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  • Dirk Schulze-Makuch

Science of Aliens, Part 9: Was Humanity Visited in Ancient History?

An Analysis of UAP in Classical Antiquity.


Part of the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek mechanical model of the Solar System that can predict astronomical positions and eclipses many years in advance. Several scientists described it as the oldest example of an analog computer. It also shows the sophistication and understanding of nature achieved by classical civilizations.


UAP have recently been in the headlines because of reports released by the Pentagon and they are also being investigated by The Galileo Project. One question that has always interested me is whether reliable UAP sightings are something new and are related to our technological age or whether there have been trustworthy reports of UAP in the past. Richard Stothers from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, a respected scientist who was educated at Princeton and Harvard University and published nearly 200 papers, mostly in astrophysics and solar physics, investigated this question.


He analyzed the classical literature from the Greek and Roman civilizations in their original languages and summarized his findings in a paper published in the Classical Journal in 2007. This is not a new publication, but I´m sure not many of us are aware of his contribution, which I discovered only recently.


Stothers found that Greeks and Romans reported a large number of UAP incidents. Most of these recorded observations could be explained by natural phenomena, but a small number of distinct sightings remain puzzling and are difficult to interpret–not unlike today's UAP sightings. I find two of the examples that he gave especially intriguing:


The first event occurred over Judea in AD 65. It was described by the historian Josephus and had all the hallmarks of an aerial battle. Josephus acknowledged that people may believe his description to be fiction, if the event had not been viewed by so many eyewitnesses. Neither an aurora, a cloud formation, or a similar natural phenomenon could explain the observations.


Another intriguing event occurred in Phrygia (nowadays central Turkey) in 74 BC, when general Licinius Lucullus led a Roman army to engage the forces of King Mithridates VI of Pontus. The historian Plutarch reported the incident as follows “all of a sudden the sky burst asunder, and a huge flame-like body was seen to fall between the armies.” Plutarch described its shape as looking similar to an ancient wine jar and the object having the color of molten silver. This is yet another event that is challenging to explain naturally. However, it could have been caused by a meteorite of some sort (freshly fallen meteorites are typically black).


Does ancient history shed light on explaining UAP? Based on classical literature from ancient Greece and Rome, the late Stothers concluded that statistically speaking, the essential features of the UAP were (1) disc or sphere-shaped, (2) silver, gold, or red in color, (3) metallic-kind of texture, (4) a meter or more in size, (5) movements are soundless, and (6) hovering, erratic or smooth flight, with rapid disappearance.


The sightings do not reach the level of proof for being of extraterrestrial nature, but the persistence and consistency of the phenomena are astounding. The Greeks and Romans at the heights of their civilization were keen observers and familiar with natural phenomena. Outstanding examples are Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310-230 BC), who realized that Earth is a sphere and moves around the Sun, Hipparchus (ca. 190-120 BC), who erected an observatory on the island of Rhodes and compiled a star catalog with 850 entries, and in the Roman era Claudius Ptolemy (100-170 AD), who came up with a geometric representation of the Solar System that predicted the positions of the planets for any desired date and time. Thus, these sightings should not be dismissed too easily. I think that the result of Stothers’ analysis shows that it is unlikely that the cause of today's sightings are secret technological advancements or programs by the US military or by potential adversaries such as Russia or China, because similar observations have already been made many hundreds of years before the first airplanes or even balloons were invented.

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