The racism behind alien mummy hoaxes

Pre-Columbian bodies are once again being used as evidence for extraterrestrial life

by Christopher Heany, THE ATLANTIC  – – August 1, 2017:


Peruvian archaeologists are tired of debunking claims of extraterrestrial influence on human history.

In 1968, Swiss author Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? introduced the mainstream to the theory that the Nazca Lines, the massive geoglyphs in Southern Peru whose shapes are fully visible only from the air, were landing strips for “ancient astronauts.”

Archaeologists calmly disagree, positing that they were astronomical designs that turned the desert itself into an observatory, or counter constellations matching the dark spaces in the Milky Way, or, more abstractly, cosmological figures meant to be seen by skyward deities, of which ancient Peru had many.

2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull put a new spin on this old tale, including, for good measure, the large-skulled aliens that pepper North American abduction stories.

Now, Peruvian scientists are furious at a new and possibly pernicious permutation of the “ancient astronaut” theory.

A web series named UNEARTHING NAZCA purports to depict the investigation of a pre-Columbian and “humanoid” mummy.

Archaeologists, who have been denied access to the mummy, worry that it is as old as the series’ creators claim, but that it is actually indigenous and Andean – – a real human individual that has been mutilated to look like an alien.  They worry that UNEARTHING NAZCA is an archaeological snuff film in disguise.

The series’ success is also of concern.  Since the series’ launch in June by – – a website specializing in “conscious media, yoga, and more” – – the teaser episode of Unearthing Nazca has been viewed 2.35 million times on YouTube alone.

It starts with what at first seems to be a typical seated Peruvian mummy, arms wrapped around its knees, like a child waiting for its parent.

Its head is elongated like those of other pre-Columbian mummies, whose societies artificially shaped their children’s crania to achieve ideals of beauty or represent group belonging.

The resemblance ends there.

The video’s experts stop short of the A-word, letting a series of vest-wearing and white coat-clad “experts” claim that x-rays, CT scans, and DNA and carbon-14 tests of the mummy’s flesh reveal that this new “humanoid” or “organic creature,” whom they have dubbed “Maria,” is no fraud.  To learn more, viewers were initially encouraged to watch the rest of the investigation behind Gaia’s paywall.

The English- and Spanish-language tabloids and YouTube channels that cover the “discovery” reliably fill in the blanks, guarding journalistic integrity with scare quotes: “The ‘Alien’ Mummies of Nazca,” trumpeted The Sun in mid-July, when the mummy’s most prominent promoter, a Mexican “ufologist” and TV personality named Jaime Maussan, produced photographic and x-ray “proof” of at least four additional more “reptilian” “humanoid” bodies.

Because of course: What else could they be?

Human beings, and indigenous ones to boot.

In 2015, Maussan tried to promote a photographic slide from the late 1940s that, he hinted, depicted the corpse of an alien child found in the American Southwest.

More skeptical ufologists applied de-blurring technology to the “Roswell Slide” when it was released, and found that a previously undecipherable placard next to the body revealed that it was actually the mummy of a two-year-old Puebloan boy removed from the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde in 1894.

Returned to a National Park museum in 1938, the boy was repatriated to a local tribe in 2015. Incredibly, Maussan then offered $10,000 for information that might permit the Puebloan boy’s “location and recuperation.”

This inclusion of pre-Columbian Peruvians in science’s supposed cover-up of extraterrestrials echoes the previous collection and study of the indigenous dead.

In the 19th century, Anglo-American and European craniologists and scholars who came upon artificially molded skulls in Peruvian tombs hypothesized that they were either the undeformed remnants of a lost and civilized people they named the “Ancient Peruvians,” or artificial deformations of later peoples inspired by those Ancient Peruvians’ natural forms.

Archaeologists came to realize that “deformed” Peruvian skulls were bound and shaped from infancy, when cranial bones weren’t yet fused – – with no change to cranial capacity and, judging from the monumental societies their elites achieved, without handicap to cognitive ability.

But ufology’s rise after the “Roswell incident” of 1947 has resurrected the search for secret ancestors – – and its less responsible practitioners have re-enlisted ancient Peruvian skulls as evidence of the presence of large-skulled “Gray Aliens.”

They speculate that Peru’s greatest pre-Columbian achievements – – including Machu Picchu, according to a theory aired on the History Channel program ANCIENT ALIENS  – – are literally out of this world, the product of a superior, extraterrestrial “race” or their borrowed technology.




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