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Ancient Aliens

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The woo is out there
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Aliens did it...
...and ran away
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How it didn't happen
Ancient Aliens is some of the most noxious sludge in television's bottomless chum bucket. Actual experts are brought in to deliver sound bites that are twisted and taken out of context while fanatics are given free reign[sic]. Fiction is presented as fact, and real scientific research is so grossly misrepresented that I can only conclude that the program is actively lying to viewers. To present the show as a documentary, on a non-fiction network, is a loathsome move by the History Channel spinoff.
—Brian Switek[1]

Ancient Aliens is a "documentary" series on the History Channel which premiered in April of 2010. The History Channel also screened a two-hour documentary of the same name in 2009.

Unsurprisingly – given that Ancient Aliens is just a rehash of ancient astronauts crankery, courtesy of Erich von Däniken – Däniken himself appears frequently in most episodes.

Ancient Aliens now airs about every other minute, even outshining Pawn Stars in network executive love.[2]

Ancient Alien Theory[edit]

Re-branded as the Ancient Alien Theory, abusing the word theory in the process, von Däniken and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos set out to show how humanity achieved very little without the assistance of aliens. While it could be more accurately be described as the Ancient Alien Hypothesis, it could be even more accurately described as the Ancient Alien Ass-pull.

The History Channel describes the "theory" as such:

Ancient Aliens explores the controversial theory that extraterrestrials have visited Earth for millions of years. From the age of the dinosaurs to ancient Egypt, from early cave drawings to continued mass sightings in the US, each episode in this hit HISTORY series gives historic depth to the questions, speculations, provocative controversies, first-hand accounts and grounded theories surrounding this age old debate. Did intelligent beings from outer space visit Earth thousands of years ago?[3]

This description is deceptive. The series is not interested in debating evidence for and against extraterrestrial visitation. It firmly believes that intelligent beings from outer space have indeed visited Earth thousands of years ago and further posits they did so multiple times and had a huge impact on human development. In the process of preaching this pseudohistory, the History Channel ignores real history.

There is a slow progression of technologies stretching back over much of human history and prehistory, none of which seems to have been "sparked" by some sudden influx of previously unknown technology or knowledge.

The process of toolmaking, for instance, has progressed from simply using available "found objects" to make obtaining food easier (throwing rocks, using wood as cudgels) through altering them crudely to make them more effective—flint knapping, sharpening relatively straight and strong bits of wood to the point of making spears, etc. The history of stone tools has been traced back for 2.6 million years.[4] It's hard to trace the history of wooden tools because they rot and don't fossilize, but chimpanzees have been observed making wooden tools and weapons, so human tool use probably didn't require any sudden mental increase or other revelation.[5] The gradual discovery of metals and ways to work them into implements has no obvious "aliens landed and told us to dig iron ore and smelt it into high-grade steel" moment; each advance is marked by incremental progress from manipulating gold, which doesn't even require heat to be workable, to the exploitation of copper and tin, to those requiring higher temperatures and more specialised tools.[6]

We invented the wheel, probably many times, and continue to reinvent it at simple levels when needed. Early wheels were probably used for making pottery and later adapted to chariots; this doesn't suggest a lightning bolt moment of discovery but a gradual process of experimentation and adaptation.[7] We captured fire, and eventually not only tamed it but learned to produce and control it.

We domesticated plants and animals, simple step by simple step, from basic seed-gathering and planting (which almost by accident results in the best seeds falling to earth near where people live, after plants are gathered and brought there to eat), through selective breeding for desirable traits, to the point where we now literally alter the genetic structure of living organisms for our convenience.

We slowly learned basic hygiene and healing arts, resulting in our eventual understanding of how diseases propagate and the ability to perform microsurgery to save or extend lives. No step shows any particular need for space aliens to move us ahead.

We developed means of written communication, from what was probably the work of braggers on cave walls, through simple pictographs, to abstract symbolic representation of spoken languages, enabling us to share more and more of what we have learned about our planet and our universe, more rapidly and more effectively with every improvement.

We developed many ways to communicate with other humans at long distances, from smoke signals, to telegraph lines, cell phones and the Internet without the help of aliens. We created mass media to spread ideas worldwide.

We developed morality as a way to remind us to treat everyone equally and with respect. We also created religion to try to explain some of the hard-to-answer questions in life, and to reinforce the agricultural, hunting, tool-making, and hygienic practices we created.[note 1] These ideas helped humans to live and work together in groups, from bands of hunters and gatherers, to vast civilizations and metropolises. This came without the help of aliens. Also, out of morality came basic human rights, which we use to try to ensure justice around the world.

We developed a means of transportation to get from one place to another, from traveling on foot, to riding horses, cars, boats, planes, and spacecraft. We even went to the Moon without alien advice or intervention (despite all claims to the contrary).

We found out that we can use tools and special technology to predict the weather and when (some) natural disasters would happen, which has helped save thousands of lives around the world. We also had ways to prevent man-made disasters and violence by creating laws to prevent environmental abuse and peace treaties to prevent wars with other countries.

So, did intelligent beings from outer space visit Earth thousands of years ago? In short: No!

Episode guide[edit]

As the show recycles a lot of material already in circulation by various "researchers", it's no wonder that RationalWiki already covers some of the claims.

Pilot and Season 1[edit]

  1. Ancient Aliens: Chariots, Gods & Beyond (March 2009) was the original stand-alone "TV special". It's considered the pilot episode of the series (number 0 in the official episode numbering).
  2. The Evidence (April 2010) was the first episode of the series proper.
  3. The Visitors (April 2010) among other things repeats the story about the Dogon people's alleged advanced astronomical knowledge about Sirius and claims that the Hopi's Kachina were aliens.
  4. The Mission (May 2010) tries to answer the pertinent question, "Why would aliens come to Earth?". Mentioned are the Anunnaki (shameless gold-diggers!), cattle mutilations, crop circles and crystal skulls.
  5. Closer Encounters (May 2010) interprets various historical texts as UFO sightings. Apparently, Christopher Columbus reported lights in the sky, interpreted as alien spacecraft…
  6. The Return (May 2010) crosses from just asking questions about "paleocontact" into pure modern UFOnuttery about Roswell and the Battle of Los Angeles and speculations about what a modern contact would look like. The SETI project gets covered.

Season 2[edit]

  1. Mysterious Places (October 2010) deals with various alleged UFO hotspots, such as the Bermuda triangle. Quick, someone alert X-COM! Scramble the Interceptors!
  2. Gods and Aliens (November 2010) repeats the staple claim that various legends about gods giving stuff to humans were inspired by alien visitations.
  3. Underwater Worlds (November 2010) deals with various "sunken cities", essentially recycling alleged evidence for the Atlantis/Lemuria/Mu mythos in the "ancient astronaut" context. By the way, this is a pattern that repeats in the AA literature: previous writings explaining various "mysteries" with Atlantis and ancient advanced civilizations get re-purposed as evidence for ancient contact with advanced aliens.
  4. Underground Aliens (November 2010) is another mash-up, with tales of various old subterranean places and myths of underground beings getting spliced with the Dulce base conspiracy theory. Base assaults are a pain in the ass, so it's understandable why X-COM are taking their time with that one...
  5. Aliens and the Third Reich (November 2010) claims that Nazi Germany reverse-engineered alien technology to create Nazi UFOs. The Second World War is definitely not ancient history, but again, the show airs on The Hitler Channel
  6. Alien Tech (December 2010) deals with alleged descriptions of ancient uses of advanced technology, as well as the usual "humans couldn't have done X without outside help, therefore aliensdidit." Oh, and David Hatcher Childress gets to describe in detail how the army of Alexander the Great was dive-bombed by flying saucers (which didn't happen — the story is a modern fabrication[8])
  7. Angels and Aliens (December 2010) is exactly what its title says: various accounts of angel apparitions are actually due to extraterrestrial visitations, not superstition and religious fanaticism.
  8. Unexplained Structures (December 2010) once again tries to explain various ancient archaeological sites with alien interference.
  9. Alien Devastations (December 2010) deals with disasters described in the Bible and other ancient texts, including the Biblical story of the Great Flood and Noah. As you can guess: aliensdidit.
  10. Alien Contacts (December 2010) claims that various mythical and historical figures, including Moses and Joan of Arc, were contactees. The Rendlesham Forest incidentWikipedia is thrown in for good measure, providing again a mash-up of speculative pseudo-history and modern UFO-nuttery.

Season 3[edit]

Also known as the "Aliens and X" season.

  1. Aliens and the Old West (July 2011) shamelessly uses the Cowboys & Aliens movie as a intro to a mixed bag of "Old West" stories interpreted as evidence for alien visitation. Guys, one can get why you would think that Native American myths were relevant, but the 1800s are not "ancient" in any sensible meaning of the word. It takes about a half an hour to get to something actually having to do with the old west.
  2. Aliens and Monsters (August 2011) in one sentence: every hybrid animal in every mythology ever is evidence for ancient alien genetic engineering. This is another old theme among AA advocates.
  3. Aliens and Sacred Places (August 2011) sets out to piss off most devout members of all three Abrahamic religions by claiming that the holy sites in Jerusalem and the Kaaba mark the places of alien visitation. The list includes also the Ajanta CavesWikipedia in India, the monolithic rock-cut churches of LalibelaWikipedia in Ethiopia and the temple in BaalbekWikipedia in Lebanon, another persistent meme in ancient advanced civilizations/ancient aliens writings.
  4. Aliens and Temples of Gold (August 2011) claims that aliens apparently love gold even more than humans do (well, it doesn't say it directly, but…). In addition to the usual stuff about ancient gold-working civilizations, European alchemy, the philosopher's stone and the Holy Grail are thrown into the mix.
  5. Aliens and Mysterious Rituals (August 2011) returns to reinterpreting various religious practices and rituals as evidence for contact with aliens. Do not watch if you are an ethnographer, Native American sick of European-Americans talking shit about your culture, amateur or professional medievalist, devout Catholic or… pagan (Beltane will never be the same…)
  6. Aliens and Ancient Engineers (September 2011) plays the "humans couldn't have built that" riff yet again.
  7. Aliens, Plagues and Epidemics (September 2011) blames extraterrestrial pathogens for pretty much every major pandemic in recorded history, including the medieval plague and the Spanish influenza epidemic during WWI. This turns into another crossover with modern woo, this time by mentioning Morgellons disease.
  8. Aliens and Lost Worlds (September 2011) claims that various ancient civilizations were ruled by aliens. Among the purported evidence are the statues on Easter Island, skull deformation and the Garden of Eden story.
  9. Aliens and Deadly Weapons (September 2011) turns up the "humans are dumb" vibe to 11. King Arthur's Excalibur? Alien power sword. Various other mythical weapons? a) Totally existed, b) were created by aliens. Greek fire? Gift by aliens. Chinese gunpowder? Aliens.
  10. Aliens and Evil Places (September 2011) is another attempt to shoehorn a grab-bag of "mysteries" into the ancient aliens "theory". Covered are the Japanese "suicide forest" Aokigahara, the Dyatlov Pass incident (complete with an overblown account), and some other creepy places.
  11. Aliens and The Founding Fathers (October 2011) gives a new meaning to "American exceptionalism", covering the Washington, D.C. street design conspiracy theory.
  12. Aliens and Deadly Cults (October 2011) demonstrates a perverse circularity: it tries to draw a connection between "death cults" and aliens by using the Heaven's Gate cult suicides, a tragedy grounded in a large part by the same type of credulity and misinformation shows like Ancient Aliens help to spread.
  13. Aliens and the Secret Code (October 2011) tells bare-faced lies about geographical alignments in an attempt to convince us that medieval Scandinavian settlers knew all about Egyptian pyramids.
  14. Aliens and the Undead (October 2011) is exactly what it says: mummies, zombies and vampires, therefore ALIENS!
  15. Aliens, Gods and Heroes (November 2011)
  16. Aliens and the Creation of Man (November 2011) make it stop

Season 4[edit]

By now, the standard talking points of AA advocates have been mostly exhausted, so the desperate scrambling for original material is producing increasingly silly results…

  1. The Mayan Conspiracy (February 2012) looks at examples of Mayan art and finds lots of pictures of aliens
  2. The Doomsday Prophecies (February 2012) jumps on the 2012 prophecy bandwagon. To be fair, AAers wrote shit about the Mesoamerican long-count calendar before the current wave and may have been partially responsible for it.
  3. The Greys (February 2012) are those Greys, yes. Remind me, am I watching Ancient Aliens or The X-Files?
  4. Aliens and Mega-Disasters (March 2012) blames aliens for the Great Flood and suggests UFOs in volcanoes destroyed other civilisations.[9]
  5. The NASA Connection (March 2012) is yet another attempt to shoehorn existing conspiracy theories into the AA narrative. Claims that NASA was founded by Nazis, which is as demonstrably untrue as most else that Mike Bara claims.
  6. The Mystery of Puma Punku (March 2012) returns to the classic approach to AA and focuses on an ancient megalithic ruin, Puma Punku in Bolivia. It would make sense to make similar episodes about the places covered in the previous seasons, but sense seems to be in short supply, as this was followed by…
  7. Aliens and Bigfoot (March 2012) is exactly what it sounds like, sprinkled with some AA classics about various mythical figures (Goliath, the Nephilim, Enkidu) being human-alien hybrids.
  8. The Da Vinci Conspiracy (April 2012) gets on Dan Brown's turf. Leonardo was a genius ahead of his time? He had contact with aliens!
  9. The Time Travelers (April 2012) is yet another exercise in "let's rip off another form of woo as evidence for ours", this time — the "time traveler hypothesis" in ufology, which claims that UFOs are time machines from Earth's future instead of alien spaceships.
  10. Aliens and Dinosaurs (May 2012) strays into YEC territory by speculating about human-dinosaur coexistence. Mentioned are the Angkor Wat dinosaur, the Ica stones and the Paluxy River tracks. Oh, and aliens wiped out the dinosaurs.

Season 5[edit]

  1. Secrets of the Pyramids (December 2012) travels the world looking at pyramids, which are clear evidence of aliens one of the best ways of heaping stones on top of each other without them falling down. Also suggests the Chinese have hidden pyramids, pyramids are really alien power plants, and much more nonsense.[10]
  2. Aliens and Cover Ups (December 2012) investigates why we don't all know about the crucial role aliens played in our past
  3. Alien Power Plants (January 2013) because ancient people needed alien power sources to do anything
  4. Destination Orion (January 2013) suggests ancient civilizations were mysteriously fascinated with the large, bright, and distinctive constellation Orion
  5. The Einstein Factor (January 2013) in which Albert Einstein and other people got their ideas from aliens rather than by synthesizing and building upon the theories of earlier thinkers as science actually works
  6. Secrets of the Tombs (January 2013) which just for a change discusses ancient Egypt, as well as other familiar topics
  7. Prophets and Prophesies (February 2013) discussing Joseph Smith of Mormonism and Elijah off of the Bible, amongst other prophets.[11]
  8. Beyond Nazca (February 2013)
  9. Strange Abductions (February 2013) discussing Travis Walton, supposedly abducted by aliens in 1975.[12]
  10. The Von Daniken Legacy (April 2013) The ancient alien team practically just start having sex with Erich Von Däniken right there on the spot, just some straight up good ol' fashion jerking.
  11. The Viking Gods (April 2013), because Vikings saw aliens too. A lame attempt to cash in on History Channel actually getting viewers from an actual history related show.
  12. The Monoliths (April 2013) Easter Island etc

Season 6[edit]

  1. The Power of Three (September 2013) The episode which doubles as an attempt to cash in on their New Age fanbase by attempting Numerology In this case finding the number 3 everywhere, which of course means aliens.
  2. The Crystal Skulls (October 2013) The team of great minds discusses the fake hoax skulls made by a woman to promote a bo- I mean the secret codes to unlock super knowledge!
  3. The Anunnaki Connection (October 2013) features, you guessed it, the Anunnaki, with claims that they gave the Sumerians science and technology and that PuabiWikipedia was actually part Anunnaki. Featuring an appearance from the conehead skulls (who are, yes, pinned as Anunnaki)! [13]
  4. Magic of the Gods (October 2013) asserts that magic is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced alien technology. Also, Merlin in the King Arthur legends was actually half-extraterrestrial, and Harry Houdini had supernatural powers (the irony...) [14]
  5. The Satan Conspiracy (October 2013) argues that Satan isn't some evil angel, just a misunderstood extraterrestrial. [15]
  6. Alien Operations (November 2013) is about, not alien anal probing (if anything, it's about pulling stuff out, rather than pushing things in), but the same spiel that stories in mythology were alien encounters, this time in the form of "Legends say the gods gave us medicine, and the gods were actually aliens, so we got medicine from aliens!" The Ica stones are featured, as does an attempt to use argument from first cause to prove the existence of God extraterrestrials.[16]
  7. Emperors, Kings and Pharaohs (November 2013) flirts with conspiracy theories about Reptilians running the government by claiming that various world rulers from both ancient and modern history were part alien. Also, Odin's horse Sleipnir was actually a sweet starship.[17]
  8. Mysterious Relics (November 2013)
  9. Aliens and Forbidden Islands (November 2013)
  10. Aliens and The Lost Ark (December 2013) Them alien boys open the ark and melt all of our ears off. Call Indy!
  11. Aliens and Mysterious Mountains (December 2013)

Season 7[edit]

  1. Aliens and Stargates (January 2014)
  2. Aliens in America (January 2014)
  3. The Star Children (February 2014)
  4. Treasures of the Gods (February 2014)
  5. Aliens and the Red Planet (February 2014)
  6. The Shamans (February 2014)
  7. Aliens and Insects (March 2014)
  8. Alien Breeders (March 2014)

Season 8[edit]

  1. Alien Transports (June 2014)
  2. Mysterious Structures (June 2014)
  3. Mysterious Devices (June 2014)
  4. Faces of the Gods (July 2014)
  5. The Reptilians (July 2014)
  6. The Tesla Experiment (August 2014)
  7. The God Particle (August 2014)
  8. Alien Encounters (August 2014)
  9. Aliens and Superheroes (August 2014)

Season 9[edit]

  1. Forbidden Caves (October 2014)
  2. Mysteries of the Sphinx (November 2014)
  3. Aliens Among Us (November 2014)
  4. The Genius Factor (November 2014)
  5. Secrets of the Mummies (November 2014)
  6. Alien Resurrections (December 2014)
  7. Alien Messages (December 2014)
  8. The Great Flood (December 2014)
  9. Aliens and the Civil War (April 2015)
  10. Hidden Pyramids (April 2015)
  11. The Vanishings (April 2015)
  12. The Alien Agenda (May 2015)

Season 10[edit]

  1. Aliens B.C. (July 2015)
  2. NASA's Secret Agenda (July 2015)
  3. Aliens and Robots (August 2015)
  4. Dark Forces (August 2015)
  5. The Alien Evolution (August 2015)
  6. The Other Earth (August 2015)
  7. Creatures of the Deep (September 2015)
  8. Circles from the Sky (September 2015)
  9. The Alien Wars (October 2015)
  10. The Forbidden Zones (October 2015)

Season 11[edit]

  1. Pyramids of Antarctica (May 2016)
  2. Destination Mars (May 2016)
  3. The Next Humans (May 2016)
  4. The New Evidence (May 2016)
  5. The Visionaries (June 2016)
  6. Decoding the Cosmic Egg (June 2016)
  7. The Wisdom Keepers (June 2016)
  8. The Mysterious Nine (July 2016)
  9. The Hidden Empire (July 2016)
  10. The Prototypes (July 2016)
  11. Space Station Moon (July 2016)
  12. Russian Secret Files (August 2016)
  13. Beyond Roswell (August 2016)
  14. The Returned (August 2016)
  15. The Destroyer (August 2016)

Season 12[edit]

Season 13[edit]

Season 14[edit]

Season 15[edit]

Season 17[edit]

Season 18[edit]

As of today the show has gone on for 18 seasons. You think they would run out of material by now, but they get around it by repeating a lot of content (just look at how many episodes are about religion or Egyptology) and just having a repetitive formula of "take historical/religious/mythological event, add aliens, ask questions".


Among the talking heads that have appeared on the show as "experts" are:

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The Jewish and Muslim taboos against pork, for instance, came about because pigs were unsuited to the climate in the ancient Middle East, and would ravage the ecosystem as an invasive species. Notably, this taboo was dropped by most European-dwelling Christians save for the Seventh-Day Adventists, and maintained by Ethiopian Orthodox and some Coptic Christians who live in climates similar to that of the Fertile Crescent.