I’ve Just Finished Reading: Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken

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Published in 1968, this quickly became a cult classic and has remained so ever since. As a connoisseur of conspiracy theories, this is one of my favourites, despite the majority of what it contains is total codswallop and has been easily debunked. Indeed Von Daniken has been quoted as saying the hypothesis is “still full of holes”.

I last read this many, many years ago and wanted to give it a re reading. Obviously even back then I was highly skeptical, but being one of those people who tentatively believe that somewhere in the universe there’s other life (I’ve always said that it’s the height of arrogance to believe that we are the only forms of life in the entire universe), no matter how unevolved, I wanted to somehow believe.

Sadly there’s not much in the book to believe in. Time and time again, it’s proposed that mankind, thousands of years ago, was incapable of intelligent thought and actions. So much so that any accomplishments must have been down to alien intervention. The pyramids, the 595ft carving in the cliffs at the Bay of Pisco (which he inaccurately claims is 820ft), the megalith walls at Sacsayhuaman, ancient cave paintings of constellations, The Delhi Pillar, The statues at Easter Island, the machine from Antikythera and countless others are all products of alien intervention, and not human ingenuity and intelligence.

He even latches onto a much derided and debunked theory regarding the Piri Reis map containing Antarctica not covered in ice (a quick Google search will show how dubious that theory is). Also quick to exclaim how accurate the map is, perpetuating the myth of the map’s accuracy when in reality, there’s many other maps of the time that are far more accurate (again a quick Google search will give you countless examples of debunking.)

In this age of easy access to information, all you need in order to check out how ridiculous his examples of “proof” really are, is access to Google. However in 1968, when writing that kind of book, you really need notes citing your sources. All that is provided is an unindexed bibliography. A lot of what he claims is seemingly plucked from the air and no sources cited. He even goes as far to say (when talking about the ark)

“Without consulting Exodus, I seem to remember that the Ark was often surrounded by flashing sparks…”

This despite previously going into Exodus at some length. Why, when trying to provide examples supporting your hypothesis, would you not consult the material you’re referring to?

However, despite all the preposterous claims, something else stands out more so. His unerring and constant criticism, decrying and general bitterness to established archeology and it’s practitioners. The book is peppered with examples of scorn and what makes this laughable is that it’s very obvious, very quickly that this bitterness is born out of resentment that his hypothesis was rejected by a lot of learned people.

However, despite all of the above, the similarities between global religions is worth some consideration. And he does raise the odd thought provoking points. If you take the book with a huge pinch of salt, it’s a very entertaining read.

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