The Sirius Mystery

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The Sirius Mystery
The Sirius Mystery, first edition.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorRobert K. G. Temple
CountryUnited States
SubjectDogon people
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages440 pp. (softcover)

The Sirius Mystery is a book by Robert K. G. Temple supporting the pseudoscientific[1] ancient astronauts hypothesis that intelligent extraterrestrial beings visited Earth and made contact with humans in antiquity and prehistoric times.[2][3] The book was first published by St. Martin's Press in 1976. Its second, 1998, edition is called The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago.


The book presents the hypothesis that the Dogon people of Mali, in west Africa, preserve a tradition of contact with intelligent extraterrestrial beings from the Sirius star system.[4]

These beings, who are hypothesized to have taught the arts of civilization to humans, are claimed in the book to have originated the systems of the Pharaohs of Egypt, the mythology of Greek civilization, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, among other things. Temple's theory was heavily based on his interpretation of the work of ethnographers Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. A substantial bulk of The Sirius Mystery consists of comparative linguistic and mythological scholarship, pointing out resemblances among Dogon,Yoruba, Egyptian and Sumerian beliefs and symbols. Greek and Arab myths and words are considered to a lesser extent.

The "mystery" that is central to the book is how the Dogon allegedly acquired knowledge of Sirius B, the white dwarf companion star of Sirius A, invisible to the naked eye. Temple did not argue that the only way that the Dogon could have obtained what he understood to be accurate information on Sirius B was by contact with an advanced civilization; he considered alternative possibilities, such as a very ancient, advanced, and lost civilization that was behind the sudden appearance of advanced civilization in both Egypt and Sumeria. He personally found the theory of alien contact more convincing, but he did not claim certainty about it. Noah Brosch explained in his book Sirius Matters that cultural transfer could have taken place between 19th century French astronomers and Dogon tribe members during the observations of the solar eclipse on 16 April 1893. The expedition, led by Henri Deslandres, stayed in the field for five weeks and it is reasonable that during this time many contacts with the locals took place, and that relatively modern astronomical knowledge was then transferred.[5] However, there is no evidence that such an encounter actually happened. Neither the expedition nor the Dogons report this hypothetical contact.

However, some doubts have been raised about the reliability of Griaule and Dieterlein's work on which The Sirius Mystery is based,[6][7] and alternative explanations have been proposed. The claims about the Dogons' astronomical knowledge have been challenged. For instance, the anthropologist Walter Van Beek, who studied the Dogon after Griaule and Dieterlen, found no evidence that the Dogon considered Sirius to be a double star and/or that astronomy was particularly important in their belief system.[8] Others, such as Marcel Griaule's daughter Geneviève Calame-Griaule and an anthropologist, Luc de Heusch, came to criticize Van Beek's dismissal as "political" and riddled with "unchecked speculation", demonstrating a general ignorance of Dogon esoteric tradition.[9][10]

Reviews of claims[edit]

Ian Ridpath[edit]

In 1978, astronomer Ian Ridpath observed, in an article in the Skeptical Inquirer, "The whole Dogon legend of Sirius and its companions is riddled with ambiguities, contradictions, and downright errors, at least if we try to interpret it literally."[11] Ridpath stated that while the information that the Dogon probably gained from Europeans to some extent resembles the facts about Sirius, the presumed original Dogon knowledge on the star is very far from the facts. Ridpath concluded that the information that resembles the facts about Sirius was probably ascertained by way of cultural contamination. More recent research suggests that the contaminator was Griaule himself.[7]

Carl Sagan[edit]

Astronomer Carl Sagan touched upon the issue in his book Broca's Brain (1979), seeing problems in Temple's hypothesis. As an example, Sagan believes that because the Dogon seem to have no knowledge of another planet beyond Saturn which has rings, that their knowledge is therefore more likely to have come from European, and not extraterrestrial, sources.[12]

James Oberg[edit]

Journalist and skeptic James Oberg collected claims that have appeared concerning Dogon mythology in his 1982 book.[13] According to Oberg, the Dogons' astronomical information resembles the knowledge and speculations of European astronomical knowledge of the late 1920s. The Dogon may have acquired their astronomical knowledge, including the information on Sirius, from European visitors before their mythology was recorded in the 1930s. Oberg also points out that the Dogon were not an isolated tribe, and thus it was not even necessary for outsiders to inform the Dogon about Sirius B. They could very well have acquired such knowledge abroad, passing it on to their tribe later. Sirius B was first observed in 1862, and had been predicted in 1844 on dynamic grounds. However, Oberg does concede that such assumptions of recent acquisition are "entirely circumstantial" and have no foundation in documented evidence.

Jason Colavito[edit]

The skeptic Jason Colavito counts The Sirius Mystery among the body of works in a tradition of ancient astronaut ideas that was ultimately inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.[14][15]

Unproven claims[edit]

One unproven aspect of the reported Dogon knowledge of the Sirius system is the assertion that the Dogon knew of another star in the Sirius system, Emme Ya, or "larger than Sirius B but lighter and dim in magnitude." A dynamical study published in 1995, based on anomalous perturbations of Sirius B (suggestive of the star being gravitationally influenced by another body) concluded that the presence of a third star orbiting Sirius could not be ruled out.[16] An apparent "third star" observed in the 1920s is now confirmed as a background object,[17] something previously suggested by Holberg in 2007:

Benest and Duvent found that stable orbits with a period of up to six years exist around Sirius A. There are no stable orbits around the less massive Sirius B which exceed three years. Therefore, if Sirius C exists, it must orbit Sirius A. It is also possible to conclude that such a star could in no way be responsible for the flurry of sightings from the 1920s, it would be too faint and too close to Sirius A to have ever been seen by visual observers.[18]

— J.B. Holberg

The former study also concluded that while a triple system for Sirius could not be fully eliminated, the probability was low.

Temple's book and the debates that followed its release publicized the existence of the Dogon tribe among many New Age followers and proponents of ancient astronaut theories. Speculation about the Dogon on numerous websites is now mingled with fact, leading to wide misunderstanding among the public about Dogon mythology. Temple, however, has stated in the reprint of The Sirius Mystery (1999) that he in no way supports what he refers to as "sinister cults" that have been inspired by his book.[19]

He also used the second edition of his book to complain about what he said was "the extreme and virulent hostility towards me by certain security agencies, most notably the American ones."[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ May, Andrew (2016). Pseudoscience and Science Fiction (illustrated ed.). Springer. p. 133. ISBN 978-3-319-42605-1. Extract of page 133
  2. ^ Patrick Grim (1982), Philosophy of Science and Occult (1st ed.), SUNY Press, pp. 285–, ISBN 978-0-87395-573-7
  3. ^ May, Andrew (2016). Pseudoscience and Science Fiction (illustrated ed.). Springer. p. 133. ISBN 978-3-319-42605-1. Extract of page 133
  4. ^ Sheppard, R.Z. (August 2, 1976). "Worlds in Collusion". Time.
  5. ^ Brosch, Noah (2008). Sirius Matters. Springer. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-1-4020-8319-8.
  6. ^ Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano. "The Dogon Revisited". Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  7. ^ a b Philip Coppens. "Dogon Shame". Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  8. ^ Holberg, Jay B. Sirius Springer 2007 ISBN 978-0-387-48941-4 p176
  9. ^ Genevieve Calame-Griaule (1991). "On the Dogon Restudied". Current Anthropology. 32 (5): 575–577. doi:10.1086/204001. S2CID 143668492.
  10. ^ Luc De Heusch (1991). "On Griaule on Trial". Current Anthropology. 32 (4): 434–437. doi:10.1086/203978. S2CID 224794679.
  11. ^ Ian Ridpath, "Skeptical Inquirer". Archived from the original on February 17, 2003. Retrieved 2013-02-15.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), Fall 1978
  12. ^ Sagan, Carl (1986-02-12) [1979]. Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1986 reprint ed.). New York, US: Ballantine Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-345-33689-7. OCLC 6855099.
  13. ^ James Oberg, "Chapter 6, The Sirius Mystery", in UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries, (1982) Donning Press
  14. ^ Jason Colavito (5 March 2010). The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestial [sic] Pop Culture. Prometheus. pp. 24–. ISBN 978-1-61592-375-5.
  15. ^ "The Cthulhu Comparison". Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  16. ^ Benest, D.; Duvent, J. L. (1995). "Is Sirius a triple star?". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 299: 621–628. Bibcode:1995A&A...299..621B.
  17. ^ Bonnet-Bidaud, J. M.; Pantin, E. (October 2008). "ADONIS high contrast infrared imaging of Sirius-B". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 489 (2): 651–655. arXiv:0809.4871. Bibcode:2008A&A...489..651B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078937. S2CID 14743554.
  18. ^ J.B. Holberg: "Sirius: brightest diamond in the night sky". 2007. pp168
  19. ^ Temple, Robert K. G. (1999) [1976]. The Sirius Mystery: New scientific evidence of alien contact 5,000 years ago (2nd ed.). London, UK: Arrow. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-09-925744-8. OCLC 60154574. Subjects: Dogon (African people). Civilization, Ancient -- Extraterrestrial influences. Human-alien encounters.
  20. ^ Temple, Robert K. G. (1999) [1976]. The Sirius Mystery: New scientific evidence of alien contact 5,000 years ago (2nd ed.). London, UK: Arrow. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-09-925744-8. OCLC 60154574.

External links[edit]