn’t apparent until the 1980s. Underground particle accelerators located at several spots around the world began detecting anomalous cosmic ray activity in the early 1980s, and by 1985 one particle detector had identified 60 such anomalous events. NASA researchers have repeatedly confirmed that these cosmic rays come from Cygnus X-3. These bursts had a regular periodicity of precisely 4.79 hours and were found to be neutron particles coming from Cygnus X-3 at close to the speed of light. But because these particles had to penetrate thousands of feet of solid stone to reach the detectors, they were so unique that they were considered to be “exotic and unexplained.” Physicists termed these unique particles, cygnets, meaning “children of the swan.” NASA now continuously monitors Cygnus X-3, and the star is known to be a binary star with what is believed to be a neutron star at its heart. Two jets protrude from the poles of Cygnus X-3, and one of them, the source of the exotic particles, points directly at earth, something unique in this galaxy, for no other stellar body has such an almighty cosmic gun barrel pointing straight towards us. The jets spew out a host of cosmic particles and energy but the exact mechanism remains mysterious. Oddly, in total darkness, cosmic particles are actually visible as flashes of light as they decay in the human retina. Collins speculates that the early cave painters actually watched the decaying particles within the total darkness of the deep caves. But the major evidence between Cygnus and human evolution comes from still another branch of science.
Perhaps the most surprising piece of evidence tying Collins’ theory together comes from over 3000 core samples taken from glacial ice located in Greenland and the arctic. 4, 5, 6, 7 While these cores were initially taken to identify planetary conditions up to 200,000 years ago, scientists found an element in them that led to the ability to measure cosmic ray levels striking the Earth at specific times in the past. Specifically, Beryllium-10 (Be-10) levels within specific ice core layers were found to be measurable and with sufficient samples measuring background radiation levels, the scientists were able to compute cosmic ray activity corresponding to Be-10 levels at specific points in time. Significantly, Cygnus X-3 is specifically mentioned as a primary source of the Be-10 found in the cores. 4
While cosmic rays continually strike the earth, the ice cores show peak periods of activity (two to three times as high as the normal background) at several specific points in time. Some of these time periods are short bursts of activity, while a few others have lasted several thousands of years followed by diminished activity. The most important peaks of cosmic rays uncovered by the ice core scientists are as follows: 190,000, 140,000, 60,000, 40,000, 17,000, 13,000, and 5,000-years ago.
The Development of Modern Man & Correspondence to Ice Core Cosmic Rays
Mainstream science tells us that the first “modern” humans, virtually identical in physical characteristics to us, are thought to have spontaneously appeared (evolved) sometime between 200,000-90,000 years ago in the midst of several other now-extinct branches of the human family tree. This idea is based on limited information obtained from skull and other bone remains with a wealth of supporting information from geneticists. The time frame range of the evolution of modern man (200,000—90,000 years ago) shows some correspondence with the two earliest known cosmic ray level peaks: 190,000 & 140,000 years ago. However, the other dates of high cosmic ray levels are astonishingly close to important advances in human culture:
40,000 Years Ago As mentioned previously, the first cave art is dated now to approximately 34,000 years ago. Thus, some form of adaptive genetic change might have occurred prior to the cave art.
17,000 Years Ago This date perfectly corresponds to the huge flowering of cave art and the development of advanced tools in Europe and elsewhere.
13,000 Years Ago This date corresponds to the earliest known temple sites and larger habitation sites, especially those in Turkey.
5,000 Years Ago Two distinct peaks in cosmic rays occurred during this period, one slightly before and one slightly after this time. This is the accepted time frame of the simultaneous development of cities, agriculture, and writing in several cultures.
Evolutionary Genetics & Cosmic Rays —The Final Link?
In the 1980s, the U.S. Human Genome Project8 was established with the goal of mapping the entire human DNA sequence. It was a daunting project that almost defies common understanding. Almost everyone knows that human DNA is a “double helix” but there is a simple but accurate way to understand it.9 Imagine a very narrow, six-foot-long ladder with 3 billion rungs. Each rung is made up of a pair of different amino acids that snap together. (These two amino acids are called a base pair.) There are only four possible amino acids that can be used to create each rung of two amino acid pairs. The two ends of the ladder are then twisted in opposite directions. As it is twisted, the ladder gradually pulls together into a tightly wound, irregular shaped ball. But the incredibly small area it takes up is infinitesimal. Human brain cells, for example, are about 1/60,000th of an inch in diameter. In the center of each cell, in less than 1/4 of the entire space, is the nucleus of the cell. Virtually all cells in a human body have a nucleus containing a complete, 6-foot long DNA strand. The mapping of human DNA essentially represents a total of six billion amino acids in a linear sequence and the job was virtually completed in 1998. But the identification of the expected and normal amino acid sequences does not mean that we understand the actual function and purpose of each. That is, we know what the amino acids are, but we don’t necessarily know their function or purpose. The completion of that research is a long way down the line. Nevertheless, several relevant findings have been made that directly correspond with the idea that cosmic rays have sparked human evolution.
Human DNA can be altered—or changed—in several ways. The alterations are usually called mutations, but while the term “mutation” typically connotes something negative, some mutations are adaptive and create advances. In short, mutations, it is believed, are the prime cause of evolution. Mutations actually occur fairly frequently and naturally. The purpose of DNA is to provide a template (or blueprint) that can be replicated by RNA and then proteins. The normal rate of small mistakes in the ongoing replication of DNA within the cell happens about once with every 100 million base pairs of DNA. But incredibly, human cells have a repair mechanism that recognizes such mistakes and it nearly always switches the inaccurate base pairs back to the correct ones. But the natural rate of such mutations is known and has been used to assess mutations caused by something other than natural replication mistakes. Of more relevance is what geneticists call “point mutations,” where an amino acid incorrectly replaces the amino acid that should be there because of an external cause. A number of environmental factors can cause such mutations; however, radiation, including cosmic rays, are a major source of such mutations.
The advances in the Human Genome Project created a new branch of science that traces human evolution via genetic changes. This research has taken advantage of identifying and tracing human genetic problems. The exact methods employed are too complex for this article, but basically the normal form of each gene is compared to the genes of individuals with specific disorders. When the incorrect amino acid sequences are consistently found in people with a specific disorder, it identifies the genetic source of the disorder. Geneticists can then work backward and find out when the gene first mutated. For example, the first evolutionary gene identified has now been traced back to a mutation that occurred sometime between 100,000 years ago to perhaps only 10,000 years ago.
Evolution is now thought to have been a noncontinuous series of events with several sudden leaps and dead ends followed by more mutations and more changes. Some lineages died off and others simply continued unchanged until entire lineages died off. Rather than human history being what we have been taught—a continuous sort of advance, step-by-step—it was a series of sudden starts and sudden stops with countless rises and falls. When a sufficient number of humans with the adaptive mutations survived and multiplied, the advances caused by adaptive mutations stuck. But when too few people had the adaptive mutations, their lineage simply became extinct and humanity simply awaited the next mutation. It is interesting to understand that many free thinkers, such as Carl Sagan, could see the possibility of human evolution linked to the stars in such a unique way.
While evolutionary genetics remains in its infancy and the levels of ancient cosmic rays continues to be refined with ongoing research, several things appear clear with Collins’ speculations. First, levels of cosmic rays striking the earth—especially the cosmic rays coming from Cygnus—appear to show definite correspondence to leaps in human evolution. It is known that cosmic rays alter human DNA, but it’s probable that we can never know for certain if the Cygnus cosmic rays were directly responsible for the specific adaptive mutations mentioned. More research in evolutionary genetics may clarify the correspondence between the two. Next, Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus, was the pole star 17,000 years ago and was in an obvious location as a point of veneration. But Cygnus’ importance in the ancient world appears to be more than simple veneration of the north. It was depicted in ancient cave art and was consistently seen as the portal to the sky world. In his book, Collins relates how and why he believes the ancients came to be aware that Cygnus was somehow very important to humanity. But the fact that numerous ancient ritual sites align to Cygnus, thousands of years after Deneb ceased to be the pole star, shows that Cygnus retained its importance. Somehow, the ancients seemed to know that something from Cygnus had a direct effect on them.
What Collins has uncovered and pieced together in The Cygnus Mystery is a masterful and brilliant theory. It requires a serious look at ancient Egyptian ideology and revising the widely held belief about Orion’s Belt. In sum, if what Collins has uncovered is nothing but a series of coincidences, it is one of the most remarkable coincidences ever found. But if what Collins has found is correct, he may have solved one of the great mysteries of our time. Cygnus may well have been the ultimate inspiration for many of humanity’s most impressive developments and literally the source of humanness—as the ancients appear to have known.