Monday, June 22, 2009

"Chariots of the Silly"
Book Cover
Chariots of the Gods,1 is one of the funniest "Science" books ever published. The ranker in it against "scientists" is only matched by the author's incredible ignorance about Archaeology. But what I found amazing was reading all the reviews at Amazon.com2 by so many people who cry out about the virtues about having an "open" mind but who don't seem to know the first thing about any of what Von Daniken writes about. Well what about reading the copious work done about say Twianku in Bolivia, or Tula in Mexico or Cuzco in Peru!
When I was twelve I read Chariots of the Gods and was a believer for about a year. Then I read a few basic texts about the Maya, Incas, etc., and discovered that Von Daniken was in error so much that well it's a joke.
A lot of the appeal of the book is the old our "ancestors were idiots" belief and if they did anything that was outstanding they must have cheated. For example I found this particular comment at a UFO website:
Von Daniken’s hypothesis may seem outrageous, to be sure, but what is even more outrageous is the idea that the profound achievements that took place in ancient cultures were merely the natural process of unassisted human development.3
Perhaps the writer of this drivel could read a few basic texts of Archaeology and human history before uttering his absurdities. I am always amazed how many people find it so hard to believe that our ancestors could have invented or done those amazing things.
But then it is clear from counting the examples that von Daniken gives that he finds more mysteries to explain in the people are non-European. For example out of the 51 examples that von Daniken gives only 2 are from Europe, 16 are from Africa, 12 from Asia, 11 from North America and 10 from South America.4 Yep those non-Europeans could not have done it themselves they must have cheated!
For example the traditional Andean accounts attribute the colossal stone construction at Cuzco and elsewhere in Peru to the Inca Emperors. For example the site of Machu Picchu, which is used for all sorts of Alien and New Age fantasies, was apparently built by the Inca Emperor Pachacuti as a summer retreat. Further such monumental construction was continuing when the Spanish came.5
As for the Maya Von Daniken's explanation for the Mayan collapse has been exploded and so has his explanation for the Sarcophagus lid from the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, which we know from being able to read the Mayan Hieroglyphs depicts thee Mayan King Pacal falling into the maw of death down the cosmic tree. Von Daniken's comment about an inscription about a hot wind describing the death of the man in the Sarcophagus is total invention.6

Sacophagus of Pacal

Then his book is peppered with absurd comments like stating that a jade necklace found in a Mayan tomb is fantastic because we all know jade only comes from China!7 Well that is not true as even the smallest amount of research would indicate.
As for Von Daniken's research by going to various sites; well if you go and are unwilling to listen to what the researchers who have devoted their time to unravelling these sites have said you will of course view them as "mysterious".
Of course there is a lot more one could go into like von Daniken's ideas about Easter Island8, but it would be a waste of time. Instead simply checkout the more reliable sources of information on Easter Island.9
Von Daniken is a very funny joke and even funnier are those who don't see the joke.
1.von Daniken, Erich, Chariots of the Gods?, Bantam Books, 1970.
2. See reviews at Here
3. See Nelson, Adam K, Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods - Documentary film review, at Here.
4. Feder, Kenneth L, Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries, 3rd Edition, Mayfield Publishing Co., Toronto, 1999, pp. 212-213.
5. See McEwan, Gordon F, The Incas: New Perspectives, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2006, pp. 109-110.
6. von Daniken, pp. 99-103, The hot wind comment comes from Ferris Timothy, Playboy Interview: Erich von Daniken, Playboy, v. 212, no. 8, August, pp. 51-52 56-58, 60, 64, 151, for an analysis of the Sarcophagus lid see Schele, Linda & Freidel, David, A Forest of Kings, William Morrow and Company Inc, New York, 1990, pp. 216-261.
7. For this particular howler see von Daniken, p. 93.
8. IBID. pp. 88-92.
9. Flenley, John & Bahn, Paul, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002.
Omohundro, John T., Von Daniken's Chariots: A Primer in the Art of Crooked Science, in Paranormal Borderlands of Science, Ed. Frazier, Kendrick, Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY, 1981, pp. 307-317.
Stiebing, William H., Ancient Astronauts, Cosmic Collisions, Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY., 1984, pp. 81-106.
Bainbridge, William Sims, Chariots of the Gullible, in Frazier, pp. 332-347. For an examination of why people believe this sort of stuff.
Story, Ronald, The Space Gods Revealed, Barnes and Nobles Books, New York, 1976.
Randi, James, Flim-Flam, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY., 1982, pp. 109-130.
Pierre Cloutier

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