What is Ancient Astronaut Theory?

Ancient Astronaut Theory (AAT) is the hypothesis that before first human recorded history, Earth was visited by intelligent extraterrestrial beings, and this contact is linked to the origins or development of human cultures, technologies, and religions. This theory suggests that gods from most — if not all — religions are actually extraterrestrial beings, and their technologies were mistaken for the influence of divine entities by primitive man. These ideas are generally dismissed and criticized by many in the mainstream scientific community.

AAT is a concept which serves to support the fantastic nature of many legends and mythologies we have today. The theme is that of a person who comes from the “sky” as a god, or as the archetype of a “civilizing hero” who brings knowledge to mankind. Prometheus is the best-known Western example. In Native American lore there are numerous examples, including Quetzalcoatl of the Aztecs and Viracocha of the Incas.

It is well known that mysteries and gaps exist in historical and archaeological records, and there is also an absence of definitive explanations in certain contexts from the archaeological sciences. There are various archaeological artifacts which are out of place (OOP) and beyond the presumed technical capabilities of the historical cultures they are associated with. Also, there are depictions in certain ancient artworks that could be representations of actual extraterrestrial visitors as realised by the contacted cultures.

The cross-cultural similarities of deities coming from the heavens and the manner in which they speak to humans are described as evidence of visitations by extraterrestrial beings who, with the aid of their technology, were free to roam the Earth and exert their will at a time when mankind was limited to a neolithic existence. The myths of gods and godesses are real accounts of these visitations. The extraterrestrials are divine due to their technology, which is superior to the point it can only be explained as the “powers” or magic of the god or goddess are seen by the humans as deity.

AAT presents the concept that humans are at least partially descended from or at most genetic creations of beings who visited Earth millennia ago. Much of human knowledge, religion and culture came from extraterrestrial visitors in ancient times.

Some notable contributors to the theory are the following:

  • Erich von Däniken is a key founder of this theory in the late 1960s and early 1970s, gaining a large audience through the 1968 publication of his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods and its sequels.
  • Zecharia Sitchin is a notable contributor to this theory, writing the book series The Earth Chronicles, beginning with The 12th Planet. He theorizes that the gods of old Mesopotamia were actually astronauts from the planet Nibiru, which the Sumerians believed to be associated with the god Marduk.
  • Robert K. G. Temple’s 1976 book, The Sirius Mystery presents a case that the Dogon people of northwestern Mali preserved an ancient account of extraterrestrial visitation around 5,000 years ago.

AAT may be considered a subset of paleocontact theory, a hypothesis that intelligent extraterrestrials have visited Earth. Carl Sagan, Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskii, and Hermann Oberth are three notable scientists who have seriously considered this possibility.

Earlier (legendary) sources — while generally not referencing ancient astronauts per se — suggest the creation of some monuments was beyond human means, such as Saxo Grammaticus’ suggestion that giants had created Denmark’s massive dolmens, or in tales that Merlin had assembled Stonehenge via magic.

Others find themselves in accidental support of AAT due to correlation with their own theories. These groups include Theosophists, Raelians, Scifi authors and occasionally a conventional archaeologist.

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