Could Ancient Man Fly?
Models of airplanes thousands of years old... vast works of art that can only be seen from the air... ancient texts that describe aerial battles. Are they proof that ancient civilizations mastered powered flight? Flight has been the dream of humankind since they watched in awe as birds soared effortlessly through the sky. But, according to accepted history, it wasn't until the 1780s that two Frenchmen achieved lighter-than-air flight when they were lifted into the air in a hot air balloon near Paris. Then powered, heavier-than-air flight became the goal. And although it was theorized that heavier-than-air flight was possible as early as the 13th century, and in the 16th century Leonardo da Vinci designed winged aircraft and a crude kind of helicopter, it wasn't until the Wright brothers made their first successful flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903 that powered flight became a reality.
That's the widely accepted history. Some researchers and a few rogue scientists believe there's evidence to suggest that humans achieved flight earlier in history - much earlier... so early, they say, that the knowledge of this technology has been lost and ancient stories that recount adventures of human flight have been relegated only to myth.
Is it possible that humans developed the technology to fly in early civilizations - or in civilizations that are now lost to history? Let's take a look at what some call the evidence - intriguing artifacts, carvings, inscriptions and legends - that they say point to the true record human of flight.
The Egyptian Airplane
In 1898, a peculiar six-inch wooden object was found in a tomb at Saqquara, Egypt that dated back to about 200 BCE. The object had a body or fuselage, seven-inch wings that curved downward slightly, a fixed rudder and a tail. It looked very much like a modern airplane or glider. But since airplanes had not yet been invented in 1898 (never mind ancient Egypt), it was labeled as a model of bird and stored away in the basement of the Cairo museum.
The object was rediscovered many years later by Dr. Khalil Messiha, an authority on ancient models. According to Messiha and others who have studied the object, it has characteristics of very advanced aerodynamics, much like modern pusher-gliders that require very little power to stay aloft. The curved wings are today known as reversedihedral wings, which can attain great amounts of lift. A similar design is employed on the supersonic Concorde aircraft.
Was this just a child's toy? Or was it a scale model of an aircraft the Egyptians planned to build... or did build. If they did build a full-scale version of the aircraft, no evidence exists for it. No full-size airplanes have been found in any pharaoh's tomb to fly him to the land of the dead.
The Carvings at Abydos
Although no airplanes or airplane parts have ever been found from the ruins of ancient Egypt, is there corroborating evidence that they constructed aircraft?
Even more controversial than the model airplane are the enigmatic carvings found in the temple of Abydos, Egypt by Dr. Ruth Hover. Hover photographed a wall panel which had been revealed when a newer overlaying panel crumbled and fell off. The older panel beneath contained embossed images that resemble modern aircraft as seen in profile.
One bears a striking resemblance to a modern helicopter, while others could be interpreted as aircraft, hovercraft or even flying saucers. When the photos of these carvings first surfaced, it was assumed that they had been digitally altered to create a sensational hoax. And indeed some of them had been retouched to more clearly show aircraft-like features. But even unaltered photos seemed to show the very modern-looking figures.
Perhaps looks are deceiving, however. The official take from archaeologists is that the strange carvings are palimpsests - the result of two or more overlapping carvings that combine to look like something else. The "aircraft," they say, are merely combinations of overlapping hieroglyphics.
Central and South American Shuttle
Egypt's isn't the only ancient civilization that has produced puzzling artifacts. A remarkable gold trinket estimated to be at least 1,000 years old - dating perhaps to between 500 and 800 AD - was found in Central America and along coastal areas of South America. If you weren't aware of its age, you might guess that it was a child's model of the Space Shuttle or a delta wing fighter aircraft.
When the artifact was discovered, archaeologists called it a zoomorph, or animal-shaped object. It resembles no known flying animal, however. It looks distinctly mechanical with its delta-shaped wings, stabilizer fins and rudder. It even has what looks like a pilot's seat in the right place. Experts in aerodynamics, however, contend that the wings are too far back for the object's center of gravity, and that the nose is not aerodynamically sound.
Whatever this object is supposed to be or represent, its remarkable resemblance to a modern aircraft or spacecraft is uncanny.
Nazca - A Reason to Fly?
Spread over a 37 by 15 mile plateau near Nazca, Peru are huge works of art "drawn" on the ground by people of the Paracas and Nasca cultures. The figures, called geoglyphs, are stylized portraits of a 18 different kinds of birds, a curly-tailed monkey as big as a football field, a killer whale, a 150-foot spider, a lizard, human forms and other strange objects.
Although the civilizations that created the figures flourished between 200 BC and 600 AD, no one knows for certain when the geoglyphs were made... or why. But since they were discovered, archaeologists have wondered by these people would create such monumental works of art that could not be appreciated from the ground. The figures can only be distinguished when viewed from a great height. In fact, they were discovered in recent times only when an explorer noticed them when flying over them in an airplane. Since there are no nearby mountains or other elevated areas nearby from which to look down on the Nazca lines, how were they ever seen?
Because of Nazca's large grids of crisscrossing paths, that seem to go nowhere (some extending as long as six miles), authors such as Erich Von Daniken have suggested (with only this as "evidence") that Nazca is a ancient spaceport. The paths, he contends, are runways for aircraft, and that their pilots and passengers were those privileged to view the large-scale figures.
Less sensationalistic is the suggestion that this ancient civilization constructed hot-air balloons in which to take passengers aloft to view the symbols. In 1974, Julian Nott and Jim Woodman tested this theory by building a balloon made of materials available to the Nazca natives. They constructed a gondola of totora reeds and stitched-together sheets of cotton cloth that they filled with the hot air from wood smoke. Their balloon, dubbed Condor I, quickly rose to over 300 feet, proving that it was at least possible for the South American natives of this region to have achieved lighter-than-air flight long before Europeans did.
Although the Chinese are credited with inventing rocketry, some people believe that an ancient text from India describes sophisticated air flight by human pilots. Written by Maharishi Bharadwaja in the 4th century BC (allegedly dictated while he was in a trance), the Vaimanika-sastra seems to talk about piloting some kind of aircraft - a vimana - with some astonishing capabilities.
Sounding like a manual for aerial battle (or instructions to a video game), the text claims to reveal 32 secrets of piloting a vimana, including:
Goodha - permits the pilot to make his vimana invisible to his enemies. Paroksha - enables the pilot to paralyze other vimanas and put them out of action. Pralaya - pushes an electrical force through the "five-limbed aerial tube" so that the pilot may "destroy everything as in a cataclysm." Taara - provides the pilot with another means of avoiding contact with an enemy or hiding from observers: "By mixing with ethereal force 10 parts of air force, 7 parts of water force, and 16 parts of solar glow, and projecting it by means of the star-faced mirror through the frontal tube of the vimana, the appearance of a star-spangled sky is created." Jalada roopa - instructs the pilot in the correct proportions of certain chemicals which will envelop the vimana and give it "the appearance of a cloud." Was the Vaimanika-sastra simply imaginative writing, rich with symbolism and religious meaning? Or was it a description of ancient yet advanced technology that humankind was not to rediscover until the 20th century?
History Mystery: Ancients in America
Long before Columbus sailed to North America, this hemisphere may have been visited by other Europeans, ancient Romans, Chinese and Japanese - even the ancient Egyptians! In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...
Many of us learned that rhyme, part of a longer history poem, when being taught in school that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Although nothing can be taken away from Columbus' daring voyage, he certainly was not the first to arrive on the shores of the Americas. For one thing, there were already people here - many Native American nations inhabited what later became North and South America and even the Caribbean islands where Columbus landed. Columbus probably wasn't even the first "white man" to make it here. It's fairly well documented that Icelander Leif Ericsson successfully sailed to North America in the year 1000 - almost 500 years prior to Columbus's voyage.
In fact, there's a growing amount of proof suggesting that a lot of the familiar history of human exploration and "discovery" by our ancestors as we were taught it may be quite wrong. There is hard evidence of ancient civilizations making their mark in places where, according to traditionally accepted history, they just shouldn't be. Here's an overview of some of the most remarkable and fascinating cases.
Greeks and Romans in the New World
Coins: Roman coins have been found in Venezuela and Maine. Roman coins were found in Texas at the bottom of an Indian mound at Round Rock. The mound is dated at approximately 800 AD. In 1957 by a small boy found a coin in a field near Phenix City, Alabama, from Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, and dating from 490 B.C. In the town of Heavener, Oklahoma, another out-of-place coin was found in 1976. Experts identified it as a bronze tetradrachm originally struck in Antioch, Syria in 63 A.D. and bearing the profile of the emperor Nero. In 1882, a farmer in Cass County, Illinois picked up bronze coin later identified as a coin of Antiochus IV, one of the kings of Syria who reigned from 175 B.C. to 164 B.C., and who is mentioned in the Bible. Pottery: Roman pottery was unearthed in Mexico that, according to its style, has been dated to the second century A.D. Inscriptions: In 1966, a man named Manfred Metcalf stumbled upon a stone in the state of Georgia that bears an inscription that is very similar to ancient writing from the island of Crete called "Cretan Linear A and B writing." In the early 1900s, Bernardo da Silva Ramos, a Brazilian rubber-tapper working in the Amazon jungle, found many large rocks on which was inscribed more than 2,000 ancient scripts about the "Old World." Near Rio de Janeiro, high on a vertical wall of rock - 3,000 feet up - is an inscription that reads: 'Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal..." and dated to the middle of the ninth century B.C. Near Parahyba, Brazil, an inscription on Phoenician has been translated, in part, as: "We are sons of Canaan from Sidon, the city of the king. Commerce has cast us on this distant shore, a land of mountains. We set [sacrificed] a youth for the exalted gods and goddesses in the nineteenth year of Hiram, our mighty king. We embarked from Ezion-Geber into the Red Sea and voyaged with ten ships. We were at sea together for two years around the land belonging to Ham [Africa] but were separated by a storm [lit. 'from the hand of Baal'], and we were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, on a... shore which I, the Admiral, control. But auspiciously may the gods and goddesses favor us!" The Kensington Stone, discovered in Kensington, Minnesota in 1898 contains an inscription describing an expedition of Norsemen into the interior of what is now North America. It's estimated that this expedition took place in the 1300s. In 1980, P.M. Leonard and J.L. Glenn, from the Hogle Zoological Gardens, Salt Lake City, visited a rock outcropping in Colorado that was reputed to be inscribed with "peculiar markings." Leonard and Glenn believe they are excellent examples of Consainne Ogam writing - a type ascribed to ancient Celts. One of the many inscriptions was translated as: "Route Guide: To the west is the frontier town with standing stones as boundary markers." A fist-sized, round stone was found during the early 1890s in an cemetery near Nashville, Tennessee. Its front was inscribed with symbols thought to be Libyan, pre-100 A.D. style. It translates as: "The colonists pledge to redeem." Pictures: An experienced botanist has identified plants in an ancient fresco painting as a pineapple and a specific species of squash - both native to the Americas. Yet the fresco is in the Roman city of Pompeii. Statues: In 1933, in a burial at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico, archaeologist Jos?Garc燰 Pay鏮 discovered a small carved head with "foreign" features in an undisturbed burial site. It was later identified by anthropologist Robert Heine-Geldern as "unquestionably" from the Hellenistic-Roman school of art and suggested a date of "around AD 200." Structures: Many stone chambers dot the New England countryside and most archaeologists insist they are all potato cellars built long ago by farmers. Others argue that they are too sophisticated for such a mundane application. One, is built into a hillside at Upton, Massachusetts, has sophisticated corbelling that follows they style of Irish and Iberic chambers. It's theorized that it was really built by Europeans around 700 AD - long before the Leif Eiriksson. Ships: In 1886, the remains of a shipwreck was found in Galveston Bay, Texas. Its construction is typically Roman. Toys: A doll made of wood and wax was found deep in a "Well of Sacrifice" at Chich幯 Itz? Mexico, on which is written Roman script. Tombs: In the Mayan ruins of Palenque, a stone sarcophagus was found that is very much in the style of the ancient Phoenicians.
The Far-Traveling Egyptians
Statues: In 1914, archaeologist M.A. Gonzales was excavating some Mayan ruins in the city of Acajutla, Mexico when he was surprised by the discovery of two statuettes that were clearly Egyptian. One male and one female, the carvings bore ancient Egyptian dress and cartouches. They are thought to depict Osiis and Isis. Inscriptions: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs have been found in New South Wales, Australia. Located on a rock cliff in the National Park forest of the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, the enigmatic carvings have been known since the early 1900s. There are more than 250 carvings of familiar Egyptian gods and symbols, including a life-sized engraving of the god Anubis. The hieroglyphs tell the story of explorers who were shipwrecked in a strange and hostile land, and the untimely death of their royal leader, "Lord Djes-eb." From this information, scholars have been able to date the voyage to somewhere between 1779 and 2748 BC. Fossils: In 1982, archaeologists digging at Fayum, near the Siwa Oasis in Egypt uncovered fossils of kangaroos and other Australian marsupials. Language: There are striking similarities between the languages of ancient Egypt and those of the Native Americans that inhabited the areas around Louisiana about the time of Christ. B. Fell, of the Epigraphic Society, has stated that the language of the Atakapas, and to a lesser extent those of the Tunica and Chitimacha tribes, have affinities with Nile Valley languages involving just those words one would associate with Egyptian trading communities of 2,000 years ago. Artifacts: Near the Neapean River outside Penrith, New South Wales, a scarab beetle - a familair Egyptian symbol - carved from onyx was unearthed. Another was found in Queensland, Australia. Tombs: The April 5, 1909 edition of The Phoenix Gazette carried a front-page article about the discovery and excavation of an Egyptian tomb in the Grand Canyon by none other that the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has since denied knowledge of any such discovery. The Scattered Tribes of Israel
Inscriptions: In 1889, the Smithsonian's Mound Survey project discovered a stone in a burial mound in eastern Tennessee on which is inscribed ancient Hebrew lettering. Known as The Bat Creek Stone, experts have identified its letters as being Paleo-Hebrew dating from the first or second century A.D. Some of the letters spell out: "for Judea." An abridged version of the Ten Commandments was found carved into the flat face of a large boulder resting on the side of Hidden Mountain near Los Lunas, New Mexico. Known as The Los Lunas Inscription, its language is Hebrew, and the script is the Old Hebrew alphabet with a few Greek letters mixed in. Artifacts: In June, 1860, David Wyrick found an artifact on the general shape of a keystone near Newark, Ohio that is covered in four ancient Hebrew inscriptions translated as: "Holy of Holies," "King of the Earth," "The Law of God" and "The Word of God." In November of that same year, Wyrick found an inscribed stone in a burial mound about 10 miles south of of Newark, Ohio. The stone is inscribed on all sides with a condensed version of the Ten Commandments or Decalogue, in a peculiar form of post-Exilic square Hebrew letters. A robed and bearded figure on the front is identified as Moses in letters fanning over his head. Asians on the West Coast
Stories: Indian traditions tell of many "houses" seen on Pacific waters. Could they have been ships from Asia? Chinese history tells a charming account of voyages to the land of "Fusang." Old Spanish documents describe oriental ships off the Mexican coast in 1576. Coins: In the summer of 1882, a miner in British Columbia found 30 Chinese coins 25 feet below the surface. The examined coins of this style were invented by the Emperor Huungt around 2637 B.C. Artifacts: Japanese explorers and traders left steel blades in Alaska and their distinctive pottery in Ecuador. Underwater explorations off the California coast have yielded stone artifacts that seem to be anchors and line weights. The style and type of stone point to Chinese origins. Structures: California's East Bay Walls, ancient low rock walls east of San Francisco Bay, have long been a mystery. No one knows who built them or why. In 1904, Dr. John Fryer, professor of Oriental languages at U.C. Berkeley, declared: "This is undoubtedly the work of Mongolians... the Chinese would naturally wall themselves in, as they do in all of their towns in China."