A word about Erich Von Daniken. I am not a supporter or critic of his Ancient Astronaut hypothesis. I challenge you, gentle reader, to come to your own opinion on that subject. I do agree with his suggestion that anthropologists and archeologists may benefit by teaming up with experts in multiple fields when formulating theories about the past and objects from it. If you have ever gazed upon a three thousand year old carving and wondered just how anthropologists know it is a deeply religious symbol then you may well agree with me. Surely not every item crafted by human hands in the past had a deep, symbolic meaning, right? Is everything created today like that? Isn’t it just possible many items featured in museum displays are the work of boredom, not spirituality? How many “Goddess figures” might be the hormonally driven impulses of teens -a prehistoric Playboy- rather than an attempt to garnish the fertility favor of the gods? I’m just asking.
The spark that ignited this rambling is the technological correlations Von Daniken crafted his novels. Von Daniken fills page after page with parallels between the shape and contour of ancient objects and modern marvels… of the late 1960’s. The charm of CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? or THE GOLD OF THE GODS today lies in reading a book filled with examples of out dated technology. For example, he writes passionately about how a humanoid figurine wears a, “…ring with a number of holes in it like those we use for dialing.” A what now? You mean a rotary phone dial? How cute! It is unfortunate Von Daniken never made the leap inherent in his own logic: that technology is constantly changing and hanging one’s hat on the standards of the day means being classified ‘out dated’ by sunset.
So where is the new Von Daniken? Where is the brave soul postulating an mp3 player in the hands of a figure on a cave wall? Where is the rebel pointing to a tablet computer in a medieval tapestry? I’m over simplifying his work, of course. Von Daniken was like Charles Fort in his ability to collect data mainstream science would rather ignore. The point is those of the Ancient Astronauts camp he helped birth have Erich to thank for weeding out the error of using current technological standards as a measuring rod of theoretical validity. Technology travels at an amazing speed. And, if Einstein taught us anything, it’s that speed makes everything relative. Thank you, Erich, for inadvertently teaching us not to think too highly of our science and for pushing the common sense approach of using more than one perspective.