The hunt for Eldorado and the Philosopher's stone

In Digging up Ancient Aliens, our host Fredrik uses his background in archaeology to discover what is genuine, fake, and somewhere in between on the TV show Ancient Aliens. In this episode, we will set out deep into the jungles of South America, searching for two famous cities made of gold. Eldorado and Paititi, could these legendary places be evidence of alien visitation? Join in as we see what the latest research has uncovered.

We'll also look into modern attempts to turn ordinary metals into precious metals. New technologies have unlocked what some call "the philosopher's stone." But could this technology have existed in the past?

This episode is based on the claims in Ancient Aliens episode four of season three called "Aliens and Temples of Gold" (S03E04). Our intro music is by Sandra Marteleur, and our outro is by the band Trallskruv.


El Dorado


The Philosopher’s stone and alchemy

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions

   And, as his strength

   Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow;

   "Shadow," said he,

   "Where can it be,

This land of Eldorado?"

  "Over the mountains

   Of the moon,

Down the valley of the shadow,

   Ride, boldly ride,"

   The shade replied,--

"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Eldorado - By Edgar Allan Poe

Hi, hello, and välkommen to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine the TV show, Ancient Aliens. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there? 

I am your host, Fredrik, and this is episode 23, as you might have guessed from the title. This will be a gold-heavy episode. We will break down episode four from season three, "Aliens and Temples of Gold" (S03E04). In this episode, we will go and look for Eldorado and scour the highlands of Peru for another golden city called Paititi. How did the ancient Egyptians obtain all their gold? Could it be that they had access to lost technologies that we're just now beginning to unlock?

Remember that you can find sources, resources, and reading suggestions on our website, There you also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions. And if you like the podcast, I would appreciate it if you left one of those fancy five-star reviews I've heard so much about. 

Now when we have finished our preparations, let’s dig into the episode.

El Dorado

Where to start an episode about gold, if not with the quest for El Dorado? I have to hand it to them; this time, they have a clear thread and will somewhat stick to it. The show takes us to the highlands of Colombia, and Lake Guatavita, which the narrator claims was formed by the impact of a meteorite. Could this lake be the origin of the mystery that is El Dorado? And they explain the myth as follows:

“Since the 16th century, El Dorado has been the “holy grail” for fortune hunters. Legends abound about a place full of untold riches somewhere in South America. Yet, to this day, the mythical city remains undiscovered. But if such a magnificent place does exist, how has it eluded explorers for centuries?

I'm not entirely sure why they add the ranking on the civilization there, but alright. Let's continue with the show's explanation before pulling out pushpins and yarn. They do a decent job describing the Spanish chronicler's take on the story. It's told to us that the ruler of the Muiscas was known as Zipa, and I'm going to pause here quickly. The idea of one ruler, one tribe/civilization/empire is a somewhat eurocentric thought. In reality, the Muiscas were a confederation of several tribes with a shared culture. Even if independent chiefdoms formed it, the tribes would unite against a common threat. This confederation was headed by a northern, for lack of a better word, ruler called Hoa. The south was governed by Zipa, so they are technically correct, but it's a more complex story than presented. 

Muisca Bird Pendant from the lake Guatevita - METS Museum

Muisca Bird Pendant from the Lake Guatevita region. The daterange is 900 - 1500 CE. Credit The Met’s Open Access program

The show explains that the conquistadores called this ruler the Golden One or El Hombre Dorado due to a special ceremony in which the leader participated. According to the show, the leader would go out on a raft in the lake and sacrifice large amounts of gold to the gods residing in Lake Guatevita. Over time the name changed and became shorter until it finally became the location of El Dorado. We also learn that in 1912 the lake was excavated by the engineer Hartley Knowles who recovered $20 000 worth of treasure. But this is only a tiny sliver of what people believe was hidden by the tribe beneath the lake.

So how does the show do compared to the genuine history of El Dorado? They didn't spend so much time on this location, and maybe it's because the more you look, the more El Dorado turns into a story, a myth. El Dorado has spawned stories and legends since the beginning. It's hard to mention another location other than Atlantis, that's generated so much literature and fiction. From Edgar Allan Poe's poem Eldorado to Voltaire's Candide to Wilson Harris's The secret ladder. Continuing in movies such as the Road to El Dorado, Zorro, that Indiana Jones movie we don't talk about, video games, music, and a list that only grows larger. When a location is so fictionalized as this, it can be hard to sort out the fantasy, especially when the myth has been a good part of it from the start.

The first mention of El Dorado in writing seems to be in 1539; Gonzalo de la Peña was chronicling that the Spanish explorer Sebastián de Benalcázar was "in search of a land called El Dorado and Paqua and of great renown for its gold and gems."

So early on, we have an idea that there are places with even more riches than already found. We must remember that this myth originates from the wealth found in Tenochtitlán, primarily spread by Bernal Díaz del Castillo in his letters. The encounter with the Incas and their treasures set a standard for the riches people thought they could find if going deeper into the jungle. We could see Eldorado as a fictional excuse made up by the conquistadores to loot, ravage, enslave and conquer South America. 

But El Dorado is just one part of a monumental fantasy, including locations such as Paititi (that we will return to later), The land of cinnamon, the Seven Cities of Cibola, and the fountain of youth. All these different locations were said to be somewhere in South America. Even if the mythical places all contain riches, it seems that it is not just the riches people are looking for when searching for them. They seem to look for a paradise where all is well. I think Voltaire may describe this idea well in Candide.

“Quel est donc ce pays,  .  .  . inconnu à tout le reste de la terre, et où toute la nature est d’une espèce si différente de la nôtre? C’est probablement le pays où tout va bien: car il faut absolument qu’il y en ait un de cette espèce”

“What is this country  .  .  . which is unknown to the rest of the world, and where nature operates under laws so utterly different to ours? It is probably the land where all is well, for clearly, such a place has to exist,”

As I mentioned, the location of the elusive El Dorado has shifted over the centuries. For some time, the place was somewhere inside Amazon. Conquistadores believed the warrior women from Herodotus' writings lived close to the Golden City. As with much else, European reports did exoticize indigenous women in South America, describing them as dangerous as the lands they were trying to civilize. These ideas stem from the priest Gaspar de Carvajal's writings; he claims to have witnessed all of this in 1541 on de Orellana's expedition down the Amazon river. Carvajal also describes how the Amazon women have walls of silver and vast hoards of wealth, and if they would give birth to a son, they kill the child and send it to the father. The idea that El Dorado must be in the Amazon lived on until quite late in history.

But was El Dorado an invention of solely Europeans? Well, there is this hybrid nature to it; there were legends among the indigenous people touching on golden kings and essential rituals. But it's in all likelihood been grouped without discrimination by the Europeans later, twisting the legends into new myths. Take, for example, the idea of the Golden Kings, as described in "Historia general y natural de las Indias," written between 1514–49 by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo. He describes the king and his riches as follows:

an exceedingly wealthy and important lord, and [it is further related that] with a certain resin or liquid which has a very fine odor he anoints himself every morning, and upon that ointment sets and sticks the gold ground [into dust] and as fine as is required for what has been stated, and his whole body is then left covered with gold from the soles of his feet to his head and as bright as a golden object fashioned by the hand of a skilled artisan regularly comes out. And it is my belief that if that chief is accustomed to doing that, he must possess some very rich mines of that particular quality of gold, for, in Tierra Firme, I have seen considerable quantities of it.

But we also have to consider that the natives fueled these myths for survival. Gold was vital in these cultures, but it did not have a necessary monetary value. Gold was part of a religious and spiritual sphere; you could have gold without belonging to the elite. This is why I find the ideas of "survival gold" or apocalyptic gold sold to preppers a bit funny. Gold does not have any value when society doesn't care about it. I think you're better off stocking up on bullets, butter, and canned food. With that survival tip, let's continue.

But where does this idea of Lake Guatevita being El Dorado originate? The connection stems from an author named Juan Rodriguez Freyle, who is 1638, wrote about a ceremony as follows:

“At this time, they stripped the heir to his skin and anointed him with a sticky earth on which they placed gold dust so that he was completely covered with this metal. They placed him on the raft /…/ and at his feet, they placed a great heap of gold and emeralds for him to offer to his god. In the raft with him went four principal subject chiefs, decked in plumes, crowns, bracelets, pendants, and earrings all of gold. They, too, were naked, and each one carried his offering /…/ when the raft reached the center of the lagoon, they raised a banner as a signal for silence.

The gilded Indian then /.../ [threw] out all the pile of gold into the middle of the lake, and the chiefs who had accompanied him did the same on their own accounts.”

Freyle is not the first to talk about a golden king, which was covered some 100 years earlier by Oviedo, but he adds the idea of golden items to be sacrificed in the lake. But Freyle isn't the only one talking about golden men and gold in lakes. There are other stories from this era about Paytiti, Manoa, and other places. Pushing the location of El Dorado further down the river, up on the other mountain, or another village. But note that the idea that El Dorado is a golden city is never mentioned in these sources, it's always a man, but it seems as if El Dorado at one point shifts from being hunted for riches to a hunt for paradise on earth.

But a few things that proponents of Lake Guatevita use as proof is that the Muisca did have elaborate gold work. The fact that we have found an artifact depicting a golden raft with golden figures on it and that, as the show mentioned, golden artifacts were found at the bottom.

Muisca raft at Museo Del Oro
The Musica raft that was found in Pasca 1969. - By Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA - Pedro Szekely, Gold Museum, Bogota, from flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The Muisca were accomplished gold workers but hardly the only ones in South America. But we did find an artifact known as “The Muisca raft” in 1969. A local farmer found it in a cave in the Pasca municipality. It was part of an offering containing another golden procession figure and a large vessel. The connection to the El Dorado myth is mainly due to the work of Museo del Oro, who acquired the object in 69. Since then, they've worked hard to cultivate this idea; it seems more like a publicity stunt than actual scientific work.

This raft is made of gold and depicts ten figures standing on them; it seems as if a couple of them are rowing the raft. Placed center in the scene is a more prominent figure who is richly decorated, indicating that it's someone of importance. But it's hard to say if it's a god, chief, or priest. The piece does not have any beading or seams that indicate soldering, so it's most likely manufactured with the lost-vax technique.

But that's the gist of it, sure, it does sound a bit like the story, but I do not feel it's enough to conclusively say that we have Lake Guatevita as the origin of El Dorado.

But how about all those gold artifacts in the lake? That must be where we get to the bottom of this, right? As it turns out, Hartley Knowles did lead a company called Contractors Limited, but it was in 1899, not 1912, as the show indicates. But Knowles didn't excavate the lake; he drained it almost completely. It was only the mud left when the water was gone. As for the value, it ranges. Ancient Aliens claim some 20 000 dollars, but other sources give different answers, and we know this is usually a red flag. But the best appraisal I found was that the items found by Knowles were sold at an auction at Sotheby's in London for £500. Of the 63 lots put up, 22 of them were of gold, and most were small trinkets. The most significant piece was a breastplate weighing 226 grams or 8 ounces. Buyers later donated some of the artifacts to the British Museum; the discussion on how to donate something that's not yours is another question. 

They might have even gotten how the lake was formed wrong. It seems that Lake Guatevita might have been created by a collapsed salt dome, not a meteoric impact. 

So is El Dorado real? No, it seems as if there never was a golden city hidden somewhere in South America waiting to be rediscovered. It started as a myth and seems to have expanded and grown to a more prominent legend. 

We will somewhat return to El Dorado in a moment, but the show breaks off, asking why the alien came to visit us. David Childress explains the following:

"A number of researchers have suggested that Ancient Aliens have come to Earth primarily to mine gold. Zecharia Sitchin suggested that these extraterrestrials needed gold to spend it in the atmosphere and preserve their planet."

We also meet Derek Pitts, who explains that gold is instrumental in different applications. Pitts is chief astronomer at the Frankin institute and seems to have been roped in here somehow. But yes, it's an instrumental metal and also misused. You'll find gold in everything from electronics to guitar strings.

As for Zecharia Sitchin had this idea that aliens from a different planet needed more gold for their atmosphere for some reason, and the best and closest place was earth. But these aliens got lazy and started to create slave and master races and all those racist ideas we have heard so many times. Sitchin claims to have learned this from Sumerian tablets, but he has never been able to prove he could read or translate them. I will not go more in-depth here since we have done it in the past. But I think a Zecharia Special might be coming sooner rather than later.


Even if we're going to leave El Dorado, in a sense, we will stay in South America but circle back to a place we mentioned a few moments ago. Paititi. The show introduces this section 

as if it is a fact that aliens came here to mine gold; they base this on a body of literature that includes the mystical place Paititi. Before we dig deeper, let's see what Ancient Aliens say about this mysterious location.

Unfortunately, we don't get a great backstory on Paititi. The show stresses that it's not to be confused with El Dorado, even if it sounds almost the same. We have Gregory Deyermenjian, credited as a Paititi explorer, is trying to explain it as follows: 

El Dorado and Paititi are frequently confused. I see El Dorado as being that particular gold-producing site that was in northern South America, and Paititi having been another civilization contemporaneous with the Incas in the area of Peru, Bolivia, that has yet to be definitively found. And that’s what part of my quest has been over these last 25 years.

So the idea might be that El Dorado is where gold is made while Paititi is a different civilization connected to the Inca. Gregory has been searching for this city or civilization since 1984 and still does when I look him up. But according to an unspecified legend, one Inca road is supposed to lead an explorer to the lost city. Why the Inca people would build a road to another civilization is a bit unclear.

But their search starts in Cusco, the navel of the empire, and the famous Coricancha (QOH-ree KAHN-cha). The golden enclosure. It's described that in 1559 the conquistadores tried to tear it down and built a church in its place. It's supposed to have a fabulous gilded altar, but according to some records, it pales compared to how the Coricancha looked under Inca rules. Not only were there many golden statues, but sheets of gold also covered the wall. 

We meet another explorer named Brian Foerster, who explains the Inca relation to gold as follows:

"Gold was important with the Inca because it was the sweat of the Sun. The Sun was the highest deity of the Inca and therefore the sweat of the Sun represented the most sacred possession imaginable."

We then learn that we within Corichancha could find key evidence of extraterrestrial visitation; the show claims that the sun god Punchal points us in the right direction. Georgio Tsoukalos explains:

Original windows within todays Coricancha

Original windows inside the temple. Much was destroyed by the concistadores but some details still remain - By AnthopoVoyager - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

"Coricancha was famous for its gigantic golden disc that the ancient Inca worshiped. That was a symbol of a giant golden disc that allegedly landed from the sky in front of the Inca ruler Atahuallpa, and he had direct contact, according to the legends, with the Sky Gods."

The writers of the show then speculate that this golden disk inside the temple must be to honor an alien visitor. If the alien was this close to Cusco, would it not be easy to think that the city of Paititi must be nearby? We learn when the conquistadores sacked the navel of the Inca empire, the priests were prepared and moved the gold outside the city. Foerster continues to explain:

"Before the entire group of Spanish was able to get into Cuzco, the priests found out about it and they had all of the gold from all of the temples brought up to Lake Puray and thrown into the center. None of it has been found, to this day. The amount of gold at today's prices would be in the billions."

How he knows all this is unknown and why nobody has gone and fished that gold up. This section is closed out by more Foerster talking about UFOs entering and leaving the lake. He attributes these legends to the local people, and we see the show interviewing indigenous people of the area. They have some team on location talking with the people they claim to hold these beliefs. But we still have a white dude explaining what these people believe. It does not help that all the native people are women too. I feel they disagreed with what the show wanted to present and therefore cut the audio out.

But they leave the legend of Paititi here, not making us wiser on El Dorado or Paititi. So let us start to dig into this, then, shall we?

Paititi might be one of the more unknown mystical sites, even if Shadow of the Tomb Raider has parts of its storyline there. 

When we look into the myth about Paititi we start to note the same patterns as with El Dorado. Early chronicles mention a legendary place but usually involved rich mines of a different sort. One early account involved a White King with large silver mines. Some chronicles do indicate that Paititi was a location, not a golden city, but a lake or a river that joins the river Manu. Diego and Martin de Zecenarro, two brothers part of an expedition, noted that Paititi was a river. But as so happens, there was a "very large town with a very large number of people and it is governed by four caciques and these have a lot of gold and silver tableware and that they sit on gold chairs." It might be good to put to the records that Mario Polia, an Italian archeologist, wrote in the Italian magazine Archeo 2002 that he had found records about Paititi. In the archives of Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu or ARSI, a Jesuit order in Rome Polia had found a letter. In this letter, a man called Father Andrea Lopez is writing about a holy miracle in the city of Paititi. As he describes it, a very warlike country that uses gold, silver, and pearls for their pots like we use iron. We also see the idea of white people existing in South America pre-Columbus here since the father describes these people as being white, like Germans. 

Going back to the Amazonian women we talked briefly about in relation to El Dorado was sometimes described as fair and pale. This is the idea of white gods; Europeans had visited these places in the past and could claim the land. Or that the natives treated them as gods when encountered because their god was white and bearded. Now it’s a bit funny that we don’t see this in their depictions, only in chronicles written by conquistadores.

But to circle back to the miracle described by Father Lopes. The king of Paititi was mocking the cross but suddenly started to quote the Apostle Paul. Afterward, he falls to his knees and starts to venerate the cross. We don't know if the pope did bless the endeavor. But we don't learn the city's exact location except that it's some ten days walk out of Peru. The letter focuses more on the miracle than the site or legends about the city. The proponents claim that this is absolute proof that Paititi exists as an actual city, but they have not thoroughly dealt with the claims that it’s a river or a lake without a prosperous town. Or a small town with nice chairs. They just ignore the other descriptions when it fits them.

Something more fascinating is the influence the indigenous people had on Paititi. Soon after the fall of the Inca empire, a myth started to spread about the Inkarri (ing-Kah-REE). This name combines the word Inca and a Quechuanized version of Rey or king in Spanish. This myth seems to incorporate two world-turning events for the Inca. The assassination of Atahualpa (ah-tah-WAHL-pah), the last independent Sapa Inca of the Tawantinsuyu, and a set of rebellions in 1780-1783. 

Atahuallpa, Inca XIIII by unknown artist

Atahuallpa the 14th Inka and part of the Inkarri legend. Credit Berlin Ethnologisches Museum

As for Atahualpa, he offered a room filled with precious metals to still the conquistador’s greed. He assembles the room but he is not let free, the chronicles of the time mention the gold-filled room but leave out any commitments from the Spaniards. Instead of releasing him, the Inca Sapa is decapitated after being converted to Christianity. According to the Inkarri myth, the head was still alive and taken to Cusco where it was kept. But it would not be ”dead” forever, it is rebuilding itself and when Inkarris’s body is again whole he will judge the Spaniards and throw them out. The myth is also applied to the rebellion leader Tupac Amaru II who was also believed to have become an embodiment of Inkarri. Not in life but in death, common for both is that they suffered a death involving dismemberment. We see here how the Quechua and Aymara natives incorporate a messianic idea into a traditional belief. 

The idea about Inkarri has grown since, and now some attribute the founding of cities such as Q'ero and Cusco to this hero. After he is done fighting the Spaniards, he was believed to have retired to Paititi. We did see with the El Dorado myth that the indigenous people fed into the legend, and the Inca has taken a more active role in developing the idea of Paititi. Here the city became more or less the paradise for the hero-god, the final resting place after accomplishing his messianic mission. It's almost as if they have re-appropriated a colonial idea of a golden city, a paradise on earth, back into their own culture.

While El Dorado was more likely a man, Paititi might have been a real place, as we noted in the earlier sources it most likely was a river or lake. If there was a settlement, I don't think it was richer than the others and probably met the same end as the other Inca cities. So even if this idea might be more plausible, I find it unlikely that it lives up to the myth we have created around it. I think that these explorers we've seen would not accept less than a city of gold as the real Paititi, even if we found it.

They did talk about a few other things I'd like to circle back to. Now they mentioned Coricancha (QOH-ree KAHN-cha) and it was indeed a holy place and larger than the show seems to indicate. Coricancha was not a single temple to a diety, it was more of a district that housed the religious center of the people. Within the enclosure were different temples and rooms dedicated to the different cults such as the Sun, the Moon, and other celestial bodies. But also weather phenomena such as lightning and rainbows, in here we also find the "Garden of the Sun" and also temporary housing for royal mummies during celebrations. In it, we also found according to the indigenous chronicler Pachacuti Yamqui indigenous chronicler described a plaque detailing the Inca cosmos residing inside the building.

It must have been an amazing place to visit and it's sad to think how much we have lost due to ignorance, greed, and religious zealots. Remember that Georgio talked about this being the home of a golden disk of Punchal that they worshipped. Some chronicles describe the idol of the sun as a golden disk. But it was also described by others such as Padre Bernabé Cobo century as three idols Inti, Churi Inti (son), and Inti Huauque (brother). The most important was the Inti idol or Punchau, depicted as a boy of 10 years with sandals and a tunic. According to the viceroy Francisco Toledo, it contained the vital organs of all previous Sapa Incas. 

"It has a heart of dough in a golden chalice inside the body of the idol, this dough being of a powder made from the hearts of dead Incas /.../ It is surrounded by a form of golden medallions in order that, when struck by the sun, these should shine in such a way that one could never see the idol itself, but only the reflected brilliance of these medallions"

Even if the sun most likely was important as a deity, the chronicles have by their confusing accounts made us a disservice here. Often it seems as if the creator god Viracocha (wi-rah-KOH-cha) and the Sun are mixed up and have contradicting descriptions. But when we look at the mythology, the Sun is scarcely mentioned and mostly has a passive role in it. On the other hand Manco Capac, the first Sapa Inca was thought to be a descendant of the sun. So later ruling Sapa Incas was therefore also related to the sun. But there is a discussion on how important the sun really was within the Inca mythology.

I can't find where Georgio got the idea that Atahualpa (ah-tah-WAHL-pah) had some disk land in front of him. But it sounds like the visions of Inca Yupanqui before the attack on Cusco by the Chanca. But it's one of those claims where Georgio would need to show his sources.

As for the gold in the lake that Foerster talked about. Well, it seems to go back to Atahualpa and his attempt to still the greed of the conquistadores, but in some legends, when the Spaniards killed the Sapa Inca anyway the people took the treasure back and threw it in the lake. I find it unlikely that the Spanish forces would let so much gold be carried off after having it collected in front of them. But it makes for a good story, if you have any other views on it please let me know.

The Philosopher’s stone and alchemy

We are going to leave South America now for this time and go a bit closer in time to 1924 and Tokyo Imperial University. Professor Hantaro Nagaoka is conducting an experiment where he directs 150 000 volts of electricity at a mercury isotope for four hours. The goal is to remove one hydrogen proton from the nucleus of mercury and produce another element. Gold. When the experiment was over, Nagaoka looked at the result and realized that he had solved an ancient mystery. He had found the Philosopher's Stone.

So this is how Ancient Aliens start this section where we will focus more on alchemy and the Philosopher's Stone. It's, to be honest, and quite surprised decent science they will be depicted here. Except for what you just heard, while the goal of creating gold is true. The method, not as much. As I have been able to find Professor Nagaoka's experiment was performed by "running a mercury lamp for more than 200 hours under a voltage of 226." He was not the only one, at the same time with a similar method Professor A. Miethe also performed this experiment. Showing it is possible to turn mercury into gold by removing atoms. Both of these experiments generated gold of less than a gram.

Drawing from Atalanta Fugien by Michael Maier

Drawing from Atalanta Fugien by Michael Maier

 We're then taken on a stroll through historic attempts to turn metal into gold and Isaacs Newton's failed attempts in alchemy. They are doing a good job of showing how lazy people can be before we dream of turning scrap into riches with no effort. Today we hunt the idea of passive income on Etsy, things change but not that much.

We are then taken to a lab at Irvine, California Irvine and meet what I assume is a co-worker of Michael Dennin. The show claims that Dr. AJ Shaka is using alchemy every day. He is in a very nice lab preparing an experiment and explaining how we today can create gold

"We put mercury into one of these tubes, and mercury has a minor isotope of .15% mercury 196, it's called – and that isotope will actually pick up a neutron and, in about 23 hours, turn into gold."

So with the help of nuclear reactors, they bombard the sample with radiation and does turn the mercury into gold quicker than we did in 1920. They say that you could use other methods as we mentioned before but that radiation is the quickest and most efficient. This was honestly news to me and quite fascinating what we can do. By targeting molecules, we can do things people have dreamt of for ages. But before you run off to sell your gold before the price drops, you do not have to worry yet. Dr. Shaka explains that this method even if more efficient than what it was 100 years ago, might have some flaws. 

In 2010 when this was aired, the price for a troy ounce of gold (or 31 grams) was 1873 dollars. Dr. Shaka does not give us the weight but instead the value of the result and it is 0,3 cents. We also learn that the machine they use costs some $200 per hour to operate, to save you on some math the cost of only the machine lands on $4200. While impressive as proof it can be done it's not really at a stage where the gold markets will topple over soon.

But since we today can create a tiny amount of gold, could they have done it in the past? The short answer is no. But let's hear them out. We're transported to ancient Egypt where the show wonders how ancient Egypt could have had so much gold. 

“According to Ancient Astronaut Theorists, it is entirely possible that the Egyptians were capable of actually manufacturing gold and may have received otherworldly help to do so. If alchemical transmutations can be performed in a modest facility like the one at the University of California, Irvine, what might be possible with a larger reactor? A reactor, perhaps, the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza.”

We then have Childress and Dunn claiming that maybe the pyramid of Cheops probably was a nuclear reactor. Maybe it was used to create all the gold that ancient Egypt needed. Christoffer Dunn explains it as follows:

"Looking into the blueprints of the internal arrangements, passageways, chambers, and shafts, the appearance of it to me did not resemble anything that would be used as a tomb. The precision with which it was built, the precision of the stones that go into building the Queen's Chamber, the Grand Gallery, and then, also, thousands and thousands of tons of granite that were brought down the Nile 500 miles to build the King's Chamber. These are the features that really shout out and say: There's something going on here, there's something different. It was built like a machine, perhaps it functioned like a machine."

Most of us can agree that this is just plain silly. They are correct in that gold was important in Egypt, but we don't need a gold generator to explain how they got them. We have a good understanding of the mining operations the Egyptians set up and have some 250 known sites of mining. Furthermore, there was trade with Punt and other locations for gold so getting the amounts needed was not too big of an issue for Egypt. If the gold would have been created, it probably would not have so many impurities as Egyptian gold has. If you start to look closer, you'll start to notice it comes in different colors and purity. Their methods to produce gold was good but rudimentary, but it seems as if they didn't really care about if the colors were different between pieces. The important part was that gold does not tarnish and therefore symbolizes eternity in a way.

As for Dunn's idea of the pyramid as a machine, we've looked into this part before. A bit in episode 10 and all the way back in episode 1. Dunn's arguments boil down to an "I want it to be true" and leaves it at that. The pyramid has no moving parts, nothing beneath it, nothing that would be able to interfere with something else. Dunn has done little to nothing to even make a dent in the scientific body of work that adds to our understanding of the site. I think we can leave it there for now.

Final words

We will leave here today, but make sure to come back next time! Then we will explore the rumors of an ancient library under the Sphinx and if the current dating is accurate. We’ll also solve the enigma of Rennes-le-Château, a small french village where the priest suddenly had more wealth than anyone could dream of. Or at least according to the tale. We’ll also look into whispers of the holy grail resting in a church outside Edinburgh, Scotland.

But till then, remember to leave a positive review anywhere you can, such as iTunes, Spotify, or to your friend at the trench. I would also recommend visiting to find more info about me and the podcast. You can also find me on most social media sites, and if you have comments, corrections, suggestions, or just want to write an email in all caps, you can find my contact info on the website.

You will find all the sources and resources used to create this podcast on our website. You will often also find further reading suggestions if you want to learn more about the subjects we bring up.

Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions


Arnez, A. (2021). Andean Messianism and the Resurgence of Earth-Based Religions. UCLA Journal of Religion, [online] 5, pp.27–60. Available at:

Attempts at Artificial Gold. (1925). The Scientific Monthly, 20(4), 445–447.

Baird, C.S. (2014). Can gold be created from other elements? [online] Science questions with surprising answers. Available at:

Dietz, R.S. and McHone, J.F. (1972). LAGUNA GUATAVITA: NOT METEORITIC, PROBABLE SALT COLLAPSE CRATER. Meteoritics, 7(3), pp.303–307. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.1972.tb00444.x

Feder, K.L. (2010). Encyclopedia of dubious archaeology from Atlantis to the Walam Olum. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Greenwood.

Hemming, J. (2001). The search for El Dorado. London: Phoenix.

Klemm, D., Klemm, R. and Murr, A. (2001). Gold of the Pharaohs – 6000 years of gold mining in Egypt and Nubia. Journal of African Earth Sciences, [online] 33(3), pp.643–659. doi:10.1016/S0899-5362(01)00094-X

Martinón-Torres, M., & Uribe-Villegas, M. A. (2015). The prehistoric individual, connoisseurship and archaeological science: The Muisca goldwork of Colombia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 63, 136–155.

Matson, J. (2014). Fact or Fiction?: Lead Can Be Turned into Gold. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. [online] 31 Jan. Available at:

Meyer, C., Earl, B., Omar, M., & Smither, R. K. (2003). Ancient Gold Extraction at Bir Umm Fawakhir. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 40, 13–53.

Nicol, A. (2009). Paititi: The Last Secret of the Incas? A Critical Analysis of the Legends Surrounding the Lost Inca City of Gold. International Journal of South American Archaeology, [online] (5), pp.57–57. Available at:

Rogers, C. (2019). Mourning El Dorado: Literature and Extractivism in the Contemporary American Tropics. University of Virginia Press.

Steele, P.R. and Allen, C.J. (2004). Handbook of Inca mythology. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Abc-Clio. Pp 194-197.

Whitehead, N.L. (2013). Golden Kings, Cocaine Lords, and the Madness of El Dorado: Guayana as Native and Colonial Imaginary. In: M.C. Fumagalli, P. Hulme, O. Robinson and L. Wylie, eds., Surveying the American Tropics: A Literary Geography from New York to Rio. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, pp.263–284.


“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur