Seriously: The Dogon and Sirius?

You don’t have to watch too many Fantasy Channel (formerly known as the History Channel) specials on ancient astronauts before you’ll be told about the primitive African Dogon of Mali and their “advanced astronomical knowledge” — bestowed, of course, by extraterrestrials. This amazing proof of ancient ET visitation is the subject of a popular ancient astronaut book, The Sirius Mystery, by Robert Temple.

Unfortunately, the belief that ETs gave the Dogon advanced astronomical knowledge is bunk, er . . . paleobabble. How do we know? Well, there are the weakness (read: selective and somewhat manipulative presentation of the data) sketched here.  And then there are these two articles on the Dogon and Sirius B (one, two) from Blacks in Science: Ancient & Modern (1983). They discuss a Peruvian dictionary compiled by a Dominican monk, Domingo de San Tomas, in 1560, that contains a description of a Quilpi, an optical instrument for looking into the distance. The abstract of the second article notes:

“With an instrument only as powerful as binoculars, Sirius B should be visible, except that it would be flooded by light from Sirius A. Perhaps they had a more powerful telescope, but even without one more powerful than binoculars, information on Sirius B could be obtained.”

No need for ETs; just some very smart people for their time.

6 thoughts on “Seriously: The Dogon and Sirius?

  1. I have to agree this is probably rubbish however…
    Sirius went through the ecliptic plane around 40,000 years ago at which time an advanced civilisation would have been able to observe transits of the Earth across the Sun. By subtracting the Sun’s light from the spectrum, the presence of oxygen and water on Earth could be determined in the same way that astronomers are now analysing exoplanets around other stars. Space travel across the 8 light years in this period would be impressive but not implausible. If I was ET on a threatened planet near Sirius 40,000 years ago then Earth just could be my preferred destination.

  2. That’s it.. there is nothing that we humans don’t already know, is there? If we can’t see it, count it, weigh or measure it, it isn’t there, is it? We humans know everything there is to know about the universe and everything else, don’t we? We must do. You know why? Because our scientists told us so!! And scientists know everything don’t they? There is nothing that scientists don’t know.

    Google 1989FC if you want a reality check of just how smart your scientists are.

    They failed to detect a 300 meter wide asteroid that came so close to Earth it passed through the exact position Earth was only 6 hours before. Had the asteroid hit Earth, the impact would have been equivalent to one Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb detonating every second for 50 days. The high priests of your religion called science only noticed it after it passed by. Idiots.

    And these are the ‘geniuses’ you wouldn’t dare question a single word of, yet you’ll happily spend your sad little life attempting to debunk everyone else (and very poorly I might add).

    Don’t be too upset, the government loves people like you. They can shove a person in a white lab coat in front of you and anything you are told by them you’ll swallow hook, line and sinker.

  3. @00198-011: some great illogic here: We don’t know something about X; therefore what we do know about Y really isn’t the case — Z must be true. Apples, oranges, and pineapples, too!

  4. it is not that our scientists claim to know everything. The problem with the situation presented here is the same one that has plagued so called ‘civilized’ cultures coming across apparently ‘advanced’ technical knowledge, cities, or evidence of a culture more advanced than what they think the locals _should_ have access to. Heck, if they were going to take over their land, they had to rationalize to themselves that these were savages and not people right? It is racism plain and simple. Unfortunately this sort of thinking is insidious and goes on even today. Where as in the middle ages it was fables of Prater John and his ilk who made and left abandoned kingdoms and taught the local savages in far off lands, today we have shipwrecked monks teaching the savages of South America the secrets of cultivation to UFOs giving ‘advanced’ knowledge to the Dogons helping build the pyramids. Yes their myth cycle seems to have a fantastic story attached to it, so do many other myth cycles, including Christianity. By claiming aliens we are not giving the Dogons credit for having the knowledge through either trade contacts or their own ingenuity. They hailed as ancestors of the Egyptians, some of their gods/totems even bear strikingly similar root names to their Egyptian counterparts: Ammu/Amun the creator god, Ogul-du-Bas translates to totem of panther and Bastet was the cat goddess of Egypt. The Egyptians were remarkably good astronomers, is it that difficult to surmise that their descendants may have remembered a thing or two about the stars and passed this along in their myth cycle?

    Occam’s razor favours the most probable solution.

    For another equally valid opinion please read this article:

  5. I read the bit on The Sirius Mystery at Bad Archaeology and was quite surprised that no mention was made of The Pale Fox – the quintessential tome on Dogon cosmology by Marcel Griaule, which was the basis of Temple’s claims. It was widely referred to in the first edition of The Sirius Mystery, and I assume the 2nd edition which i didn’t read. If you want to know what the Dogon actually claimed all you have to do is get The Pale Fox and read the pages that Temple supposedly quotes and you’ll discover that he put words in their mouths: they made none of the claims that Temple attributes to them! To confound the situation further, Griaule and The Pale Fox have been roundly discredited by the Dutch? anthropologist, Walter van Beek His paper was, however, published after the first edition of The Sirius Mystery – and was not, of course, acknowledged in the second edition. The debunking of The Pale Fox is after all, beside the point here, which is that Robert Temple twisted & mangled that book to suit his own purposes.

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