We all know the famous History Channel TV show, Ancient Aliens, and have likely watched an episode or two out of curiosity, interest, irony or boredom. It can be both obnoxious and entertaining. Disclaimer: There is sufficient reason to suspect the presence of extraterrestrials. That being said, the rhetoric spewed by the experts in Ancient Aliens can be equal parts outlandish and racially charged. I don’t mean to say that the experts are racist, I’m sure they’re lovely people despite their tragic hairdos. What I mean to say is that the idea of ancient civilizations needing extraterrestrial assistance to accomplish anything could be a sign of internalized racism.
The vast majority of the civilizations that Ancient Aliens references are of those of people of color. Now, some of what they say is merely along the lines of contact with aliens, but there remains a large portion of their statements that claim that the reason ancient civilizations did so well is not because of their own expertise and excellence, but because they had help. I hear mumblings from people concurring with these ideas, considering the possibility that maybe such excellence is only possible in the modern world, where the west dominates. It confirms the suspicion for many that ancient peoples were just not intelligent enough to build the Egyptian, Aztec and Mayan pyramids. Insinuating that they weren’t coherent enough to communicate in such complex and diverse ways that were needed to build up their incredible civilizations. Ancient societies are perpetually a mystery in how intricate they are, how much was actually invested and created. It can be daunting to think that without modern machinery and knowledge, such accomplishments like the pyramids, would be near impossible. But what we must understand is this: just because it’s daunting, just because it’s incredible, just because it’s excellence, doesn’t mean it’s inconceivable.
There has been concrete data and proof that these ancient civilizations had their methods, that they had writing systems and machinery that allowed them to cultivate their cultures. Take the Teotihuacan for example. Their civilization built more pyramids than any other Mesoamerican society and the Aztec traced their origins to them. They built their pyramids and temples over piles of rubble secured by retaining walls which were then covered with adobe brick and limestone. The Pyramid of the Sun, a famous Teotihuacan pyramid in their capital city also called Teotihuacan, is 730 ft per side with five terraces coming to 200 ft in height. A cave was found underneath the pyramid that led into a shrine in the shape of a four leaf clover. The ancient Egyptians used a system of levers and pulleys to lift materials to build monuments, temples and pyramids as well as emery to cut solid granite. By saying that they couldn’t have done those things because they were essentially too stupid and not advanced enough to do so is insulting the excellence of the targeted cultures. Again, these are mostly people of color.
Looking at some of the “evidence” Ancient Aliens has provided to prove their often radical claims, the pattern often goes: there are similarities in cultures around the world, ancient people are not advanced enough to make a wheel, therefore (and here comes the meme we all know and love) ALIENS. Although it seems reasonable enough (depending on what you define as “reasonable”), we really have to look at it from a more practical angle. We are all of one species. As is the case in every other species on the planet, we do some things that are the same or similar to each other without having even met. Systems such as counting, alphabets, speech, construction, how to prepare food, how to raise livestock, etc. are systems we share as a species. These are things that make us human. Without these systems that Ancient Aliens so often denotes as extraterrestrial interference, we would lack much of our humanity. In other words, if we didn’t have things in common, would we really be of the same species? They make examples out of our use of eggs in ancient legends and of certain numbers like nine and three. But just looking at this objectively, you can see why this is such a weak argument. Cultures borrow and all it takes is one person to transfer information. With world trade and travel and our inherent similarities, things are going to get mixed up along the way no matter how old or stupid you might think the world is at a certain point in time.
The accomplishments of people of color are consistently diminished on Ancient Aliens and I think this is partially due people inherently questioning the accomplishments of ancient civilizations because of their own internalized racism. People want answers. It’s only natural of us to look into every corner, no matter how far fetched the claims may be. It’s one thing to believe aliens have made contact with us and it’s another to believe that aliens cultivated our societies based largely on the idea that people of color lacked the intellect to become the backbones of our modern societies. There is adequate evidence to support the theory that we as a human race descended from ancient Africa and that many aspects of our lives are based off of ancient civilizations of people of color. We always wonder how history happened and instead of looking at ancient civilizations and wondering how we did such things as humans, we wonder instead how we did such things with the help of aliens. The absurdity and offensiveness is indicative of a larger issue that diminishes and demeans people of color. It’s an issue that persists into today that says that people of color aren’t as capable as white people. The argument goes that if people of color aren’t as successful now, then they never were to begin with thus discounting thousands of years of excellence and evidence proving otherwise. We all want to satisfy our beliefs and this is particularly the case with internalized racism—a disease not all of us seem to acknowledge nor know that we possess.
Although Ancient Aliens is just a science fiction TV show, it’s rhetoric is symptomatic of the larger issues we face today. Movements such as Black Lives Matter have emerged to remind each other that people of color have value and worth along with everyone else on our planet. With shows lurking around that deliver low blows like insulting ancestry, damage could be done to our global society’s subconscious. Shows like Ancient Aliens leave behind scars in people’s minds that devalue the achievements of people of color while raising up the achievements of Caucasians as if to say the rest of the world is lost without western technology and influence—as if we were nothing before it. Implications can be everything in a debate such as the one we face regarding race, and with many more shows like it, Ancient Aliens can prove to be more than just entertainment.