Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past is a book authored in 1968 by Erich von Däniken. It involves the hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods.
Chariots of the Gods – Erich von Däniken
The first draft of the publication had been rejected by a variety of publishers. The book was extensively rewritten by its editor, Wilhelm Roggersdorf (a pen name of the German screenwriter Wilhelm “Utz” Utermann), Utermann had been a Nazi bestselling author and had held a leading position with the Völkischer Beobachter.
Chariots of the Gods posits a variety of hypotheses dealing with the possibility of extraterrestrial beings influencing ancient technology. Von Däniken suggests that some ancient structures and artifacts appear to represent higher technological knowledge than is presumed to have existed at the times they were manufactured. Von Däniken maintains that these artifacts were produced either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them.
Such artifacts include the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Moai of Easter Island. Further examples include a medieval map known as the Piri Reis Map, which von Däniken describes as showing the Earth as it is seen from space, and the Nazca lines in Peru, which he suggests may have been constructed by humans as crude replicas of previous alien structures, as a way to call the aliens back to Earth. He uses this same explanation to argue that cart-ruts in Malta may have had extraterrestrial purposes along with similar lines in Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the Aral Sea.
The book also suggests that ancient artwork throughout the world could be interpreted as depicting astronauts, air and space vehicles, extraterrestrials, and complex technology. Von Däniken describes elements that he believes are similar in art of unrelated cultures. Some artwork that von Däniken cites include the ancient Japanese Dogū figurines (which he believed to resemble astronauts in space suits) and 3,000 year-old carvings in the Egyptian New Kingdom Temple that appear to depict helicopter-like machines.
The book goes on to suggest that the origins of religions, including interpretations of the Old Testament of the Bible, are reactions to contact with an alien race. According to von Däniken, humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. Von Däniken asks if the oral and literal traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from stars and vehicles traveling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure.
Examples include Ezekiel’s vision of the angels and the wheels, which Von Däniken interprets as a description of a spacecraft, the Ark of the Covenant, which is explained as a communication device with an alien race, and the destruction of Sodom by fire and brimstone, which is interpreted as a nuclear explosion.Von Däniken attempts to draw an analogy with the “cargo cults” that formed during and after World War II, when once-isolated tribes in the South Pacific mistook the advanced American and Japanese soldiers for gods.
Von Däniken also spends around one-third of the book discussing the possibility that humans could theoretically offer primitive civilizations on interstellar worlds advanced technology by the year 2100. This would, he writes, mimic the ancient extraterrestrial contact von Däniken believed to have happened on Earth.
The Chariots of the Gods spawned multiple sequels, including Gods from Outer Space and The Gods Were Astronauts. The theory in the original book is said to have influenced a variety of science fiction books, films, and television series. For instance, it is considered the inspiration for the History Channel television series, Ancient Aliens. It has also been used as a plot element in television shows and movies like Star Trek, The X-Files, the Alien franchise (most notably, Prometheus), and the Indiana Jones franchise.
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