Society Track: Schwartz, Anthropology, GVSU

Dr. Mark Schwartz: "The Origins of Ancient Astronaut Theories in Archaeology: Popular Culture, Science Fiction, and Pseudoscience"

The popular belief that intelligent extraterrestrials influenced ancient human cultures is one that is rooted in the ideas of a nineteenth century imperialist ideology that maintained that the ancestors of non-Europeans were incapable of building sophisticated monumental structures. Over time various "alternative" builders have been offered ranging from the ancient Phoenicians, the lost tribes of Israel, the ancient Atlanteans, and others. With influence from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke, several pseudoscientists generated ancient astronaut theories in the 1960s. This presentation will consider the origins of these ideas and place them in the cultural context of the mid-twentieth century.