Over the years, History Channel show Ancient Aliens has become the butt of a lot of jokes. Poor Giorgio A. Tsoukalos is a meme that just won’t go away. But early on in the existence of the show, Ancient Aliens actually made some pretty good points and re-sparked an interest in the eternal question: Does extraterrestrial life actually exist?
NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey discovered reservoirs of ice resting beneath Mars’ surface, suggesting the planet can sustain life. Then in 2008, the Vatican acknowledged that life on other planets is possible, and declared that the discovery of extraterrestrials would not negate the existence of God.
Chariots of the Gods?, the 1968 book by Swiss author Erich von Däniken, attempted to prove that aliens had visited Earth thousands of years ago. Von Däniken noted that major religions revolve around a story of a heavenly figure visiting Earth, and argued that aliens visited ancient civilizations that welcomed them as gods. One year after the book’s publication, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and reignited America’s interest in outer space and aliens. Von Däniken’s theory that ancient gods were actually alien visitors is still highly contested.
While Ancient Aliens’ claims don’t offer proof of extraterrestrials, the show certainly presents some plausible explanations for otherwise unexplainable events. So, was Ancient Aliens right? Who knows – but here’s a list of their theories that make some sense. The truth is out there, but you’ll have to decide if they found it.
• Archaeologists Have Discovered Ancient Alien Astronaut Artifacts
Photo: Lapavaestacaliente / Wikimedia Commons / CC 1.0
What They Said: Ancient artifacts discovered all around the globe depict ancient alien astronaut technology.
Why It Makes Sense: In Colombia, archaeologists uncovered tomb artifacts that resemble modern-day airplanes, complete with fixed wings, an upright tail fin, and a fuselage. The Istanbul Museum hosted a sculpture that looked like a headless astronaut in a space suit sitting inside a rocket ship covered in tubes; author Zecharia Sitchin, pictured above, argued the sculpture was ancient. Where could ancient cultures get such advanced ideas about aerodynamics? Ancient Aliens theorizes that these artifacts are documentation of visits from extraterrestrials.
• • Many Religions Have Stories Of Flying Machines Descending From The Heavens
Photo: T.K. Ellappa / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: Christianity isn’t the only religion that depicts extraterrestrial visitation. As a matter of fact, almost every major religion in the world has a similar story.
Why It Makes Sense: The story is the same, but the names are always different: A deity descends from the heavens, communicates with the culture, and disappears with a promise to return in the distant future. Sanskrit writings dating back over 5,000 years describe Vimānas, or mythical flying machines, that are over 100 feet wide and move much like modern aircraft.
• • The Geoglyphs Of Nazca Were Created To Attract Extraterrestrials
Photo: Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: The Nazca Lines were created to attract extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: The Nazca Desert in Peru is home to an arid plateau that stretches more than 50 miles. It is covered in countless geometric patterns and figures known as the Nazca Lines.
Archaeologists believe they were formed between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The patterns include clear images of fish, monkeys, spiders, and even humanoids, as well as dozens of long, straight lines.
These clearly man-made designs are only recognizable from high above. Ancient Aliens theorizes they’re signals to extraterrestrials.
• • The Nazca Lines Were A Man-Made Ancient Alien Runway
Photo: ilikerender / Flickr / CC 2.0
What They Said: The Nazca Lines were a man-made ancient alien runway.
Why It Makes Sense: Nazca, Peru, has been heavily researched because of its compelling man-made landscapes. The desert has long, flat stripes that go on for miles across mountains and valleys, resembling an airport landing strip. How could a primitive civilization alter the landscape so drastically, and why?
These questions remain unanswered to this day, which is why the Nazca Lines are such a renowned mystery.
• • The Antikythera Mechanism Is An Ancient Extraterrestrial Computer
Photo: Mogi Vicentini / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0
What They Said: The mysterious Antikythera mechanism is an ancient extraterrestrial computer.
Why It Makes Sense: In 1901, scuba divers off the coast of Antikythera discovered a strange box among a shipwreck. Nearly 50 years later, after X-raying the box, a team of scientists discovered it contained a complex clockwork mechanism made up of over 30 bronze gears. Scientists believe it was created between 205 BCE and 60 BCE, and that it tracked the locations of the moon and sun through the solar system.
Ancient Aliens theorizes that such an advanced computer-like device could not be created with the era’s technology, and that it must have extraterrestrial ties.
• • The Bible References Extraterrestrial Visits
Photo: Copy by unknown artist after illustration by Matthaeus (Matthäus) Merian the elder (1593-1650) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: Ancient cultures interpreted extraterrestrials and their devices as gods or the work of gods.
Why It Makes Sense: The Book of Ezekiel states that creatures with four wings and as many faces – the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle – visited Earth. A device that looked like a wheel intersecting another wheel accompanied each creature. The Old Testament contains other accounts of visits by God or his angels.
Ancient Aliens theorizes that these accounts are descriptions of past visits from extraterrestrials. Primitive civilizations thought World War II war planes were holy figures descending from the sky, as the cultures couldn’t explain such advanced technology, so ancient civilizations might have had similar reactions to extraterrestrials.
• • Extraterrestrials Abducted Biblical Figure Enoch
Photo: Illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: Extraterrestrials abducted Enoch, an ancestor of Noah.
Why It Makes Sense: The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden contains the Second Book of Enoch, which details Enoch’s ascension through the 10 heavens. Ancient Aliens theorizes that this is a first-hand account of an abduction.
• • Aliens Taught The Ancient Egyptians The Secrets Of Electricity
What They Said: Aliens taught ancient Egyptians about electricity.
Why It Makes Sense: Most archaeologists believe ancient Egyptians used torches to light the insides of their tombs, but Ancient Aliens theorizes that the Dendera Temple complex actually shows evidence that ancient Egyptians lit their tombs with lightbulbs. Glyphs at the site even depict a bulb-like device with a filament.
According to the theory, aliens gifted electricity to ancient Egyptians, who stored it at Dendera and treated it as a closely held secret. The discoveries of Baghdad Batteries in Iraq support the theory, explaining how ancient Egyptians could have generated charges for the lights. How could they have discovered this technology on their own?
• • Different Ancient Cultures Made Illustrations Of Ancient Astronauts
Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: Many early cultures around the world made illustrations depicting ancient alien astronauts.
Why It Makes Sense: Ancient cave drawings all around the world depict figures dressed in strange attire with unusual headgear. Ancient Aliens argues many of these are illustrations of extraterrestrials who visited Earth thousands of years ago. Petroglyphs in Utah depict strange creatures with helmets and antennae. Halfway around the globe, northwestern Australia offers similar illustrations, as do countless other locations.
What could have driven all these ancient civilizations to draw such beings?
• • Extraterrestrials Created The Piri Reis Map
Photo: Piri Reis/Library of Topkapi Palace Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
What They Said: The Piri Reis map was created with the assistance of extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: In 1929, historians discovered a map painted onto an animal hide. The map belonged to a 16th-century Turkish admiral named Piri Reis. It appears to depict the coast of Antarctica, without its ice cap, before the widely accepted date of the land mass’s discovery.
How could ancient cartographers have created this map without assistance from advanced technologies?
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• Pacal The Great Was An Extraterrestrial
Photo: Havelbaude / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0
What They Said: Pacal the Great, ruler of the Maya city-state of Palenque, was an extraterrestrial.
Why It Makes Sense: After Pacal the Great’s 68-year reign, his people buried him in the Temple of Inscriptions. Ancient Aliens theorizes that the carvings on the lid of his sarcophagus depict Pacal’s ascension into space in a rocket-shaped spacecraft, with a mask over his nose.
Where did the Mayas get the ideas for these carvings?
• • Extraterrestrials Created The Pyramids Of Giza
Photo: Nina / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0
What They Said: The Giza pyramid complex was created with the assistance of extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: It took 2.5 million limestone and granite rocks to build the Great Pyramid. Egyptologists believe it was completed around 2560 BCE after a period of 10 to 20 years. However, according to Tsoukalos, many modern engineers don’t believe we could re-create the Great Pyramid that quickly today.
Ancient Aliens theorizes that the Egyptians were assisted by extraterrestrials.
• • The Mayas Were Extraterrestrials
Photo: Unknown/Rama / Wikimedia Commons / CC 2.0
What They Said: The Mayas were extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: The Mayas developed a calendar, a mathematical system, and a language that were all remarkably advanced, and the people were obsessed with the stars. Mayas then mysteriously vanished around 500 CE. Ancient Aliens theorizes that the Mayas were actually extraterrestrials who simply decided to leave Earth at that time.
• • Extraterrestrials Built Teotihuacan
Photo: Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0
What They Said: The Teotihuacan pyramids were built with the assistance of extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: The ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan is home to some of the world’s most remarkable pyramids. Teotihuacan literally means “City of the Gods,” though the city’s true name is up for debate. In the center of the town sits the Pyramid of the Sun, which bears many similarities to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Ancient Aliens theorizes that an extraterrestrial life-form taught ancient Egyptians and the people of Teotihuacan the same pyramid-building skills.
• • Extraterrestrials Built Stonehenge
Photo: garethwiscombe / Flickr / CC 2.0
What They Said: Stonehenge was built by extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: Comprised of nearly 100 visible stones – some of them forming arches – Stonehenge in England was apparently built to last for thousands of years. However, the origins of Stonehenge are still unknown. There is little to no documented evidence of Stonehenge’s creation, and yet, one can find remarkably similar stone arches 3,000 miles away in the archaeological site of Tiwanaku, Bolivia. Ancient Aliens claims this is evidence that extraterrestrials assisted with both structures.
• • Extraterrestrials Caused The Devastation Of Pumapunku
Photo: Janikorpi / Wikimedia Commons / CC 3.0
What They Said: The great stone structures of Pumapunku were created and destroyed by extraterrestrials.
Why It Makes Sense: Pumapunku hosts a field of demolished megalithic structures built by the Aymaras. No one knows why these structures existed. The nearest quarry is over 10 miles away, some of the stones used in the structures weighed more than 100 tons, and the stones were cut with remarkable precision. Ancient Aliens theorizes that Aymaras made the megaliths with extraterrestrial technology