The prophet of the space-gods

by Per Borgaard, translated by Claus Larsen

30 million books by the Swiss-born writer Erich von Däniken has been printed globally, in 35 different languages. All over the world, he has become famously controversial for his two claims, that go against all scientific dogma: One claim is that Earth in ancient times have been visited by creatures from space, and the other that these non-human guests have programmed humanity, as if we were biological computers.

Von Däniken believes that the space aliens gave our ancestors the gift of thinking and ingrained us with the desire to return to space. We will only have fulfilled the obligation, which the unknown star people in the mists of yore heaped on our forefathers together with their gift of intelligence, when we have conquered the immense distances of space and travel to other star systems. Then, we will be free.

We’ve heard it before

The most fantastic about the Däniken phenomenon is, that he became the prophet of the space gods. There is hardly a thought or an idea in his books that haven’t been seen or heard before. Whole paragraphs seem like nostalgic rendez-vous with the more fantastic books of childhood.

He is not even the first who presented these thoughts as if they were seriously considered ideas. Among others, the Russian Alexander Kazantsev, the Australian Andrew Tomas and the English Harold Wilkins, Raymond Drake, and Brinsley le Poer Trench (now lord Clancarty) had more or less supported arguments that favored non-Terran beings had influenced the human race in its infancy.

The classical question is: How could the pyramid-built Egyptian civilization arise so abruptly, so to speak from one day to the other, without help from highly developed, technically advanced creatures from space?

“But, they didn’t”, whisper archeologists. “We know, that over several thousands of years, a primitive civilization developed slowly in the Nile Valley, until the Egyptian culture reached a level where it was capable of creating the massive constructions, that even today take the breath away from the tourists.”

But the protests from the archeologists have so far drowned in the flood of words from the “astro-archeologists”, especially from the Italian Peter Kolosimo, which also predated Däniken, and bitterly have accused the more successful Swiss of stealing the material from him.

Däniken is by far the most known of the astro-archeologists. He is also the only one becoming a multi-millionaire from it.


The reason is primarily that Däniken writes fluently, and without a shadow of a doubt. His first book was written in 1967-68, while he himself was caught up in massive personal problems. Some years earlier, he had taken a lease on the hotel “Rosenhügel” in Davos and had been entangled in some economical transactions which brought him before trial in 1969, accused of fraud.

Däniken himself claims that it was a purely bookkeeping problem, that wouldn’t have been particularly serious in other countries than Switzerland, where there are strict rules for debts.

At any rate, the hotel owner in Davos ended up in Regensdorf prison in Zürich, at the same time the money from his first book began pouring in. He spent the time writing his other book, and the money kept pouring in. Few years later, he was a millionaire.

But success is not the same as being right, and while Däniken’s books sell in record numbers, the evidence against his hypotheses are piling up. People who read his books simply find him untrustworthy.

The well where virgins were sacrificed

A Danish writer, Willy Wegner, has examined five randomly chosen pieces of “evidence” from Erich von Däniken’s litany of claims. Däniken has in several books made a big issue out of the holy well of the Mayans, on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The Cenote, where the Mayans sacrificed tools, jewelry and virgins to the Gods.

“How did this waterhole come to be? Why was it declared a holy well? Why this waterhole, where there are more of the same kind?”, Däniken asks, who considers the very existence of the well a mystery.

The mundane truth is, that the well is a hole of a type quite often found in areas with chalk in the underground. These holes are also found in Denmark, where Aborresø on the island of Møn is a typical example.

And the reason the “Well of Virgins” were chosen can most likely be found in the fact that the other well in Chichen Itza, which was closest to the city, functioned as a water supply for the 15-20,000 inhabitants. Even Mayans were not likely to have found it particularly healthy to get the drinking water where you sacrificed humans and animals.

The mystery is gone for everyone except Däniken, who also describes the other well’s position in very dramatic terms: “Close to 70 meters from the Mayan observatory there is an exact copy of the holy well of Chichen Izta hidden in the jungle. This hole, guarded by snakes, poisonous millipedes and pestering insects…”

Initially, you get the impression that this cenote can be found in a “green hell”, but in reality, it lies less than 70 m from the old hotel Mayaland, as well as a rock’s throw from the Pan American Highway, that goes from North to South on the American continents. Another road is literally on the edge of the cenote.

The Palenque Sarcophagus

Willy Wegner has also looked at Däniken’s star turn, the lid on the sarcophagus from Palenque, Mexico. The relief depicts an indian among a lot of decorations, and Däniken immediately interprets it as a space pilot:

“You see here a humanoid creature, sitting with the torso bent forward – in a race car position. Every child today will identify his vehicle as a rocket. The pointed front end continues to strange grooved expansions that resembles sucking holes, the rocket’s body becomes wider and from the tail we see flames coming out. The creature, bent forward, operates a number of indeterminable control instruments, and the heel of the left foot rests on some sort of pedal.” Däniken believes the figure to be clad in a tight-fitting suit and short, checkered pants.

An American professor, Charles H. Long, provides a somewhat different interpretation:

“Lid from a secret sarcophagus from the Temple of Inscriptions. A man is presented resting on the mask of the God of Death, staring at a symbolic two-headed snake, representing life.”

“This amuses me”, replies Däniken.

Willy Wegner has also amused himself by comparing Däniken’s descriptions of the “space pilot” in two of his books. The descriptions are very different in a number of ways: The man in “Chariots of the Gods” is described as a race driver, in “In search of ancient gods – my pictorial evidence for the impossible”, as an astronaut in the commando pod.

Wegner notices that the astronaut lives up to the beauty ideals of the Mayans has had his nose artificially changed with wax or putty:

“That will be quite inexpedient for astronauts. Under the heavy gravitational forces during launch, the poor guy will have it smeared over his face, and into his eyes.”

At any rate, the Palenque astronaut is easily identifiable as a Mayan chief in another way. His head is pointed, as custom was for high-ranking Mayans. They changed the head shape of children by tightening two pieces of wood to the side of the skull shortly after birth.

They also found it beautiful to be cross-eyed: They put a ball on a string in the middle of the forehead, when they got a little older, to make them cross-eyed. We can see this from other reliefs as well.

“Even though the Mayans were in reality cone-headed and cross-eyed, they did remarkably well, but we have no reason to believe that they flew around in space vehicles”, says Willy Wegner.

Other experts have concluded that the “astronaut suit” really is the normal dress for high-ranking Mayans. The “commando pod” are stylized religious symbols, e.g. a crucifix figure also found in ot
her temples, and stylized corn leaves. Corn represented the source of life to the Mayans, and quite literally so: It was their most important source of food.

Indians in a balloon

Erich von Däniken have also included the strange depictions on the Nazca plain in Peru as evidence of his prehistorical astronauts.

Däniken’s theory is, that “one day, a spaceship landed on the plain, and the strange intelligent creatures founded two landing tracks using an unknown to us material. When their job on Earth was over, they flew away, leaving only the landing tracks.

Later, the local peoples tried to replicate what they had seen the space people do. That’s how a plethora of lines in all possible directions appeared.”

Willy Wegner points out, that there is no need for an “unknown material”, but merely that the top soil has been scraped away, so the ground underneath, having a different color, became visible. That is how the lines appear, and have survived to our times, because of the special weather conditions.

The archeologist Maria Reiche, who has been working with the Nazca riddle since 1946, has concluded that the drawings are made with very primitive methods. Some of the straight lines have astronomical meaning, which was shown already in 1939 by Dr. Poul Kosok. The meaning of the animal figures have not yet been explained.

The strange thing about the drawings is, that they are so large that they can only be seen from the air. But the jesuit pater Bartolomeu de Gusmao reported in the 17th century that he had seen indians fly in hot air balloons in the Andes, and he even got a model of a balloon in the air in Lissabon.

In the winter of 1975-76 Michael Debakey from the international Adventurers’ Club proved that the indians really could have made balloons of the materials available to them. Two men rose 200 meters up in the air in a balloon, high enough that the indians in earlier times could have had an overview over the drawings from anchored balloons.

There is no need for space visits to explain the Nazca drawings.

Still unfortunate

Däniken does not make a very fortunate character, when we investigate the “evidence” closely. He has claimed that a bison skull, found in the paleontology museum in Moscow was shot with a modern rifle. The skull has a round hole in the forehead.

That cause the director of the paleontoly museum to investigate the skull closer, and he has reached the conclusion that the hole is simply caused by the point of another bison’s horn has penetrated the skull during a mating fight. There is also another possibility that the hole is caused by parasites. It can happen to domesticated animals even today.

The fifth evidence examined by Willy Wegner is the Baalbek terrace, which Erich von Däniken would like to be a start ramp for the spaceships of the gods. Unfortunately, the artificial terrace was made in the 2nd century BC, and the stones, despite their size, which Däniken exaggerates – bear unmistakable signs of being placed by the old-fashioned “heave-hoy!” method. And not the technical apparatus by the spacegods.

“Däniken was good at telling tales as a kid, and he has obviously kept that skill”, concludes the Danish author dryly.