In 1553, Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de León included in the first part of his Crónicas del Perú, a description of what he assumed were trail markers, basically a series of shallow trenches stretching across the plateaus of the Nazca Desert. Then in 1940, historian Paul Kosok flew over the trenches and saw in their patterns the very clear shape of a bird.
Eventually the Nazca lines were discovered to include several hundred animal and human figures of varying sizes covering nearly 200 square miles. Experts determined the lines were pretty simple to make with only very limited ancient trenching tools similar to what non-experts might call “sticks.” Many of these very technical tools have been found near the trenches and have helped scientists to date the designs to between 500 BC and 500 AD.
But no one has been able to come up with a completely satisfactory explanation of why the designs were put there in the first place. It’s been suggested by archaeologists that the trenches may be related to irrigation. Some astronomers think the designs may point out important heavenly bodies or mirror the constellations. Many anthropologists think the designs might be a type of offering to the gods who had the power to either bless or curse crops in the arid land. And one art historian even suggested the lines might be giant ancient textile patterns.
But the most delightful explanation comes from the field of Ancient Astronaut Theory, or as it is more commonly known among professional circles, Crazy Town. What Crazy Town suggests is that the lines and shapes were constructed to commemorate a visit to Earth from aliens, and that they were perhaps even created by the alien visitors themselves.
Because research is tedious and slow and, you know, aliens.
Ancient Astronaut Theorists have enjoyed a certain degree of seeming legitimacy for the last few years because of the History Channel show, Ancient Aliens, which premiered in 2009. Now, I know what you’re thinking. A channel that purports to focus on history while mostly providing reality shows about pawn brokers and monster hunters, parallels pretty nicely a blog that claims to be about history, but winds up being more about my dog.
I like the History Channel, at least some of it. When it started out, its list of programs mostly included thoughtful and well-produced documentaries about World War II. Even today you can occasionally find thoughtful and well-produced documentaries featuring the commentary of actual experts in their respective, non-crazy fields of study. Which is why the History Channel, much like this blog, can still lull you into thinking that it’s a reliable source of solid information.
Because even Ancient Aliens tends to start out sounding pretty legit. The camera swoops in on an ancient landscape. A voice with an unmistakable authoritative ring begins to ask serious, thought-provoking questions. The author of Great Adventures in Crazy Town, sounding more or less like an academic, sums up the conventional archaeological explanation of what you’re seeing. Then, just when they have you thinking that you’re being spoon-fed all the important details that will make you sound brilliant at your next cocktail party: BOOM! Aliens.
It’s a little disconcerting when a trusted authoritative source takes a detour through Crazy Town. And I imagine that’s how my oldest son felt when he came to me a couple weeks ago with a problem. We were about to leave on a long road trip through the northeast, and I was busy working my way through the packing process so, really, I was in Crazy Town already. He reminded me, a trusted reliable source of all things crafty and motherly, that he needed a space-themed costume for the camp he was scheduled to go to the day after we were due back from vacation.
And motherly craft magic is tedious and slow, and you know, aliens.
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8 thoughts on “BOOM! Aliens: A Detour Through Crazy Town”
Love your colorful creation!
Thanks! He wasn’t thrilled with it initially. He kept asking if I could just sew a quick astronaut costume instead. Ha! It did kind of grow on him after a while.
Are you making fun of our highly scientific theories? It feels like it’s so long ago now that it could have been from a previous life, and reincarnation is of course a valid theory too, but I watched History Channel and Discovery some years ago, and Time Team on Discovery was my favourite.
I’m trying not to make fun of anyone, but sometimes real science makes as much sense as those who claim that the peoples of the past were far too primitive to accomplish anything. Apparently, even the vikings couldn’t do anything without the norse gods, which of course were aliens. I heard some booms other day. It could have been from construction, or it could have been the trumpet from the Bible. I’m still here, so I guess I’ll go with the boring explanation.
Great post, by the way!
Thanks! I certainly don’t believe we should be disallowing hypotheses just because they sound a little (or a lot) silly to most of the scientific community. Maybe extraterrestrial astronauts really did visit Earth thousands of years ago. I guess? But I do think there ought to be at least the smallest shred of evidence that doesn’t involve a blatant straw man before theorists produce a documentary style program, unless they are inviting open mockery. So, yep. I suppose I am poking a little bit of fun. It does make for entertaining television for the discerning viewer I suppose.
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Your posts hold up well over time!
Thank you! Yes, every year when WordPress reports which of my posts were most popular, a couple of old ones will crack the top 5. I never know if that’s a good thing or not.