Chariots of the Gods?

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For the 1970 documentary film, see Chariots of the Gods (film).
Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past
Chariots Of The Gods.jpg
Author Erich von Däniken
Original title Erinnerungen an die Zukunft: Ungelöste Rätsel der Vergangenheit
Country Germany
Language German
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Econ-Verlag (Germany), Putnam (USA)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 267
Followed by The Eyes of the Sphinx

Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past (German: Erinnerungen an die Zukunft: Ungelöste Rätsel der Vergangenheit; in English, Memories of the Future: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past) is a book authored in 1968 by Erich von Däniken. It involves the hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods.

The first draft of the publication had been rejected by a variety of publishers. The book was extensively rewritten by its editor, Wilhelm Roggersdorf (a pen name of the German screenwriter Wilhelm "Utz" Utermann), Utermann had been a Nazi bestselling author and had held a leading position with the Völkischer Beobachter.[1][2][3]


Statue from the late Jōmon period (1000 - 400 BC) in Japan, interpreted by von Daniken as depicting an alien visitor.
The Nazca lines (200 BCE - 700 CE) in Peru, interpreted by von Daniken as landing strips for alien visitors.

Von Däniken offers the following hypotheses:

  • The existence of structures and artifacts have been found which represent higher technological knowledge than is presumed to have existed at the times they were manufactured. Von Däniken maintains that these artifacts were produced either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts include the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Moai of Easter Island. Further examples include a medieval map known as the Piri Reis Map, allegedly showing the Earth as it is seen from space, and the Nazca lines in Peru, which he explains as landing strips for an airfield.
  • Interpretations of ancient artwork throughout the world as depictions of astronauts, air and space vehicles, extraterrestrials, and complex technology. Von Däniken also describes elements that he believes are similar in art of unrelated cultures.
  • Explanations for the origins of religions as reactions to contact with an alien race, including interpretations of the Old Testament of the Bible. According to von Däniken, humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. Von Däniken asks if the oral and literal traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from stars and vehicles travelling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure. Examples include Ezekiel's vision of the angels and the wheels, which Von Däniken interprets as a description of a spacecraft, the Ark of the Covenant, which is explained as a communication device with an alien race, and the destruction of Sodom by fire and brimstone, which is interpreted as a nuclear explosion. Von Däniken attempts to draw an analogy with the "cargo cults" that formed during and after World War II, when once-isolated tribes in the South Pacific mistook the advanced American and Japanese soldiers for gods.


Many scientists and historians have rejected his ideas, claiming that the book's conclusions were based on faulty, pseudoscientific evidence, some of which was later demonstrated to be fraudulent or fabricated, and under illogical premises. For example, Ronald Story wrote a book rebutting von Däniken's ideas in 1976 titled The Space Gods Revealed. A similar internationally bestselling book, titled Crash Go The Chariots by Clifford Wilson, appeared in 1972.

Soon after the publication of Chariots of the Gods?, von Däniken was accused of stealing the ideas of French author Robert Charroux.[4]

A 2004 article in Skeptic magazine[5] states that von Däniken plagiarized many of the book's concepts from The Morning of the Magicians, that this book in turn was heavily influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos, and that the core of the ancient astronaut theory originates in H. P. Lovecraft's short stories "The Call of Cthulhu" and "At the Mountains of Madness".

The iron pillar of Delhi, erected by Chandragupta II the Great, which von Däniken claimed did not rust.

One artifact offered as evidence in the book has been disclaimed by von Däniken himself. Chariots asserts that a non-rusting iron pillar in India was evidence of extraterrestrial influence, but von Däniken admitted in a Playboy interview that the pillar was man-made and that as far as supporting his theories goes "we can forget about this iron thing." Neither this nor any other discredited evidence has been removed from subsequent editions of Chariots of the Gods.[6][7]

One book commonly cited in support of von Däniken is The Spaceships of Ezekiel by former NASA design engineer Josef F. Blumrich (March 17, 1913 – February 10, 2002), who also wrote a summary article, "The spaceships of the prophet Ezekiel".[8]


The book was adapted as a German documentary film Chariots of the Gods, produced by Terra-Filmkunst, and as a TV documentary In Search of Ancient Astronauts (Alan Landsburg Productions).[9]

As of March 2009, Paradox Entertainment owned the film rights of the book.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Story, Ronald (1976). The space-gods revealed : a close look at the theories of Erich von Däniken. New York: Harper & Row. p. 2. ISBN 0-06-014141-7.  Citing Der Spiegel, in issue 12/1969 (March 17, 1969), p. 184 and issue 12/1973 (March 19, 1973), p. 145
  2. ^ Fritze, Ronald H. (2009), Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-religions, Reaktion Books, pp. 206, 212, footnote 76 in page 286, ISBN 978-1-86189-817-3 
  3. ^ Krassa, Peter (1978), Erich von Däniken: Disciple of the Gods, London: W. H. Allen & Co, pp. 82–83, ISBN 0-352-30262-3 
  4. ^ "Däniken: Wer von Wem?" (PDF). Der Spiegel: 184–185. March 17, 1969. 
  5. ^ "Charioteer of the Gods". Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ "The Case of the Ancient Astronauts". BBC 2. 1977. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Playboy". Playboy. 21 (8): 64. August 1974. von Däniken: "Oh, God, I have so many times tried to correct things, and my experience has been that the corrections are almost never made." 
  8. ^ [1] Impact of Science on Society, Volume XXIV, Number 4 (1974).
  9. ^ AaronCapenBanner (January 5, 1973). "In Search of Ancient Astronauts (TV Movie 1973)". IMDb. Retrieved March 13, 2015. 
  10. ^ Michael Fleming (2009-03-10). "Paradox to ride 'Chariots of the Gods'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 

External links[edit]