Daniken Debunked

Ronald Story. The Space Gods Revealed. New English Library, 1977.

Several recent books have contained replies to Daniken's 'Ancient Astronaut' theories, and as a result some of the ground Story covers is not new. However the book still contains enough original material to be recommended. Most of the book comprises a comparison between Daniken's ideas on Egypt, South America, etc. and what is really known of these areas. Thus he shows that far from being products of a super-technology, the pyramids of Egypt evolved by trial and error from structures showing no architectural skill to the later achievements of the Pharaohs. Similarly, the Palenque "Astronaut" carving is shown to simply depict several well-known themes in Mayan art.

A chapter on the Nazca lines introduces an original element into the debate. Story refers to recent theories that the Nazcan builders may have had hot-air balloons, using them to plan the shapes; an interesting example of how those genuinely unsatisfied by orthodox explanations of archaeological mysteries can often explain them by postulating ancient technical developments far less extreme than Daniken's suggestions.

One area where story goes further than other writers is in attacking Daniken's integrity. Unlike most of the earlier critics he is aware that ufologists like Leslie, Trench and Jessup had advanced identical theories years before Daniken, only to have him shamelessly plagiarise their works. Spiegel's expose of the phony nature of Gold of the Gods account of Daniken's visit to a mysterious cave system in South America is described; there are quotes from a Playboy interview in which he indulges in his habit of retracting at once any claims which are critically questioned. In this interview, published August 1974 he retracts his claims about the Piri Re'is map, yet in his March 1975 London lecture he repeated his old claims about the document. (MUFOB NS 1) After an impressive demolition job, Story asks why Daniken has achieved such popularity. Part of the answer is suggested in a contribution by Thor Heyerdahl, in' which he criticises himself and fellow archaeologists f.or being just contemptuous of those who bought Daniken's books, and not troubling to ref¥te them~n detail. In general terms Story sees"the 'Ancient Astronaut' theory, like the contactee cults, as an attempt to fill the gap left by the decline of organised religion and create a mythology for a scientific age (an idea examined by Peter Rogerson in this Bulletin.

It is pleasant to see the pseudoscientific drivel which has engulfed the bookshops in the last few years, being challenged. However it is to be feared that sensationalism will always have the advantage, as making inaccurate statements and copying chunks from other sensational books will always be easier than finding the facts. -- Roger Sandell, from Magonia New Series 7, summer 1977.


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