Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flights of Fancy: Debunking Ancient Aliens' Claim of Ancient Flight

In September, Chris White (Revelations Radio Network) will be presenting a video debunking the claims of the Ancient Aliens TV series. In doing this, he put out a call for researchers to help compile the refutations as it really is a huge and daunting project.

Answering the call to join the Christian Justice League, I will share some of the research that I provided. This information will be available in the associated Wiki once the film is released along with the research that other folks provided.

Here's the trailer:

and here's the first claim that i took a look at: Ancient flight via the saqqara bird and gold figures of South America. Georgio, that's a nice fish pin that you wear on the show.

Saqqara bird

“They are not representing birds, but aircraft.”

“The wings are clearly not bird wings.”


(pictures are available by clicking on the links)

The first claim we’ll look at is that the saqqara bird is not representing a bird, but an aircraft. If they are not representing a bird, why give it a bird-shaped head? Why give it eyes? Both of which are highly obvious in the below photos. If it’s the model of life-sized glide, why is their no cockpit present in the saqqara bird?

Today, we do have aircraft that implement an animal face on the plane or unusual nose art, but that added d├ęcor never changes the shape of the aircraft. If the saqqara bird represents an aircraft and not a bird, why make nose of the plane bird-like?

The claim that the wings are not bird’s wings doesn’t necessarily prove they are airplane wings either. The face, while a bird’s face is somewhat simplified, or stylized one could expect the same in regards to the wings.

Furthermore, the wings are not uniform. Martin Gregorie, a model airplane enthusiast, concluded

“the original bird's wings are of unequal length and are not level with the rest of the body and the vertical tail is actually set at an angle.”

“It’s a very Modern aerodynamic design”

“It is a highly developed glider. This is the design we use today.”


If you see the above picture, the bird “glider” is very thick. Very heavy looking. If the saqqara bird is representing a glider, then this design is not terribly aerodynamic, or modern. Modern gliders are very thin. This is very likely to reduce drag. The more plane there is, the more drag there is and the less flight time there will be.

“Sports gliders benefit from creating the least drag for any given amount of lift, and this is best achieved with long, thin wings and a fully faired narrow cockpit. Aircraft with these features are able to climb efficiently in rising air and can glide long distances at high speed with a minimum loss of height in between.”

If the saqqara bird is using modern design and is a glider, why is there so much surface area?

Even in modern glider designs that don’t incorporate the minimalist designs, the wings are largely exaggerated to reduce the rate of sinking once the craft is in the air.

“The chips on the tail, possibly indicate an elevator had been present.”


The chips on the tail are on only one side of the tail. If a tail had broken off, one would expect the chips to be on both sides and of larger size. Take a look at the chips from the history channel special. Then, my crude snapshot of the other side as it was presented on the Ancient Aliens. Notice, there do not appear to be any chips on the other side of the tale. You may have to see it in the show for yourself, but there are no chips on the other side.


“Scale model, they put it into a wind tunnel. Tests show it would fly.”

“The only thing missing and preventing flight, is lack of an elevator rear stabilizing rudder.”


In the “Ancient Aliens” special, in order to get the saqqara bird to be air worthy, they had to add a tale to stabilize the craft. However, merely adding a tail is not enough to make this bird fly.

Here are some quotes from articles that have picked that theory apart.

"Wow - those guys put a model of the bird through a wind tunnel AND a computer simulation and they say it can fly! That's conclusive proof, right? Wrong. Watch the video again and pay attention - these guys aren't testing the Saqqara Bird, they're testing a balsa wood model fitted with a large horizontal tail surface. The real bird has no horizontal tail at all and is made from sycamore, which is something like three times as dense as balsa wood. The real conclusion here is that if the Saqqara Bird was made of different material and actually shaped like an airplane, it could fly. How much does that prove?"

"More to the point, a few years ago model airplane enthusiast Martin Gregorie tested the flight capabilities of a model of the Saqqara Bird and his results were far less enthusiastic. Unlike our friends with the History Channel, Gregorie notes that the original bird's wings are of unequal length and are not level with the rest of the body and the vertical tail is actually set at an angle."
Martin Gregorie, the model airplane enthusiast mentioned earlier, seems to have tried a number of wings and tails in an attempt to make an exact duplicate of the saqqara bird fly. Most of these configurations were unsuccessful. In order to get it to fly, he had to manipulate the tail stabilizer, which the saqqara bird lacks completely.
Below are the results of Gregorie’s flight.
"The model will not fly without a tail or with the scale tail fitted. The result is always a pitch up if the model is launched at its gliding speed and a pitch down if launched faster, followed by a tumbling motion. Adding ballast to the nose to move the balance point forward has no effect. The result is the same with either wing fitted, except that when the scale wing is fitted the model often tumbles laterally as well.
The model does make a splendid weather vane if it is mounted on a pivot set into its belly under the midpoint of the wing."
"Fitting the big tail enables the model to glide. Both wings require up trim on the tail, i.e. the rear of the tail must be raised. The result is a fast, not very flat glide."
"The performance of this model proves conclusively that the Saqqara Bird never flew. It is totally unstable without a tailplane. A cursory inspection of the photos shows that it never had one.
Even after a tailplane was fitted the glide performance was disappointing. The Saqqara Bird was certainly never a test piece for a low speed, cargo carrying aircraft.
The model makes an excellent weather vane. It points directly and steadily into the wind and does not veer from side to side. In my opinion the Saqqara Bird was probably made as a child's toy or a weather vane. As such it is an interesting artifact and is certainly not an example of Pharaonic High-tech or ancient lost knowledge.”
Another article mentioning Martin Gregorie's Catchpenny article.

“Used a catapult to launch it. Modern gliders sometimes use a bungee cord.”

“Scientifics of Egyptology told us that such a bird could be launched via catapult.”


The most popular method of glider launch seems to be using a tow plane, then releasing the glider high in the air. Bungee cords are sometimes used to launch gliders, but that was more common in gliding’s early days and less so now.

“Elastic ropes (known as bungees) are occasionally used at some sites to launch gliders from slopes, if there is sufficient wind blowing up the hill. Bungee launching was the predominant method of launching early gliders.”

Launching this glider via ancient catapult seems precarious at best.

“I don't know about you, but I'm picturing some ancient Egyptian screaming his lungs out as his catapult propelled glider hurdles away, spinning head over tail until it smacks into a pyramid. This Dr. Eenboom seriously believes that you could get some sort of controlled lift off using an ancient catapult!

The show, at this point, displays a hokey computer animation of an ancient glider achieving perfect liftoff by this method. That seems extremely unlikely to me. But if anybody out there wants to actually test this and perhaps prove me wrong, why not try doing a small scale experiment? Get yourself a model catapult and a paper airplane... then let me know if you get anywhere with that.

And what exactly are the "scientifics of Egyptology"? “

An expert model airplane enthusiast has pretty much proven the saqqara bird to be incapable of flight. Launching it via primitive catapult seems a tad ridiculous in light of the fact that it isn’t even airworthy.

Regarding the science of ancient Egypt. While they did have impressive inventions such as paper and building the pyramids, keep in mind their science was not without faults. If you don’t believe me, let me paraphrase Chuck Missler and advise you to ask your doctor to try one of these medical treatments.

“Practices such as applying cow dung to wounds, ear piercing, tattooing, and chronic ear infections were important factors in developing tetanus.[39] Frank J. Snoek wrote that Egyptian medicine used fly specks, lizard blood, swine teeth, and other such remedies which he believes could have been harmful.”


One researcher believes aliens came and gave us technology.


If aliens gave us the technology to make a people-sized saqqara bird, the Egyptians should have asked for their money back since it never flew. For the sake of argument though, even IF the saqqara bird were capable of flight, which it’s not, aliens are not necessary for giving us the technology. The Wright brothers need no introduction, having invented powered flight. They developed their powered plane by trial and error and it was the culmination of a number of gliders. Nowhere in their invention of the airplane was there a need for an alien intervention. In the unlikely event that the Egyptians ever developed air travel, human ingenuity and perseverance go a long way.

It wouldn’t take aliens to tell the Wright brothers to look at all of the attempts at flight that failed and try something else from there. Same thing with the ancient Egyptians. They would have likely used trial and error as well, only they would have been in the beginning stages of any trials.


“Philip coppens said “It’s a fact that our ancestors were more intelligent and had more technological capabilities.”

“Graham Hancock: There is a forgotten episode of history. As a species we have amnesia. Ancient times people were visited by beings not of earth and they gave us technologies, etc.”


(NOT Really sure what direction to go here. One could refute this, but their statements are mere opinion backed by little facts.)

The statement that our ancestors were more intelligent and had more technological capabilities is not especially easy to prove or disprove. Indeed, they did build ancient monuments, but this is not necessarily proof of greater intelligence. Earlier, ancient Egyptian medical practices (involving animal parts and excrement) clearly demonstrate a primitive understanding of basic medical facts. If they were more intelligent, why not have more advance medicine?

This is also a claim that ancient astronaut theorists flip-flop on. On one hand, they want us to believe that yes, our ancestors were super advanced and used high technology given to us by aliens. This technology allegedly enabled us to fly, build monuments with lasers and hover technology. But in the next breath, they want us to believe that these same ancestors were too stupid to understand what the aliens were and called them gods and worshipped them. They claim that the technology was understood as magic.

It can’t be both ways. If they were smart enough to use advanced technology, they would understand it wasn’t magic. If we were smarter long ago, the aliens could easily have explained that they were aliens, not gods and our ancestors would have understood.

Graham Hancock’s statement that there is a forgotten episode of history and that we have culturally forgotten is hard to prove or disprove. Just how far back is he talking about? Written records seemingly go back 5,000 – 7,000 years back and this is

The Egyptian history goes back to 3,100 BC ( that’s about 5,000 years.

Chinese history, one of the most documented cultures goes back to about 7,000 BC. ( Some of this is just evidence of farming, while later into the 5,000 – 6,000 BC range, they had their earliest forms of writing. 2,100 BC gives us probably the beginning of actual records for history.

This article gives a basic run down of when written records for a number of cultures began.

The 3,100 BC date for ancient Egypt fits sort of well with the accepted dating of the pyramids. Not that everything Zahi Hawass or “experts” say should be taken as absolutely true, most of what they say is within a believable scope.

They also emphasize that New Agers and others want an older date for pyramids and want alien involvement and so, stretch facts a bit. This author even went to Egypt and studied hoping to find Edgar Cayce’s claims (whatever those were) were true, but has been convinced of a much younger age for the pyramids than most AA proponents want to throw out.

Pre-Colombian Gold Figures


Pre-colombia, Tolima made many gold figures. Funerary objects.
They found about a dozen eerily reminiscent of modern fighter jet. (They have components of jets.)

Georgio said some were like modern fighter jets.

Compared to space shuttle, the basic shape is similar. Wing shape is similar.


To best understand what the gold figures found in the Magdalena River valley actually represent, one must understand the culture that made them. The Tolima lived near the Magdalena river, which they relied upon for food and apparently had extensive access to gold.

“the Magdalena valley was inhabited by communities of farmers, goldsmiths and potters. Some of these built their settlements on the broad alluvial terraces that this fast-flowing river formed.”
The Tolima eventually stayed in one spot and stopped their nomadic ways for the most part. This allowed them to farm and also take up more complex art forms like pottery and proably more detailed gold work.

“the nomadic groups living along the banks of the middle section of the River Magdalena were still experimenting with tuber and maize crops.”

In summary, the Tolima were sort of nomadic, and eventually farmers and artists. Nothing in their lifestyle suggests any needs for airplanes, much less being familiar with the laws of flight. Their lifestyle kept them in close touch with nature (river animals: fish, alligators; jungle animals: insects and bats). As one would expect, the things that impacted their daily life would likely be the focus of their artwork.

And it was.

One common animal depicted in Tolima art is the bat. Preceding Batman by centuries, human figures were made with bat features. By doing this, they felt somehow that humans would obtain the bat-like abilities. In addition to this, regular old bats may have initially inspired the creation of gold animals in the first place.

“The golden bat is known by this name because when its skin comes into contact with pollen, it turns yellow. This fact could have been the inspiration for the examples that are made of high quality gold.”

But why do the wings look like aircraft and shuttle wings?

“One might argue that it is impressively aerodynamic, like an airplane. In response i say, are birds not impressively aerodynamic? Isn’t it a simpler assumption to assume that it was modeled after a bird?...the vertically oriented tail at the rear of the bird figurine is not a trait of birds and is the only anomoly present, which like the fish figure’s abnormal horizontal tail and doubled pectoral fins, is easily attributable to the creative liberties taken by the Tolima.”

And here’s a fighter jet and space shuttle.

Fighter jet

Space shuttle

The better question might be, why do only two out of many depict what looks to be aircraft, when the rest are clearly animals?

Why would a culture that makes gold animals randomly put in two aircraft? In the top picture, the closest object seems to be an alligator or similar animal. Which makes sense since they were a regular feature in Tolima life. The rest are probably birds and fish of various sorts.

The left most figure could be a stingray.

Many of these animals are hard to identify, but would hardly be airworthy. The reason for this difficulty is that some of the figures are amalgams of multiple animals and heavily stylized.

“Their goldsmiths have left us figures of insects and small animals cast in gold, some fantastic, others naturalistic. There are fish, lizards, crickets or beings that boast features of various species, like the famous "little planes", which have the head and mouth of a jaguar, the wings of a bird and the tail of a fish”

The two most famous“airplanes” will be easily explained and actually do have easily explainable animals. More on that later.

With nature playing such a critical role in inspiring Tolima art, it is absurd to assume that something as fanciful as airplanes were being depicted. While the below quote makes some assumptions that may not necessarily be true (the Wright’s flew without sheet metal and the like) but the questions they ask and conclusion are sound. Why didn’t these supposed aircraft leave a large impression than a few figures?

“this idea starts to fall apart as soon as you think of how a South American culture would practically make airplanes.
For one, making the plane itself could be an issue. Metallurgy was not unknown to South American cultures by any means but most objects produced were ornamental or small practical things like knives. For a plane, you’d need to produce sheet metal, screws, have some sort of welding/soldering tools of which, as far as I know, there has been no archaeological evidence of. I’m also not sure how well bronze would work as your main building element since steel didn’t make it to the Americas until Spain brought it along.
An internal combustion engine could also be useful. And what about fuel? Did the peoples of South America have an industrial revolution a thousand years before anyone else? All archaeological evidence seems to point towards no. You’d think that sort of technology would leave a larger mark than some 2 inch gold ornaments.
Landing the plane could also be an issue what with the unpopularity of the wheel in the Americas. Without large draft animals, the wheel never really caught on in Meso/South America. The extreme highs and lows of the area made transport on foot the easiest and quickest way to get from point A to point B. Unless, of course, you were flying your plane that ran on magical fuel with a non-existent engine that could withstand a gliding landing.
Another problem with this entire theory is that all the speculation is centered on just one of the so-called ‘models’. Of the seven that I’ve seen, not one of them is alike. What seem to be jet-like wings on one becomes curved swoops or scalloped edges in another. The pointed beak of the main ‘airplane’ (the one that was scaled up to fly) is the exception rather than the rule with blunt, rounded heads on the rest. To base an entire theory on just the proportions of one of the artifacts isn’t sound. Just because one flew doesn’t mean the others will. Nevermind that a sample size of seven is too small to draw any sort of conclusion anyway (providing another reason for the lack of legitimate knowledge on these artifacts.)”

Keep in mind to make these two “planes” fly, they had to shave off the frills from the wings, get rid of the holes in the wings, add flaps to the wings and add an engine and landing gear.


More examples of other Tolima Gold work. Note a gold bird-like creature in the same vein as the “airplanes.” Also note, that human figures are flat and highy stylized. Using the same logic apllied to the “airplanes” are we to assume that the Tolima were flat or excessively skinny?

“Later, fish, lizards, crickets and fantastic beings in which features of various species were combined were cast in gold. Symmetrical pendants evoke man in different degrees of schematization, while men, bats and feline figures merge in a continuous stream of transformations…the human body is restricted to two dimensions but is set in multiple symmetries.”

The Tolima art was very stylized as evidenced by the human figures in the below links. The second link shows evidence of highly stylized humans that were used in funeral rituals.

Artwork from the Zenu people for contrast. The Zenu lived on the coast of the ocean while the Tolima lived more south.

A Zenu cat. It has holes in its back and a dinosaur tail. Just more evidence that artistic liberties were taken with all gold figures in that general area.

another photo of the objects


Georgio, not a single insect has it’s wings at the bottom.

Georgio: They have nothing in common with anything similar in nature.


Firstly, neither of the two figures that Georgio thinks are planes are depicting insects. There may be others, but this one may be one of the few actually depicting an insect. Perhaps a moth. Perhaps a bat.

These are the craft that Georgio seems to be referring to.

And his claim is that they have nothing in common with an animal found in nature.

Alright, let’s play.

One possibility, for the first one is that it’s a Sphingid moth.

Based on the wing shape, that’s possible. But it does seem that this would be upside down. The head and eyes seem to be here.

What else could it be?

A lithoxus lithoides from Guyana.

“That’s an armored catfish. And what’s that? It’s found on the north coast of South America? In fact, a catfish could easily explain a lot of the features: the upright tail fin, the two bulging eyes on top, the flat underbelly, the “wings” or fins in two pairs along the side.
But hah, the gold artifacts don’t have a dorsal fin, you say? Well, when you commonly see an Plecostomus (“algae eater”) or Loricariidae (catfish) resting on the bottom of a river, its top fin is flat on its body. And for crying out loud; these are very simplified tiny pieces of jewelry!”

the catfish perhaps fits this one as well, but this guy has another fish that’s a little closer to a match.

A flying fish.

Flying fish live near the coast of Venezuela, somewhat far from the Tolima, however not so far that it would be unbelievable they would know about them.

Although these are highly stylized, we can be sure that they are meant to be real animals. The below figure, while slightly exaggerated seams to represent a real fish. The artist perhaps was depicting a guitar fish and took some liberties in making it.

The left most figure could be a stingray.


Georgio: Pre-colombian culture knew about aerodynamics

2 examples from across the world, that are aerodynamic defies coincidence.


In the overview of the Tolima culture presented earlier, it’s plain to see that they were an agricultural society which relied on the river for much of their livelihood. We also saw that there was little evidence to support them using or needing aircraft for any part of their existence. If they had developed aircraft, why would they make only two models (widely different) among dozens of animals? Where is the other evidence for the use of aircraft? How did they land the planes? Were there hangars?

The evidence that these two “airplanes” are anything but animals, amongst many other animals is overwhelming.

The second claim that two examples of aerodynamic craft from across the world defies coincidence. The saqqara bird was proven to be completely un-airworthy. Comparing the Tolima objects to the Saqqara bird in light of that does nothing for the credibility of this claim.

Despite the fact that neither the Tolima objects nor the saqqara bird are airworthy, they do have a lot in common. Both are representations of animals. Both require extensive modification to be able to fly. And both objects are being used to promote the false claim that the ancients knew how to fly and were given this knowledge by aliens.

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