Aliens and sacred places
This time we’re traversing the world between different sacred places. Could there be evidence for alien visitation within these holy places and the religious texts associated with them? During this episode, we will visit Jerusalem, Saudi Arabia, India, Ethiopia, and lastly, Lebanon. We look into the claims presented in Ancient Aliens and compare them to the available knowledge.
We will look at religious texts, engineering techniques, and what you might find when you go on a tiger hunt.
This episode is based on the claims in Ancient Aliens episode four of season three called "Aliens and Sacred Places" (S03E03).
Stone-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Sources, resources and further reading suggestions
The hunter looks around the cave with a wide open mouth. What should have been a simple tiger hunt turned into something vastly different. The temple he stands in is carved out from the mountain with exquisite details. “I must have found the remains of a extra terrestrial world!” he exclaims. The young boy serving as his guide lights a candle and answers, “It’s never aliens mr. Smith, it never is”.
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 25. This will be quite the odd episode since it’s not too crazy. This is one of the rare moments we have some decent documentary-making. But don’t worry, we will find some strange claims and investigate what the show has left out. This episode will focus on holy places and will take us on tour between Israel & Palestine, Saudi Arabia, India, Ethiopia, and Syria. I think you can figure out some of the locations quite quickly. Let’s see if you did manage to guess them all.
I’m recording this episode not long after attending the QED convention of 2022 in Manchester, England. It was a brilliant experience, and the organizers wonderfully planned the event with many exciting talks. I had a lot of meaningful and fun interactions with a lot of people during the weekend. If you want to attend a skeptical conference, this is one I genuinely recommend. I did one speech on Friday during an event by the Sceptics In the Pubs, and it should be as a VOD on their twitch for a few more days. I’ll link this in the show notes and later add the youtube version if it drops.
Then I also got some feedback from listener Mike who caught that I said that the Great Sphinx is made of sandstone. What I was supposed to write and say was limestone. I was thinking a bit too much about sand and got mixed up. It’s fixed in the show transcript. Mike also highlighted that the sleeping prophet’s name is pronounced Kayce. Good catch, Mike; thank you for helping to create a great resource to find information about misinformation.
Remember that you can find sources, resources, and reading suggestions on our website, diggingupancientaliens.com. There you will also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions; I want to highlight that if you see something, please add a good source. 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 that we have finished our preparations let’s dig into the episode.
We start this episode on the Temple Mound, and there’s nothing too crazy for quite some time here. The Temple Mound is important for the Abrahamic religions; the big three within this category are, of course, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Ancient Aliens do a decent part of TV documentary here. It is as if some archeologist did some guerilla editing in all of this. But so far, so good, to be honest.
Now, if you’re not too familiar with the Temple Mound, it’s not to overstate that this place is the holiest place on earth for the Jewish people. The temple mound is believed to be Mount Moriah or Morrya from Genesis 22, where Abraham bound Isaac. It’s also the location of Solomons Temple, which we will get to in a moment, and the Universe's origin. This stems from the Foundation Stone, located today inside the “Dome of the Rock”, thought to be the location where God stood and the location of the Holy of Holies inside Solomon's temple.
According to tradition, the first temple was completed during the reign of Solomon somewhere in the 10th century BCE. The location of the temple was first acquired by king David for the price of 50 pieces of silver. The location was, according to scriptures, a threshing floor. A threshing floor is where a farmer separates the cereal from the stalks.
But King David was not allowed to build the first temple since he “had spilled to much blood.” I find it a bit unfair since it was on the order of God, but anyway. The task fell upon Davids's son Solomon.
I’m not sure then if the show by accident mixes up Mount Moriah and Mount Sinai, but we get the following quote from Van Däniken.
“In the Bible you read about the Ark of the Covenant. Moses was ordered to go to the Holy Mountain and the Lord gave Moses instruction to construct the Ark of the Covenant. As we know later, the Ark of the Covenant was something very, very dangerous.” - Van Däniken.
The temple was mainly built to store the “Ark of the Covenant,” replacing the Tabernacle used since Egypt. In the show, they focus a lot on the fact that only the High Priest was allowed inside the Holy of Holies. This is true, the High Priest was only allowed inside Yom Kippur to make the required offerings. To become a high priest, we learn in Leviticus 21 that you need to be, for example, free of blemishes, can’t have a crooked back, or have anything too long. Not sure what they mean with the last part, but you’re free to fill it out as you please.
So from Solomons's temple, we move toward the magical items possessed by king Solomon. We will now have a little confusion since Ancient Aliens is trying to handle written sources. The narrator claims that in the Talmud, there is a passage about Salomon possessing a magic ring branded with the Seal of Salomon, which today is known as the Star of David. When possessing the ring, the owner could control demons, according to the show.
The Talmud is an important document within Judaism and is the source of Jewish Law and Theology. Usually, when referring to the Talmud, you’re talking about a collection of writings within the Babylonian Talmud. But you could also refer to the Jerusalem Talmud or the six orders of Mishnah. Within, we find two sections, a written compendium of the Oral Torah and the Gemara. The latter part is an expansion of the Hebrew bible containing later Jewish history but also customs, ethics, folklore, and many different topics. All in all, the Talmud consists of 63 tractates, you could also call them sections, and usually spans over 3000 pages. It’s massive work, so finding a section without guidance can be hard. But I did manage to locate the story referenced in the Talmud. I’m using the Koren Talmud Bavli, translated by Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. If we head to Tractate Gittin, Chapter 7, and sections 68a and 68b, we find a story about Salomon and a ring.
“Solomon sent for Benayahu, son of Jehoiada, a member of the royal entourage, and gave him a chain onto which a sacred name of God was carved, and a ring onto which a sacred name of God was carved” Git. 68a
This Benayahu is then sent out to capture a demon called Ashmedai, and after tricking the demon, the young man captures it and brings it back to Solomon. The king then ordered the Ashmedai to build the Temple alone. The story seems to be a way to explain the passage in 1 Kings 6:7, where it’s claimed no hammer or chisel was heard from the building process. Except the text mentioned before that all the stones were dressed and cut at the quarry. So I’m not entirely sure why they needed a demon to staple the blocks. The Talmud hten claim Solomon was tricked by the demon who then usurped the throne while Solomon is doomed to a life of poverty.
You can find the idea of the Seal of Solomon in the work of Flavius Josephus, a Roman-Judeo historian. In his work Antiquities of the Jews, we find the idea of the ring expelling demons but it’s described as
“He put to the nose of the possessed man a ring, which had under its seal one of the roots prescribed by Solomon” Ant. 8.46–47
We don’t get a specification of what the seal was, but instead it talks about the wisdom of Solomon and it is the roots that cause the demon to flee. We must look toward the “Testament of Solomon” to find a more detailed story. This document is still debated if it’s a Christian or Judaic text, it contains elements of both. The version containing the chapter on the demons is called the Vienna Papyrus and is dated to around 500 CE. It is also the oldest surviving text of the versions we have available. Within chapter 18 we can read about how Solomon used the seal to call up and interrogate demons. They are then set to work building the first temple as a sort of punishment relating to their domain of torture. But the star of David seems not to be associated with the seal until after Arabic scholars worked on the story. It’s possible that it was then incorporated back into the Jewish tradition in Spain during the Morish rule.
I think that the evolution of this story is highly fascinating and didn’t go the way I thought from the beginning. But as you can assume, it differs a bit from this episode's thesis. That when they talk about demons, they mean Aliens. But as you note from the written accounts, it specifically speaks about demons who do not work freely. They, or as we noted in the Talmud only Ashmedai, were forced by the ring to obey the commands of Salomon. Or, as Flavius indicated, Solomons's wisdom of medicine compelled them out.
This is religion, and I would not suggest taking these stories as literal truths. But if the Ancient Alien people want to claim that the original sources have a different meaning they need to properly back this up. In this episode, they don’t really make a great job of it.
But Solomon is associated with other magical items such as a flying carpet. The show claims that according to Arabic texts the wise king had a flying carpet made out of green silk that could hold Solomon's army. But here we get a Giorgio Tsoukalos who suddenly turned skeptic:
“Now, magic carpets, do they exist? Of course not. So, what was it that our ancestors try to describe in those stories.” - Giorgio Tsoukalos
David Childress, a to us now familiar alienist, joins in answering this question that it must have been a spaceship. Of course, it must have been. Or was it? We do find this story in the Quran or the Islamic texts as the show calls them, but in most stories, the emphasis is on Solomon or Sulayman's ability to control the wind. We see this in Sura 21:81 for example and Islamic scholars claim that this is a reference to sailing. Not a flying carpet, but I found some text mentioning a wooden mat. But it still sounds like a boat to me, or maybe a boat as one would describe it to someone who has not seen one. We also have accounts in the Bible, 1 king 10:22, that talk about Solomon’s trade operation. Adding up the evidence and the fact that the show just made some stuff up I think it’s more reasonable that this is trying to explain the success of the trading operations.
We also get a bit of Sir Isaac Newton here who was a man of science and mystery. Back then it was not uncommon that the scientific method included what we view today as very unscientific ideas and methods. But Newton who didn’t believe in the trinity had a fascination with the temple in Jerusalem. He did in his writing have a portion called “Notes on the Temple” in which he seems to have looked deeper into the Temple. To Newton, it symbolized a heliocentric depiction, where the altar in the Holy of Holies was the sun and the temple and courtyard were the other planets in the universe. He also thinks that the Temple Mound will be the place where the apocalypse starts. With this in mind, it makes Bill Birne's quote rather strange in regards to Newton's work:
“It was very highly advanced architecturally catching certain kinds of light, being very precise in his astronomical alignment. And the question for modern scholars and architects is, what was the level of technology available to King Solomon that allowed him to design and lay out the temple according to these principles.” – Bill Birnes, J.D., Ph.D.
The Bible does provide highly detailed descriptions of the temple in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronochels. Unfortunately, some of the terms have lost their original translations. But historians, archeologists, or architects do not seem to struggle with the level of the technology described. It is more a linguistic discussion at this point and some other Jewish temples have been found that some argue fit this description. So Bill would need to be more specific for us to look deeper into this.
The show seems to be finished with the Jewish side of the Temple Mound and then goes on trying to shoehorn in Christianity. But it ends up just being basically about the ascension of Jesus. So since he went up, alien spacecraft must have taken him. I don’t feel we really need to go into this argument since we have done it in the past. The Christian connection isn’t as strong either to the temple mound. You have the story of the money lenders and it’s thought that Jesus' circumcision took place here. But the Church of the Holy Sepulchre quickly took over as the important place for Christians in Jerusalem. That’s for example why the templars used the Dome of the Rock as a living quarter rather than restoring it to a church.
With that in mind, we’ll go over the Islamic claim to the site. al-Haram al-Sharif or the Nobel Mound is important within the Islamic Faith since it’s today believed to be the place for Mohammed's ascension to heaven. Even if the Quran in Surah Al-Isra 17:1 only states the site to be “the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed” many have since then interpreted this to be Al-Aqsa mosque. The foundation stone has also been incorporated into the faith as the exact location where Mohammed stood when Jibril took him to heaven. But why have we really spent all this time on this site? There have not been that many aliens so far. I’ll let Giorgio explain this to you:
“That stone signifies the coming together of the kingdoms of Heaven and Earth. The problem is, we’ve forgotten that whoever visited us in the past wasn’t God, but it was extraterrestrials.” - Giorgio Tsoukalos
So the idea here is that since the site is quite square and that the Foundation stone has a godly connection it must have been a spaceport. It’s interesting how they can so easily rule out God as a spiritual being while keeping faith in extraterrestrials. The idea that it was a spaceport seems quite far-fetched and the construction of the Temple of Salomon is relatively recent. Why don’t we see depictions of aliens in texts or art in the area from that time? Why would they put a temple in the landing port? It just comes off rather silly, to be honest, here.
From Jerusalem, we travel to the next holy site, Mecca or Makkah al-Mukarramah. The early history of this city is disputed, and we don’t know as much as we would like. But by the time of Mohammed and the rise of Islam, it had grown into a locally important place. A part of it was the trading that happened in the city but it was also a religious center where people came on pilgrimage even before Mohammed. The chief god of the pre-Islamic Arabic tribe was Hubal. According to the information we have there were some 360 statues around the Kabaa, so it must have been a quite large pantheon. Well, there’s been some time without Bill Birnes who can fix that.
“Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca five times a day. So, certainly, as a holy shrine, it is the center of the Earth. A Heaven’s gate, where the opening of Heaven takes place. And that’s why it is so revered.” -Bill Birnes
Now, this is not crazy but problematic. The reason why the Kaaba is holy is not due to it being some portal to heaven but because it’s Allah's symbolic residence on earth. The origin of the Kaaba isn’t Islamic, the Kaaba was there with the 360 statues we mentioned earlier. We’re not entirely sure how old the building is, but according to Islamic tradition, it was built by Abraham and Ishmael. There might not be too much evidence for that but it’s clear that Mohammed incorporated this important building in the town where he grew up into his new religion. In the texts, he is supposed to have destroyed the old idols. But none of this does match Birnes idea, all of it seems to speak to the opposite.
The show gives us some information about the Grand Mosque, the largest one in the world, and a bit about the Kaaba. We get some descriptions about the Hajj, the pilgrimage all financially and physically able Muslims should participate in at least once.
Then we start to talk about the black stone located on the east corner of the Kaaba. Known as the al-Ḥajaru al-Aswad or “Black Stone”. It’s a piece of black stone fitted in a silver frame today and was part of the Kaaba even before Mohammed. There is a tradition in early Arabic faith to mark places of worship with an unusual stone. The stone's origin is unknown but some within the faith claim it to come from angels or falling from paradise to mark where Adam and Eve should build an altar. But the show proceeds with the following quotes.
“If so, what does that say about the historical and possibly metaphysical origins of the Islamic faith?”
“It’s kind of strange really that other Muslims are all praying towards Mecca and to this black stone that’s there. There are stories that the Kaaba in Mecca is radiating some kind of energy. That it energizes people and increases their spirituality and health. Perhaps it’s coming from this meteorite, this black stone of extraterrestrial origin.” - David Childress
So we’re back with Childress energy claims. Childress is sure that this is a meteorite but the right answer is that we do not know. Due to a number of reasons, including that the stone has been desecrated a couple of times, the Islamic people have not allowed the stones to be scientifically studied. Why would they? The stone is sacred for a number of reasons, none of them involving spiritual energies. There are a number of theories though and the most common are natural glass, basalt, agate, or maybe a meteoric rock. We have an account from 900 CE when the stone had been stolen and when it was returned it was recognized due to its ability to float. If this account is true, it’s more likely glass or a more porous stone. My opinion that does not matter too much, so don’t use it in a paper, but is that it kinda looks like obsidian. I did find some geologists thinking the same but not as in publishing a paper on it kind of level.
We then get a claim that the Kaaba lines up with three astronomical things, a star named Canopus, the moon cycle, and the winter and summer solstice. How could these ancient people have this advanced knowledge? This is a bit simpler since the building is square and the different astronomical phenomena is matching one of the different sides. You don’t need astronomical calculations to mark out where something will happen if you have seen it before.
We have a repeating of the Angels mean alien that we discussed back in Episode 14 with Tine Rassalle. But we will leave the Islamic world here. We don’t really get the clear spaceport connection here but I assume that it was this they were hinting at.
Now we’re taken to the mystical land of India. A British officer named John Smith, I promise he is real, stumbles through the jungle on the hunt for the majestic tiger. But he finds something completely different. A cave complex carved out of the mountain dedicated to Buddha. Or Smith claims to have found it while in reality at least cave no ten had been known among the locals for some time.
We have some decent documentary filming, and they are on-site talking with local guides. The Ajanta Cave complex is a Buddhist Monastery carved directly into the maintain in the Aurangabad district in the western part of India. It’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and is a beautiful location. The site was built in two main phases, the earliest part is probably around 100 BCE and the second phase was started around 400 CE.
Inside the cave, we see different traditions, thoughts, and ideas from the Buddhist faith represented. In the earlier caves such as 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15A, we see depictions from Jataka Tales. These are stories about Gautama Buddha native to India, since Buddha can remember earlier lives he can use them to teach. So in them, he can be a king, an animal, a criminal, a deva, or something else. In these stories, an often large cast usually gets into trouble but the Buddha manages to solve things in the end, and you get a happy conclusion. In the later caves, we see depictions from the Mahāyāna tradition within the Buddhist faith. The other large tradition is called Theravāda, it’s also the oldest tradition. Today it’s the dominant religion in for example Thailand, Laos, Cambodja, etc.
“There are many different sculpture subjects at Ajanta. Many of the sculptures are of the Buddha. In addition to those sculptures, there are various depictions of other mythological beings. These are called Jatakas. These Jatakas show these previous lives, and these lives could be related to, say, the Buddha being born as an animal, being born as a deity, or being born as a human.” – David Efurd, Ph.D.
We even have Dr. David Efurd in the show, telling us parts about the Jataka tradition. So to repeat, it’s not too strange. We have David Childress walking around on-site, but other than that, it’s again not too bizarre. Compared to what we have seen in the past, this feel like some sort of vacation. But then we get to the misinformation
“Even today, modern engineers are baffled as to how the caves could have been cut from the 70-foot-high granite cliffs more than 2,000 years ago.” - Narrator
Since this is an audio medium, you can’t see but you should go ahead and google Ajanta Caves. I’ll wait, go ahead, you won’t miss anything. If you’re driving, just stop. There’s an exit over there. Don’t google and drive. Now, if you did as I told you, you probably saw at least the outside of the complex. You might have noticed that the rock almost looks folded as if nature scooped it like a soft serving or whipped cream. That indicates that it is not granite, and the fact that the statues are sometimes more pitted than a teenager's face also indicates that this is not granite. But the rock is basalt and it’s a vulcanic rock and is due to this not as dense and hard as for example granite. I’m not sure why they decided to go with granite in the clip, but this is common with the Ancient Alien crowd to exaggerate claims.
The caves were most likely excavated from top to bottom, that way you do not need scaffolding and can work easier. What you had to do was to measure it out and then work yourself down. The workers used tempered iron chisels combined with a sledgehammer. They most likely operated in teams, so one help the chisel trying and trying not to anger his co-worker. The other would swing the hammer down on this soft rock. The debris was taken away and discarded mostly by women most likely as we see examples of even today.
Even though we haven't found a forgotten chisel in the caves we do have chisel points that have broken off and the fact that metalwork had been around in India since at least 1800 BCE.
We have examples of unfinished caves showing us how they plotted and excavated the cave. If you start to look at the carvings you’ll also note that in some cases they were changed suddenly due to the porous stone.
But the show brings back the idea of ancient people having advanced astronomical knowledge. Unfortunately, it’s David Efurd who brings up that cave 19 and cave 26 are aligned to the different solstices. Now, why did I say, unfortunately, here? It turns out that cave 19 is not aligned with the solstice. They tried to align it, but this idea came too late in the building process. Dr. Walter Spink writes.
“The only problem with this wise procedure in Cave 19 is that the whole cave was later wrenched toward a never-achieved alignment with the solstitial axis” (Spink 2006 p. 240)
But both caves 26 and 29 have proper alignment. A little fun fact here, we do know the cave's patrons' names. So this was not paid for by the monks or by labor as some sort of offering. Cave 19 was ordered by Upendragupta a local king and Cave 26 was paid for in part by Buddhabhadra to commemorate a previous chief minister. These two caves were created more or less simultaneously, cave 19 was started just maybe two years before. One hypothesis on why Upendragupta didn’t get a proper solstice alignment is that they tried to change the plan too late in construction. They heard about Buddhabhadra's plan way too late but thought that it would work. The workmen did their best, but to be honest we’re not sure why they attempted this sudden change. Maybe pride, optimism, or the fact when your ultra-wealthy patron tells you to jump you jump.
Now being wrong about something does not mean everything is lost. But with this in mind it does make David Childress's statement a bit, let’s say weird.
“Now, this would have been very difficult to do, itself, because you’re cutting solid rock from inside of a cave. So, you would need some pretty high-tech gear in order to tunnel and build and chip away inside of solid rock in order to really be perfectly oriented to the solstice.” - David Childress
As we saw, the precision was a bit off. But the solstice does hit the Stupas in caves 26 and 29. Interestingly, both of these also show signs of being changed midway to accommodate this idea. As mentioned earlier, we have evidence of the tools and methods they used to construct the different caves.
But Jason Martell fills us in on how the Stupas symbolize Buddha's descent and ascend to heaven. If you have paid attention, this is the point where we should think of rockets. Just as with Jesus and Mohammed. I’m not sure what expert Martell did consult about this, but I have a vague guess that it was located in his mirror.
Stupas are a common phenomenon in Buddhist building tradition and are usually domeshaped structures containing relics and a place for meditation. These structures stem from earlier traditions of Tumilis. Within Buddhism, it’s believed that the Buddha himself asked for his remains to be enshrined within eight stupas. When his disciples asked what a stupa was and how it looked Buddha had put his robe on the ground and put his begging bowl over it. The stupas have since evolved and changed a bit depending on the country and culture. But as you note this is again quite far away from what we were presented with by Martell.
To close this section out we have to other white guys trying to explain another culture poorly. Or well, if they can’t understand it by just looking at it, well then it has to be aliens involved.
“The Ancient Astronaut Theory suggests that if we find paintings or carvings of half men half animals, that that means that those creatures at one point really existed because they were genetically created by extraterrestrials.”
Some of these are mythological creatures called Kinnara. Usually depicted as a half-person and half-bird and are in most cases female. They have the bottom half of a bird and the upper body of a human. They are not evil but are said to bring protection and well-being. They don’t even come from the sky but live in forest regions, some connected to mountainsides. But as we have seen with Ancient Aliens and myths, they have a tendency to rework it quite a lot.
Rock-Hewn Churhces of Lalibela
Well, it’s time to move again, so let’s say goodbye to India for now and head over to the dark continent of Africa as I think many personalities in this series call it way too often.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, you will not be in a moment. Because this is the next subject of investigation. These structures are not built traditionally with blocks from down to up. Neither are they carved as caves into a mountain. These churches are megaliths carved out of the mountain. There are eleven of them in this Lalibela, but across Ethiopia, there are nearly 200. Unfortunately, many of them are not in the same good condition as the Rock-Hewn Churches in Lalibela.
There is an issue of dating these naturally, but scholars agree that the churches in Lalibela were created somewhere between 700 CE to 1200 CE. According to tradition, all these eleven churches were built by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who lived between 1181–1221.
But the narrator claims that these structures are scientifically unexplainable by engineers, no less! What engineers did you ask? Don’t worry about that; let’s go over to David Childress.
“When you see the churches of Lalibela, you can see that they are using what probably have to be power tools. Anytime you’re cutting hard stone, you’re looking at specialized cutting tools; you need iron tools. Even today, we would have to use power saws and grinding wheels and chisels.” - David Childress
Whenever we hear the show say it’s a hard rock, we can usually assume it’s some sort of volcanic rock and be right; in most cases. In this case, most of the rock is basalt. A quite soft rock that’s compared to other types of stones quite easy to work with. If you would go and look up these churches you’ll start to note that they are not as exactly cut as the show portrayed. It’s a bit weird to hear them talk about how perfect it’s cut and see that it’s crocked. But for not having laser tools, power saws and I don’t know the Ethiopians did a great job.
But I do not get how Childress thinks that there were no iron tools in Ethiopia at the construction time. It’s true that ironwork arrived later in the Sub-Sahara continents, but by the time of the construction of these churches, iron was in fact in use. We don’t need iron per see to quarry rock as we mentioned in the past, you just need a harder stone. Also, Denys Stocks who do a lot of experimental archaeology, has shown that flint chisels can very likely have been used. If you go to our website diggingupancientaliens.com you’ll be able to find a clip of Stocks and a stone mason cutting rock with flint.
We then go into the legend of the creation of the churches that included the king being taken to heaven by Gabrial. There God sat him down and told the king that he needed to build these churches. Back on earth, the king started the construction and with the help of angels who took the night shift, according to Bill Birnes, completed the churches.
“To me, that is a very fascinating story, because, in my opinion, angels do not exist. Angels were merely a misinterpretation of flesh-and-blood extraterrestrials who descended from the sky with means of technology. And that is what this quote-unquote, “angels” used.” - Giorgio Tsoukalos.
It’s the same argument over and over, but he is not expanding on it. Could it have been unicorns or leprechauns? Well, no, because we understand the sites nicely, you must ignore a lot of history and research to get to Giorgio's preferred explanation.
If you’re familiar with these churches, you are probably waiting for the Ark of the Covenant. It does appear on the show, but we won't discuss this in detail here. The short story is about an Ethiopian king named Menelik who stole the ark while visiting his father Solomon in Jerusalem. Menelik returned home with the ark and hid it in one of the churches in Aksum. We will return to this story later, but if you want to read more right now, I recommend Brian Dunning's cover over at Skeptoid. It’s called “Raiding the Ark of the Covenant.”
Let’s ride again; this time, we will travel almost back to where we started. We’re in Lebanon and the historical site of Baalbek.
This city is some 90 kilometers east of Beirut, and people have lived here for over 8000 years. The Romans and Greeks called this location “Heliopolis” or Suncity. But the site held little importance for some time; if it did, it seems to have been lost to time.
But it was not until the conquest of Alexander the Great and later the Romans that the site started to substantially develop into the ruins we see today. Now we’ll tune in to what the Ancient Alien crowd says about the site.
“We don’t know why Baalbek was chosen as this specific sight, may well be some kind of special power place. But what was originally there, before the Roman temple was this spaceport platform that was apparently used for extraterrestrials coming and going on Planet Earth.” - David Childress
“This is the real mystery of Baalbek – how these stones came to be there, why they were placed there, and specifically how they were transported into place, because some of the stones are of such magnitude that modern machinery is incapable of putting them there. But somehow our ancestors were able to do this.” - Philipp Coppens
The main focus of their attention is three stones that the show claim weigh 800 to 1200 metric tons. These are part of a retainer wall of the Temple of Jupiter, and don’t you think they do a decent job of portraying it as if the Romans are building on top of an older structure?
The first thing to address here is that these three stones, usually referred to as the Trilithons, weigh 800 tons. Don’t get me wrong, that is a lot of weight, but we do not need to exaggerate here. But three other stones on the site do weigh more. The fun thing about these is that they have been abandoned. Either at the quarry or not far away from it for the reason that they are cumbersome. Coppens's claim that we would not be able to move these types of things with modern machinery is strange. But it’s not a rare argument; recently, I stumbled upon one who asserted this and used a video of an excavator as an example. The excavator is struggling to put a big bolder on a truck, but that is just the wrong tool for the job type of citation. The excavator also succeeded with the task. But remember that we move things like the gas platform Troll 2, which weighs 1.2 million tons.
But why can’t the Temple of Jupiter not have been built by other cultures in the area? As I mentioned, it was not an important site for a long time. There’s no evidence that Baalbek was on any tribute lists or involved in wars. Neither the Assyrians, Babylonians, nor Persians make mention of the site. A Roman geographer surveying the area after the Roman occupation notes that the area has some farms and many robbers. Not the powerhouse that would be able to move the stones. The Romans, on the other hand.
The Romans had some excellent engineers. Remember that they did move Obelixes out of Egypt and built some impressive structures. The temple is also dedicated to a Roman god with a typical Roman layout and traditional columns you’ve seen before. These columns are not built out of single megaliths, but multiple cylinders usually called drums. This will be important in a moment. If you were to google the retainer wall, you would note that these giant stones are not in the bottom row. It’s on the second row. Excavations have been performed tunneling beneath the bottom stones and guess what we found. A discarded drum with a carving that can be traced to the reign of Emperor Nero.
With this in mind, we can safely say that the most likely constructors were the Romans. But why was it built? As a retainer wall, if you go to the area, you’ll quickly learn that soil erosion is a real and common threat. Even then, the people living in Baalbek struggled with this, and the Romans would not like their nice big temple to disappear in a mudslide. Therefore you build a retainer wall to keep the soil in place. The bigger stones you use, the more likely the chances of the structure surviving are.
But how did they move them? We’re not 100 percent sure, to be honest. There are multiple theories out there, some likelier than others. Remember that cranes, levies, pulleys, and other engineering tools had developed at this time. But we don’t need these to get the Trillaton stones on top of the foundation. Looking at the abandoned stones, they point up a bit, probably indicating that they used rollers. So if you dig up a lot of earth around the foundation stones, you can practically drag the gigantic stones on top. Rollers do reduce friction by a lot.
You might ask, would they not need 1000s of people for this? To that, I say Thunder Stone! The stone is part of a monument in S:t Petersburg, Russia. It weighs 1200 tons, and they dragged the stone 6 km in 1770. This project used 400 people, and the journey took nine months.
But do the Alien Theorists have some last card up their sleeve? Yes, eyewitnesses who wrote it down!
“What’s really interesting about Baalbek it’s that has always been known as the landing place. There’s an actual text from Sumerian times called the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh actually claims to have seen rockets descend and ascend from Baalbek, the landing place.” - Jason Martell
This idea is, in many cases, attributed to Zacharia Sitchin, except it’s not his original idea. Baalbek is associated with aliens due to the works of Matest Agrest, a Sovjet mathematician. In 1959 he invented some of the claims associated with Ancient Aliens, for example, Sodom and Gomorrah, that we have looked into previously. Even if UFOs, sci-fi, and aliens could be behind mystic gods spread in the west, it was based upon Theosophy. This didn’t work in strictly Atheistic Sovjet Union. Agrest attempted to rewrite these ideas to fit in Sovjet and replace myths and religion that used to explain things in the past. Instead of angels destroying a city, it was a nuclear device from aliens.
Maybe it was due to his doctorate, but the ideas took hold and ended up in the hands of Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels. These two put these ideas into their book “Morning of the Magicians,” and Zacharia took his ideas from there.
But if you go and read the Epic of Gilgamesh, you will have a hard time finding the passage Jason references. That’s because if you read the passage, you don’t get the feeling of rockets. Go to tablet IV and skip to when Gilgamesh wakes up from a dream.
“Did you not touch me? Why am I so disturbed?
Did a god pass by? Why are my muscles trembling?
Enkidu, my friend, I have had a third dream,
and the dream I had was deeply disturbing.
,, The heavens roared and the earth rumbled;
(then) it became deathly still, and darkness loomed.
A bolt of lightning cracked and a fire broke out,
and where(?) it kept thickening, there rained death.”
Nowhere is there a name of a town or city. As for the name translation, since it’s Sitchin’s translation, you might suspect it’s a little off. Baalbek does not translate to the landing place, no matter how you twist and turn it. But Lord of the Beka does work just fine.
At the end of the day, is there any room for aliens to be involved in these sites? No, not really. As we have seen, the archeological, historical, and most other records are more than well written for us not to need any aliens. People have been able to do incredible things for millennia. Even if we don’t know a few things, we know enough to rule out aliens or gods for that part. We should give our ancestors the credit they deserve when they have built magnific things. The ancient alien argument boils down to an “I think it kinda looks like a landingpad therefor it is” type of idea.
Next time we will spend almost all our time in the Americas and look into a few rather strange claims. Could it be that the USA's founding fathers did hide something from us? Could it be that the revolution and democracy were not resting on greek philosophy but on alien intervention?
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 diggingupancientaliens.com 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
Adair, A. (2013). Moving the Stones of Baalbek–The Wonders of Roman Engineering. [online] Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars. Available at: https://gilgamesh42.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/moving-the-stones-of-baalbek-the-wonders-of-roman-engineering/
Akanksha Agrawal (2016). AJANTA CAVES: A PERSPECTIVE ON CONSTRUCTION METHODS AND TECHNIQUES. International Journal of Research in Engineering and Technology, 05(09), pp.217–223. doi:10.15623/ijret.2016.0509035.
Bagde, M.. (2021). Assessment of Rockfall Hazard and Stabilization of Rock Slope Surface at the World Heritage Ajanta Cave. Geotechnical and Geological Engineering. 39. 10.1007/s10706-021-01680-8.
Chester Charlton McCown (1922). The Testament of Solomon.
Cohen, S. (2019). The little known fascination Newton had with the Jewish Temple. [online] Available at: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Newtons-Temple-596350
Colavito, J. (2012). The Soviet Search for Ancient Astronauts. [online] jasoncolavito.com. Available at: https://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/the-soviet-search-for-ancient-astronauts
Colavito, J. (2013). Ancient Astronauts at Baalbek. [online] jasoncolavito.com. Available at: https://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/ancient-astronauts-at-baalbek
Fauvelle-Aymar, F.-X., Bruxelles, L., Mensan, R., Bosc-Tiessé, C., Derat, M.-L. and Fritsch, E. (2010). Rock-cut stratigraphy: sequencing the Lalibela churches. Antiquity, 84(326), pp.1135–1150. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00067132. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256455107_Rock-cut_stratigraphy_Sequencing_the_Lalibela_churches
History Hit Network (2017). The Conspiracy To Bury King Tut. [online] www.youtube.com. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts8_yMkAbNg&t=1498s
Kalayan, H. (1969) The engraved drawing on the Trilithon and the related problems about the constructional history of Baalbek Temples. Bulletin du Musée de Beyrouth 22, pp. 151-155.
Koren Talmud Bavli. Gittin, Chapter 7, 68a-b. Translated by Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz). Online resource https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5453384/jewish/68a.htm
Kottek, S. S. (2011). Josephus On Poisoning And Magic Cures Or, On The Meaning Of Pharmakon. In Flavius Josephus, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. Available From: Brill https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004191266.i-438.102
Kraemer, R.S., Harvey, S.A., DesRosiers, N.P., Lander, S.L., Pastis, J.Z. and Ullucci, D.C. (2015). A most reliable witness: essays in honor of Ross Shepard Kraemer. Providence, Rhode Island: Brown University.
Rajesh Kumar Singh (2012). An Introduction to the Ajantā Caves. Hari Sena Press Pvt. Ltd.
Renzulli, A., Antonelli, F., Margottini, C., Santi, P. and Fratini, F. (2011). What kind of volcanite the rock-hewn churches of the Lalibela UNESCO’s world heritage site are made of? Journal of Cultural Heritage, [online] 12(2), pp.227–235. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2010.11.003.
Severin, T., Rehren, T. and Schleicher, H. (2011). Early metal smelting in Aksum, Ethiopia: copper or iron? European Journal of Mineralogy, 23(6), pp.981–992. doi:10.1127/0935-1221/2011/0023-2167
Spink, W. (2006). Ajanta: History and Development, Volume 5 Cave by Cave. BRILL.
Spink, W. (2008). Painting, Sculpture, Architecture - Year by Year : History and Development. Leiden: BRILL.
Surah Al-Anbya 21:76-82 - Towards Understanding the Quran - Quran Translation Commentary - Tafheem ul Quran. [online] Available at: https://www.islamicstudies.info/tafheem.php?sura=21&verse=78&to=82
Tewari, R. (2003). The origins of iron working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas. Antiquity, 77(297), 536-544. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00092590 https://www.academia.edu/72573008/The_origins_of_iron_working_in_India_new_evidence_from_the_Central_Ganga_Plain_and_the_Eastern_Vindhyas
Windmuller-Luna, K. (2014). The Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela. [online] Metmuseum.org. Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/lali/hd_lali.htm
“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv
Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur