What ‘Really’ Happened: Ancient Aliens

Thursday, 25 September, 2014

Words by Jacob von der Lippe
Illustration by Camilla Eustance

You know what shits me? Conspiracy theories about aliens building the pyramids. Why? Because it’s fucking dumb. A pyramid is, by nature, a massive pile of rocks. The pyramids at Egypt are totally awesome and stuff, but everything in the ancient world needs context. If you think about the pyramid at Giza as a work involving advanced engineering, logistical foresight, immense labour and the drive to stack rocks higher than anyone ever has before, then Giza is rightfully one of the wonders of the ancient world. But if Giza was something concocted by a race who could travel through the inhospitable, infinite void of space, then I think we’d all respond a bit like my parents: not angry, just disappointed.

I seriously don’t like how your average UFO crackpot would just rip out the ‘Wonders of the World’ rug from underneath the hardworking builders of 2500BCE. After all, they have no ability to defend themselves, barring circumstances involving a career revival for Brendan Fraser. Credit where credit is due. Plus, Egypt had an alien for a pharaoh in, like, 1300 BCE.

No, seriously. His name is Akhenaten, and he’s a seriously weird blip on the historical radar. His rise to power is pretty standard for ancient Egypt: younger son of the pharaoh; lots of his brothers die for various reasons; he winds up becoming god-king of Egypt. Standard. It gets a little strange once he comes to power though. One of the most remarkable things about Akhenaten (or Amenhotep IV: A New Hope, as he was called in the early part of his reign) is that within a few years of ascending to godhood, he starts making some changes.

For one, art within Egypt suddenly changes, as if Akhenaten brought his own, non-Egyptian culture with him. Within the span of a few short years, all the usual, stylised Egyptian sculptures and wall art suddenly become very naturalistic. Everything looks a little more realistic, scenes become more vibrant, and even the royal family are portrayed in pretty down-to-earth ways, like hugging and stuff. Innocuous, right?

The only problem is, the depictions of Akhenaten and his queen, Nefertiti, are a little… off. Their faces are too angular, their ears too high up and long, and their eyes too big. It’s probably just the artists of Akhenaten’s reign struggling to cope with the sudden (presumably divinely decreed) art shift, one might surmise. Yet his parents do not appear this way, nor are they associated with the bizarre terms used to describe Akhenaten and his offspring.

There’s a lot of theories suggesting Akhenaten might have straight up been an alien, or something close enough, and that he basically brought his own culture with him and tried to impose it on Egypt. Akhenaten made the strange, bewildering decision to try to convert Egypt to monotheism, breaking a literal eternity of polytheist worship which their entire culture was structured around. It didn’t go super well, and it was super awkward for, like, the entire kingdom. Akhenaten, the possible alien, decided everyone should worship Aten: a massive sun disk. Star worship. Under an alien. Subtle. Almost as soon as he died, things started going back to normal, and all veneration of Akhenaten was stripped away. Even his tomb was defaced. In Egyptian records from that point onwards, he’s referred to as ‘the enemy’. Alien invasion  and repulsion in ancient Egypt. Just like Independence Day, but no Jeff Goldblum.

The thing is, this shit happens everywhere. Erich von Däniken in Chariots of the Gods makes a really good (specious as fuck) argument for alien vistations to the Mayan civilisation. He cites various sarcophagi representing the ascendancy of dead rulers into the sky as evidence of astronauts going home. In ancient China, myths of a giant wolf swallowing the sun were so prominent that they actually either spread (or simultaeneously occured) in numerous other cultures as far away as Greece. As late as 1561, there are reports of a ‘battle’ in the skies of Nuremberg, Germany. Drawings of it from the time period show what looks like a laser light show, but medieval and shit. And full of cylinders in the sky. If conspiracy theorists love anything, it’s sky cylinders.

So my call? People being crazy is nothing new.

Stargate is basically ancient Egyptian Independence Day. Kurt Russell is my role model.