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The ancient astronaut theory seeks to explain anomalies in the human past, whether they be archaeological, mythological, anthropological, or palaeoanthropological. Here, we are concerned with the latter – the ancient astronaut theory for the origins of man, i.e. Homo sapiens, approximately 180,000 years ago.

Ancient astronaut writers believe that a race of intelligent extraterrestrial beings visited and/or colonised Earth in the remote past, whereupon they upgraded the primitive hominid Homo erectus by means of genetic engineering to create the human race as we know it: Homo sapiens.

Evidence for this idea is found (a) in the improbability of Homo sapiens emerging so suddenly, according to the principles of orthodox Darwinism; and (b) in the myths of ancient civilisations which describe human-like gods coming down from the heavens and creating mankind ‘in their own image’. Homo sapiens is thus regarded as a hybrid being, incorporating a mix of terrestrial genes from Homo erectus and extraterrestrial genes from the race of the gods.

Prior to the modern age of space travel and genetics, this theory for the origins of man could not have been conceived. And even now, in the 21st century, there are many people who would regard it as science fiction. However, in the light of the problems with the orthodox theory of human evolution, the idea of a genetic intervention by an intelligent human-like species (who themselves evolved on another planet over a more credible time frame) does require to be taken seriously as a potential solution to the mystery.

The most famous exponents of the ancient astronaut intervention are the Swiss writer Erich von Daniken and the American writer Zecharia Sitchin. The latter, in particular, has argued the case in great detail, and it is to his theory that we now turn.

The Theories of Zecharia Sitchin

Zecharia Sitchin claims to be able to read and translate the ancient cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia. Much of his evidence for ancient astronaut intervention consists of his own translations of these tablets, these translations differing significantly from those that have been proffered by academia.

According to Sitchin’s interpretation of the ancient myths, an extraterrestrial race of gods known as ‘the Anunnaki’ came down to the Earth 445,000 years ago from a planet known as Marduk or Nibiru – a planet which remains in our solar system on a vast elliptical orbit of 3,600 years. These Anunnaki-gods then created Homo sapiens, partly in their own image, using a process of genetic engineering, with the aim of using this hybrid species as a slave race. Sitchin undertakes a remarkable study of the myths of the creation of man, in which he argues that many words and phrases anticipate the modern practices of genetic engineering and cloning. See his books ‘The Twelfth Planet’ (1976) and ‘Genesis Revisited’ (1990).

Sitchin’s interpretation has gained considerable strength from the fact that the myths of the gods are inadequately explained by academia. It is for this reason that many intelligent people are attracted to his theory.

In 1989, I myself became infatuated with Sitchin’s theory, to the extent that I felt motivated to publicise his idea in the UK. In 1996, I self-published a book ‘Gods of the New Millennium’ in which I lent enthusiastic support to his ancient astronaut hypothesis. The focus of my book was genetics, the myths of the gods, and the awesome improbability of human evolution according to the principles of Darwinism. This book was relaunched by Hodder and Stoughton in 1997, at which time it became a number 11 bestseller. With translation deals to follow, I suddenly found myself in the position of international spokesman for the ancient astronaut theory.

However, upon conducting further research for an intended sequel, I began to see that there was a ‘third way’ to understand the myths of the gods, namely that the gods personified the cataclysmic powers of creation. This idea had never been considered by academia, nor by ancient astronaut writers, and yet it made sense of everything, and was clearly, to my mind, not only a superior theory but a true explanation. Consequently, in my second and third books, I performed a major U-turn, which had the unfortunate effect of alienating the majority of my readership. My contract with Hodder and Stoughton was terminated shortly afterwards.

In 1999 an astonishing thing happened, following my attendance at the 8th annual UFO Congress in Laughlin, Nevada (February 21st to 27th). At this conference, I delivered a lecture about my second book, but in informal private discussions I also proclaimed my serious doubts about certain aspects of Sitchin’s theory. About seven weeks later, I received a letter (recorded delivery) from Sitchin, the full text of which I reproduce below.

Date: April 16, 1999

Dear Mr. Alford,

It has come to my attention that you have made it a practice, in public talks and otherwise, to precede your presentation of your own writings by devoting a major part of your time and space to badmouthing me, my writings and my theories and conclusions.

You are of course free to hold and present your own ideas and theories on any subject you wish; you are not free to defame me, destroy my reputation and wilfully cause me harm.

You ought to be mature enough to present whatever you have to say about your own work without seeking justification for your own theories by viciously attacking mine.

I trust you will give this letter serious consideration.


Z. Sitchin

Enclosed with the letter was a news cutting from the New York Times, dated April 14, 1999, which described how a New York law firm had agreed to pay 50 million dollars compensatory damages to Lexecon Inc, a Chicago consulting firm, for its attempts to discredit it and destroy its reputation. Sitchin had underlined in red ink the words ‘50 million dollars’, ‘destroy its reputation’, and ‘discredit’.

To say that I was gobsmacked by this letter would be an understatement. The truth was that I had not devoted any time in my lecture to criticising Sitchin’s theories, as is evidenced by the video recording of my talk (which can be purchased from the UFO Congress). However, during my seven days at Laughlin, I did spend time criticising his theories in private conversations – albeit my comments were neither personal nor vicious. As for the suggestion that my arguments could destroy his reputation, that is pure melodrama of course, but some compliment to my powers of argument and persuasion!

I did not respond to Sitchin's letter, nor take seriously the legitimacy of his legal claim. However, I did take seriously the risk that he might pursue his unfounded case and submerge me in a sea of litigation, at great cost to my ongoing research into the mysteries of ancient religion, Atlantis and the Great Pyramid. I therefore decided to keep my head down by avoiding confrontation with both Sitchin and his fans, even to the extent that I became guarded in my private conversations.

Such a strategy was not without cost. In July 2000, I declined an invitation to appear on the Art Bell Show (a leading US radio programme) on the grounds that a proper defence of my theory – in the face of phone-ins from Sitchin fans – would require a hostile refutation of Sitchin’s theory before millions of listeners – a sure fire way to bring his solicitors down on my head.

But time has moved on, and it has become increasingly apparent that confrontation with Sitchin’s theory is imperative if my own theories are to win the recognition that they deserve. As Alasdair Beal, the editor of ‘Chronology and Catastrophism Review’, put it to me in 2002: ‘to review and analyse competing theories (is) an essential part of the process of winning people over to a new idea.’ And, there can be no doubt about it, Sitchin’s interpretation of the ancient myths is a real obstacle to my aim of laying the groundwork for an eventual unification of all the world’s religions by explaining the meaning of their common mythology.

I have therefore decided that I will take time out, after my sixth book is published in early-2004, to write an unprecedented critique of Sitchin’s theory, and offer it free on-line to interested readers. And if Sitchin cares to respond, be it in the form of scholarly arguments or litigious threats, I will be more than happy to publicise that too.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, I append a brief article which I wrote in 2000/01 for the benefit of Zecharia Sitchin fans, explaining, in broad terms, how and why I came to reject his theory of the myths of the gods. To read this article, please click:A Message to Sitchin Fans.

‘Gods of the New Millennium’

Readers of my first book ‘Gods of the New Millennium’ are hereby advised that I have retracted a large part of the ‘evidence’ for ancient astronaut intervention which I cited in that book. This evidence relates to Zecharia Sitchin’s interpretation of the myths of the gods who came down from the skies. I am now firmly of the opinion that these gods personified the falling sky; in other words, the descent of the gods was a poetic rendition of the cataclysm myth which stood at the heart of ancient Near Eastern religions. But this re-assessment does not undermine other kinds of evidence which I cited in ‘Gods of the New Millennium’.

To fully understand the reasons for this partial U-turn, interested parties should read the books that I have written since 1996. See the Bookshop section of this website.

A brief position statement concerning my partial U-turn has been inserted in the paperback edition of ‘Gods of the New Millennium’ as a New Foreword.

In addition, readers of ‘Gods of the New Millennium’ are invited to read my long and very detailed Self-Critique of that book, which explains where I now stand on a wide range of subjects from the origins of man to ancient science to megalithic sites. This Self-Critique is a restricted site, access to which requires insertion of a password. The password is in fact a number, of three digits, which is the life span of Abram as estimated in chapter 13 of ‘Gods of the New Millennium’. Please click here Self-Critique and enter the password when prompted

Read the Texts and Decide for Yourself

With regard to the controversy between Sitchin and myself, I often caution people against the dangers of forming a view based on his books and/or mine. Rather, I advise people to read the ancient texts and make their own judgements as to what these myths really mean. I have therefore attached to this page a list of all the relevant texts where the myths of the gods are recited. To view this list, please click:Ancient Texts Reading List.

A New Scenario for Extraterrestrial Intervention

Although I no longer support Zecharia Sitchin’s brand of ancient astronautism, I remain intrigued by the possibility of extraterrestrial intervention, albeit in the very remote past. My recommendation is that we treat the mythological evidence with the utmost caution, and focus instead on the archaeological, anthropological, and palaeoanthropological evidence for the theory.

An alternative scenario, which I find more plausible, is that an extraterrestrial race came to Earth from a neighbouring planet in our own solar system – a planet that exploded millions of years ago.

Based on his studies of comets, asteroids and meteorites, the American astronomer Dr Tom Van Flandern has postulated the prior existence of two additional planets in the heart of our solar system, between the orbits of the Earth and Jupiter (see According to Van Flandern, these two ex-planets exploded millions of years ago, possibly 250 mya and 65 mya respectively. The innermost of these two planets is thought to have been the parent of Mars (i.e. Mars was originally a moon) and has been designated ‘Planet V’. The outermost exploded planet has been designated ‘Planet K’.

In addition, Planets V and K probably had moons, the majority of which likewise exploded. Van Flandern believes that it was one of these moons, probably belonging to Planet V, which exploded 3.2 mya, giving birth to the current generation of comets. Most pertinently, the evidence of ice in comets and water in some meteorites would suggest that this exploded moon was once a water-bearing world, not too dissimilar from the Earth but smaller in size. It would thus have been entirely suitable for the genesis of biological life forms.

Did intelligent life evolve in the Planet V system? In my book ‘The Phoenix Solution’ (1998), I advanced the possibility, admittedly quite speculative, that an intelligent species might have evolved upon one of these former bodies, and then migrated to the Earth in order to ensure the survival of their species:

‘One of the interesting implications of the EPH is that it places one or two previously unknown planets in the Sun’s ‘habitable zone’. Moreover, these planets appear to have been watery, which is an essential requirement for the development of life as we know it. If there were two of these planets, and the furthermost one, Planet K, exploded first (as seems to be the case), then any life on the nearest one, Planet V, would have been ‘quickened’ to an even greater extent than life on the Earth. It would then have had nearly 200 million years before it, too, exploded – more than enough time for intelligent life to have evolved, realised the state of its predicament and moved on.’

To which planet would such intelligent life have migrated? The obvious answer is: to Planet V’s neighbour – to planet Earth. There, in order to survive in a different planetary environment, the extraterrestrial species would have been forced to alter its genetic make-up, perhaps by mixing its genes with a native terrestrial species, thereby creating a hybrid. Might they be ‘us’? Might we be ‘them’, albeit perhaps in some hybridised form?

One intriguing line of evidence for this migration scenario is the planet Mars which, according to Van Flandern’s EPH, was originally a moon of Planet V. In an attached article, I discuss the evidence for a former civilisation on Mars, and suggest that such a civilisation might have been wiped out when Planet V or a second moon of Planet V (known as ‘Body C’) exploded in its immediate vicinity. Please click here A Civilisation on Mars?

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