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Science fiction dressed up as history
Jan 31, 2013


I’ve often wondered why the TV program Ancient Aliens is being shown on the History Channel. What do such tall tales of extraterrestrials allegedly visiting earth and giving the Egyptians and Mayans the technological know-how to build pyramids have to do with history.
The short answer is nothing, but for some fanciful reason there are still people out there using their vacuous brains to concoct such tripe, and a so-called history channel is willing to give them a platform to perpetrate these outlandish flights of fancy to a gullible audience. Are the gullible mesmerized by alleged experts, proponents of alien visitations, suffering from a bad case of other-worldy leaps of faith?  Are they mesmerized by the continual and farcical references to the impossibility of inventive humans arising to the occasion and creating massive structures on a grand scale?
Whatever the reason for the fascination with aliens teaching already crafty humans to build pyramids, such programs do not belong on a TV channel devoted to “history.” Where these programs belong is on some sci-fi network, along with the likes of Star Trek or Star Wars, which everyone realizes — or should realize — are pure fiction.
A January 19 Ohio Archaeology Blog article reported on archaeologist Dr. Ken Feder, who made a presentation at the SunWatch Indian Village Museum, “gleefully” eviscerating “the so-called evidence and arguments offered in support of the claims that aliens have visited Earth in antiquity ...
“Ken argues that the ancient astronaut theory, as popularized originally by Erich von Daniken and now by the History Channel’s program, Ancient Aliens, actually includes three separate hypotheses all of which are transparently ludicrous or thoroughly falsified — or indeed both.”  The three hypotheses involve “amorous astronauts,” the “inkblot,” and “our ancestors were dummies.” 
As a university student, I took classes in archaeology, anthropology and history, with an emphasis on the latter. Through my studies, I came to realize how inventive ancient civilizations were and how they arrived at ingenious — more often than not simple — solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems, such as how to construct a pyramid in Egypt. Pyramid building on the Giza plateau in Egypt didn’t suddenly appear out of the blue. Instead, it evolved over time from the basic design of a mastaba, a one-storey rectangular burial structure. Imhotep, an official and architect in 27th-century BC Egypt, first conceived of the idea to put one mastaba on top of another and so on until he eventually came up with the Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser) at Saqqara. Subsequent pyramids had the steps filled in with stone blocks to create the true pyramids found at Giza. The process didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t result from some alien visitor telling Imhotep how to build a step pyramid or any other structure for that matter. 
I did read von Daniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods, while at university and marvelled at how illogical his supposed proof appeared. Just because someone is wearing a helmet with some object, such as antlers, protruding from the top  in an ancient rock painting (inkblot hypothesis), doesn’t signal the presence of an alien astronaut. Nor does the depiction of a  helmeted figure in a seated position carved on the lid of a stone sarcophagus mean that it’s an ancient astronaut about to blast off into space. It should be noted that Mayan royalty, priests and palace officials are constantly shown wearing head coverings adorned with feathers or other objects as symbols of their rank and position in society — they were not, nor were they the descendents of, ancient astronauts. 
Feder refutes that our ancient ancestors were dummies, as maintained by the so-called ancient astronaut hypothesis. Under this assertion, the Egyptians could not have built the pyramids without the help of ancient aliens. He called such a claim “insulting to all human beings,” as it’s based on a racist element. The Romans could build  their Colosseum and the Greeks their Parthenon without the help of aliens, but non-Europeans could not build on a monumental scale without the intervention of spacemen.
In the case of the pyramids at Giza, including Khufu’s Great Pyramid (c.2530 BC), archaeological evidence exists to dispel such claims. That men and women built the pyramids is shown by the discovery of the two towns they inhabited at Giza, the quarries they used to obtain the stone blocks and the stone and copper tools they used to cut out the stone. 
The bodies found in adjacent graves show injuries that resulted from the hard labour of pulling, pushing, and levering heavy stone blocks of limestone and granite. Degenerative arthritis occurred in the vertebral column, particularly in the lumbar region, and in the knees. The level of medical care was high. Evidence of brain surgery was found in one man, others had broken hands treated by binding. One workman had his leg amputated and lived for another 14 years (About Egyptian Pyramids, by Marie Parsons).
Tomb paintings provide evidence of some of the techniques used, including the transportation of heavy granite blocks on barges from many kilometres distance. Stones were not levitated into place with anti-gravity guns provided by ancient aliens, but were pushed and pulled using ropes and wooden sleds over ramps (examples of ramps have been found). The gangs of workers were freemen — not slaves as portrayed in many movies — who willingly served the divine pharoah (who was not an astronaut, although he wanted to rise into the night sky to take his place among the gods after his death, which was a religious belief, not evidence of an extraterrestrial being presiding on Earth) by helping to build his pyramid.
The workers were well taken care of  and received  a daily ration of beer from the village’s brewery and bread from its bakery, as well as fish, duck, beef, lamb and goat meat.
The ancient Egyptians were also adept labour organizers and managers. Pyramid workers were organized into crews, gangs and other smaller labour groups with names such as “Friends of Khufu” and “Drunkards of Menkaure.” The Great Pyramid was built by approximately 4,000 primary labourers (quarry workers, haulers and masons). They would have been supported by up to 20,000 secondary workers (ramp builders, tool-makers, mortar mixers and those providing back-up services such as supplying food, clothing and fuel). This gives a total of 20,000 to 25,000, labouring for 20 years or more (BBC, The Private Lives of the Pyramid-builders, by Dr Joyce Tyldesley).
Anyone accepting the ridiculous assertions made on Ancient Aliens and other programs of its ilk are experiencing an unhealthy case of blockage of their brain’s neural receptors. It’s not history, it’s science fiction, no matter how it’s dressed up for public presentation.