UFO: U.S. authors present divergent perspectives on Prehistoric Nuclear War

Edited by John Stokes

Herein we present the following divergent perspectives concerning whether humanity and our planet Earth has been inflicted by a pre-historic nuclear war.

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Perspective from the “NO” side

Belief in Prehistoric Nuclear War Reveals Modern Fears

by Jason Colavito

In February 2008, global dignitaries gathered to inaugurate the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a repository for plant life designed to withstand nuclear war so survivors could restart civilization with healthy seeds. Magnus Bredeli-Tveiten, who oversaw construction of the vault, told the Associated Press that he expected it to last as long as the 4,500-year-old pyramids of Egypt. However, for a certain percentage of the public, ancient civilizations like Egypt are just one key to a nuclear war that already happened-thousands of years ago.

Believers maintain that in the distant past either extraterrestrials or a lost civilization like Atlantis detonated nuclear weapons, producing terrible devastation. This disaster was recorded, they say, in the Bible, Hindu scriptures, and world mythologies. Sodom and Gomorrah felt the sting of nuclear weapons when “the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24-25).

The ancient Indian Bhagavad Gita describes a “single projectile charged with all the power of the universe. An incandescent column of smoke and flame as bright as ten thousand suns rose in all its splendour.” To believers, these sound like eyewitness accounts of nuclear bombs being dropped from above. To sceptics, these sound like imaginative interpretations of the equivalent of prehistoric science fiction.

No mainstream scientist or historian endorses the idea of prehistoric atomic bombs, and nearly all experts believe the evidence cited to support the idea is misinterpreted at best and fraudulent at worst. For example, believers hold that deposits of 28-million-year-old glass found buried in the deserts of Libya are the result of ancient atomic bombs that melted the desert sand. In fact, according to geologist Evelyn Mervine, the glass (while still not completely understood) is likely the result of either a meteorite impact or volcanic action.

What is interesting, though, is not the alleged evidence for ancient atom bombs but rather why people come to embrace a belief in the existence of nuclear devastation in the remote past.

Those who support the theory tend to be believers in a lost civilization like Atlantis or in extraterrestrial intervention in ancient history, the so-called “ancient astronaut” theory popularized by Swiss hotelier Erich von Däniken in the 1960s and ’70s with his book Chariots of the Gods?, its sequels, and movie adaptation. It was von Däniken who introduced mainstream audiences to the idea (borrowed from the French writer Robert Charroux) that the “aliens” had blown up Sodom and Gomorrah with atom bombs.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable statistics to tell us just how many people today believe that the ancient world experienced nuclear war. We do know that surveys conducted by anthropology professor Kenneth L. Feder found that in the 1990s anywhere from a quarter to a third of college students believed Atlantis existed, and a third or more believed “aliens from other worlds visited the earth in the prehistoric past.” By 2003, belief in ancient astronauts had fallen to less than 10%, but more than a third still believed in Atlantis, today often seen as a hotbed of advanced (and atomic) technology.

Though the Atlantis legend has its origins in an unfinished work by Plato written more than 2,500 years ago, the modern version of the Atlantis legend begins with Ignatius Donnelly, an American politician who wrote Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882 to prove that the lost continent was very real and was the origin of all European, Asian, and Native American civilizations.

Donnelly was the first to equate Atlantis with the destructive power of advanced weaponry. In the book he discusses an event from the Bible when “a fire from the Lord consumed two hundred and fifty men” who led a rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16:31-41). Tellingly, though, Donnelly interpreted this event through the lens of the technology of his time: “This looks very much as if Moses had blown up the rebels with gunpowder.” He also thought gunpowder was responsible for explosions in India and Atlantis.

Though Donnelly believed Atlantis was roughly as sophisticated as the pre-industrial Europe of the eighteenth century, those who built on his work steadily expanded the wonders of the lost continent to include everything from lasers to anti-gravity devices to nuclear power, keeping the mythical Atlantis one step ahead of modern technology. By the time of von Däniken, Donnelly’s quaint ideas about gunpowder had gone out the window. Instead, von Däniken argued that biblical explosions, like the one at Sodom, were effected “deliberately, by a nuclear explosion.”

Granted, even nuclear scientists like J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, noted the (thematic, not literal) similarities between passages in the Bhagavad Gita and the destructive power of atomic weapons, but why was it that in the 1970s ancient texts started to seem like historical records of nuclear war?

Ironically enough, von Däniken provides the answer to this question.

“[S]ince the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan,” he wrote, “we know the kind of damage such bombs cause and that living creatures exposed to direct radiation die or become seriously ill.”

Because the nuclear age had produced horrors on a scale previously unimaginable, and because nuclear war was a very real possibility during the Cold War (the Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred just six years before von Däniken published his first book), it made sense that some would begin to look for mythological and historical precedents for otherwise unprecedented events. This relationship between modern technology and the ancient atom bomb theory has kept it current even as so many other “alternative” beliefs of the ’70s — like psychic spoon bending, EST, and pyramid power–have lost their currency.

In fact, the same day that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened, an article appeared on the American Chronicle website declaring that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Atlantis and the lesser-known lost continent of Mu were all the result of ancient atom bombs. Like von Däniken, author David Sloan immediately understood the connection between his reconstruction of the past and his concerns about the present.

“The world is in dire straights (sic) …With the threat of terrorism, crime, global warming, wars and the rumours of wars, new diseases arising, we are facing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Sloan’s description of ancient atomic warfare leaned heavily on the work of the field’s most popular author, David Hatcher Childress, a self-described Indiana Jones who has investigated what he sees as nuclear anomalies in the ancient history of humanity. In a chapter of his 2000 book Technology of the Gods, he discusses his belief that a nuclear war was once fought in what is now India, among other places. He quickly connected the dots to events then in the news, the development of nuclear weapons in the 1990s in both Pakistan and India, countries that had previously fought several (non-nuclear) wars.

“The echoes of ancient atomic warfare in south Asia continue to this day with India and Pakistan currently threatening each other,” Childress wrote. “Ironically, Kashmir, possibly the site of an earlier atomic war, is the focus of this conflict. Will the past repeat itself in India and Pakistan?”

(Full disclosure: Childress has publicly criticized my earlier discussion of his theories in my 2005 book entitled The Cult of Alien Gods as inaccurate because it linked him with those who believe in alien visitations in the remote past. Childress had published a book entitled Extraterrestrial Archaeology speculating that aliens left structures on the moon and Mars thousands or millions of years ago. He now claims that ancient anomalies are the work of a lost super-civilization.)

Mr. Childress has appeared in countless television documentaries to testify to the advanced state of ancient technology, and cable channels like the History Channel and the Sci-Fi Channel have been complicit in popularizing the story of ancient nuclear weapons, the myth of Atlantis, and the “reality” of ancient astronauts. The echo chamber of the internet reinforces these beliefs among the core of believers. And ancient mysteries sell better than science.

“I have to wonder,” geologist Mervine wrote in 2005, “what inspires such crazy notions and how people such as Von Daniken and Childress manage to sell so many books. Certainly, far more copies of a single one of their books have been sold than, say, all the editions of my igneous petrology textbook.”

For Mervine, the answer comes from the explanatory power of fringe theories, which offer a one-size-fits-all explanation for the otherwise complex and difficult tangles of ancient history. It’s easier to say the aliens or Atlanteans did it than to study the intricacies of history.

While this may be true for the Atlantis theory or the ancient astronaut theory, for the specific case of ancient atom bombs, it seems that contemporary anxieties are being projected backward into the past. Until the first nuclear blast in 1945, no human civilization had possessed the power to completely destroy civilization, but imagining such a civilization in the deep past serves two powerful purposes.

First, it provides a morality tale for the modern world. A great civilization (human or alien) once had the power to destroy the world. They misused the power and destroyed themselves. We must therefore avoid their fate. Second, it provides a comforting ray of hope. Although early human civilization had been destroyed, we are still here today. Humanity can and will survive nuclear war, and the species will go on.

The story of ancient atomic bombs, therefore, is a morality tale with a promise for redemption. It tells us that we will be ok even when the technology we create threatens to destroy us. For this reason, the modern myth of ancient atom bombs continues to ricochet around the internet, cable television, and “alternative history” publishers and likely will for years to come.

About the writer:

Jason Colavito

Jason Colavito

Jason Colavito is the author of The Cult of Alien Gods: H. P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture (Prometheus, 2005). His latest book is Knowing Fear: Science, Knowledge, and the Development of the Horror Genre (McFarland, 2008). He can be reached via his website titled ‘Lost Civilizations Uncovered’, LINK.


Perspective from the “YES” side

We must learn from the past if we are to make the transition from Ape to Angel

by Brad Steiger

Brad Steiger and his wife Sherry

On expedition in the ancient city of the giants, Sacsahuaman, high in the Andes of Peru, Brad Steiger and his wife Sherry explore evidence of a world before our own.

In the holy books and legends of many ancient peoples there are innumerable accounts of wars between the heavens and the earth. Cosmic revolutions and civil wars were said to rent and to split the prehistoric worlds on several occasions. More than one Sodom and Gomorrah exploded so that “the smoke rose up like that from a mighty furnace,” and references to their destruction are found in the scriptures of Hindu and Hebrew and in the myths of people as diverse as the American Indian and the African.

Such mythic kingdoms as Atlantis may be but a symbol of those previous worlds, a metaphor of man’s brief glory before the dust of an eternity that makes the most long-lived empires seem but an eye-blink of God.

I have come to believe that civilization on Earth has been cyclical, that there have been highly evolved human or hominid cultures beyond our present epoch, and that within man’s racial memory or collective unconscious may lie half-forgotten memories of these worlds before our own

Each of the ancient legends has the extant civilization being decimated. Its governments are rendered impotent; its commerce abandoned; its cultural attributes forgotten; its cities crumbled to rubble.

But always a remnant of its people survive. Enough human seed is retained to perpetuate the stubborn and striving species. The cycle of the death and rebirth of civilization is maintained. Man returns to the primitive to relearn the basics, to recall the essentials.

At the same time that he is once again mastering the elementary lessons of survival, he is re-establishing an understanding of his physical body’s niche in the web of life and his ethereal psyche’s position in the oneness of the holy, the divine, the cosmic.

It is as if man must continue to replicate the progression of hunter to farmer to merchant to scientist-philosopher until he gets it right and strives to graduate from ape to angel.

I believe man knows, on an intuitive level, that time is cyclical and unwinds in a spiral, but he persists in his attempts to structure a linear history–a time that proceeds in a straight line, devoid of revolving patterns and returning seasons. There is something within man that seems to drive him to find law, order, structure, and pattern in his world, his universe. Man’s science is founded on the repeatability of experiments. His religion is built on the promise of a Divine plan and order.

The traditions of many of the Native American tribes state that periodically the planet, the Earth Mother, purges herself in a time of Great Purification. The Medicine priests say that this cleansing occurs, not because man is evil and needs punishing, but according to a natural cycle.

The shamans state that another time of purification has rolled around on the great cosmic calendar. We are about to enter a time of earthquakes, vulcanism, and dramatic earth changes. We can do no more to prevent the cataclysms before us than we can prevent the advent of winter. But just as a knowledge of the past tells us that, regardless of our fears, winter will come, it also informs us that we can prepare for it. In like manner can we begin to make preparations for the Great Purification and to plan ahead for the planetary spring time that awaits the humanity that endures.

Once again man’s science has the nuclear power available to transform our cities into those tragically familiar patches of fused green glass, vitrified forts, and calcined cities.

Must we scorch ourselves to oblivion in the madness of a nuclear holocaust?

Must our culture become the subject of mystery and debate for our faceless descendents?

Will a future civilization speculate about whether or not a people of some degree of sophistication actually existed on the North American continent in an epoch which their time perspective will term “prehistoric”?

Let us pray that our science will choose to utilize nuclear power as a means of survival against the approaching cataclysms rather than as a means of total species annihilation. Nuclear energy need be no more a destructive demon than is electricity.

With the proper safeguards, our cities, our vehicles of transportation, our homes, and our day-to-day existences can be both powered and made better by intelligently applied nuclear technology. Rather than a radioactive Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, nuclear energy might be a mechanism that can maintain our species through the time of transition we shall inevitably encounter.

If we truly apply wisdom, a fused and united humanity, rather than a layer of fused green glass, might become the symbol of our epoch most remembered by the unborn inheritors of our planet. If we can at last learn to live in love, we shall bequeath a legacy of peace, rather than an enigma of our origins, to those men and women who will people the worlds after our own.

Yearly, the abundant omens of transition and transformation are increasing. An Old World is dying all around us; therefore, we must commit ourselves to knowledge, understanding, and love so that we may survive the Armageddon that may be necessary to cleanse the Earth for a new epoch, a new age, a new turn of the wheel of civilization.

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