Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Fergana: Too Good to be True


Immersed as we are in our own culture, we often look at ancient drawings, sculptures and objects and interpret them as something different from what they originally represented. Cartocacoethes, for instance. That is the central method and fallacy of the Ancient Astronauts cult.

That is wrong in so many ways, but I would like to point out specifically that even if we were visited by extraterrestrial astronauts, even assuming they were biped, they would hardly use chemical propulsion rockets and uncomfortable 1960s space suits. Hell, even Soviet, Chinese and American rockets and space suits have some significantly different styles. And they all rely on the same principles, no fancy nuclear propulsion or warp drives. I suspect that even if we were contacted in ancient times, and that’s a plausible possibility, and even if that was recorded somehow, we wouldn’t recognize it as such today. The signal would likely be lost among the noise, and perhaps would only be understood again after we contact them (again).

It’s only speculation, of course.

Amid all forced reinterpretations of ancient art, however, the one you can see above is quite unique. It’s usually shown as an ancient rock art found in the Fergana valley, Uzbekistan, dating to 12,000 years ago. Pay attention to the flying saucer expelling smoke and the astronaut below. But those are curiously not the most intriguing elements. Amazingly, the checkered ground shows understanding of perspective, and the bizarre humanoid figure at left mixes many different art styles, from Buddhist imagery to winged angels, styles that would arise in different cultures around the world only thousands of years later.

The Fergana drawing is quite simply, too good to be true. Perhaps because it’s actually false.


French researcher Didier Leroux revealed in Lumières dans la Nuit (n. 335, Feb 2000) that it’s not a 12,000 years old rock art, but rather a 1967 soviet magazine illustration.

The first issue of Russian magazine Spoutnik, also published in other languagues, including French, featured the article “The Visitors from Cosmos”, authored by Viatcheslaw Zaitsev. Right at the start of the article you can find the familiar illustration.


Including the artist’s signature.


The careful reader may also notice, however, that the description in the top right corner says “the drawing represents a cosmonaut decorating the rocks around Fergana”. Was this illustration just a reproduction of an actual and ancient rock art?

Fortunately Spoutnik was honest enough to publish an erratum in their next number.ferg3

They apologize for their error and clarify that the description attributing the drawings to Fergana was actually related to the drawings on pages 110 and 111. Which you can see below:


Now, that’s much more plausible. Those are ancient rock art reproductions, just like the ones you can find in other sources.

The elaborated illustration was just contemporary art. It was originally published with an incorrect description, which was dutifully corrected by the magazine in their following issue. But apparently the correction never got to many people and a 1967 drawing entered the annals of ufology as a 12,000 rock art. The confusion persisted at least until 2000, until Didier Leroux found the source again. Case solved.



Beyond the clarification by Leroux, we may dive further into some other features of the curious illustration. First and foremost, the strange figure is holding a grooved disc, and if you understand some French you may realize that that’s because the article also deals with the legend of the Dropas, aliens and extraterrestrial record discs. It was in fact one of the first and most important articles to popularize such story, and being also the origin of the “Fergana” error, that article in Spoutnik by Zaitsev surely deserves a place in the history of Ufology’s mistakes.


Then, and perhaps most relevant, is the issue of some photos circulating around in books and then in the Internet that clearly seem to have been taken of the actual rock art. As the image that illustrates the top of this post shows, it’s a photo of a rock with the drawing in reddish lines. That is not a distorted photo of the Spoutnik illustration: someone reproduced the black and white magazine drawing into some rock. And dismissed the signature of the artist.

How can I be sure that the photo was based on the Spoutnik illustration, and not the other way? Well, there’s no reference to the Fergana impressive art before 1967, in fact you won’t find it in any serious archaeological source, only in UFO-related sources.

And if you just compare the Spoutnik drawing with the photo, you can see how the fellow who reproduced the drawing in the rock just extended some lines. No original detail is added beyond what the imaginative Soviet artist drew in the original.


Finally, who did it? Who was responsible for perpetuating the error, transforming a magazine illustration into a bogus rock art reproduction circulated as a photo of a non-existent Fergana 12,000 years-old drawing?

I can’t be sure, but you will find the image reproduced in several of Erich von Däniken’s books, with credit to “Constantin-Film”. That’s the producer of the original movie version of Chariots of the Gods (1970).

And that’s apparently how a movie prop based on a magazine blunder was too good to be true.

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Posted in Aliens,Fortean,Skepticism,UFOs | 1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. alanborky January 28th, 2009 10:49 pm

    Sorry to be quibblesome again, but whilst ‘Fergana’ might in fact be a result of a misunderstanding, as opposed to an outright hoax, (or so I’d suggest), your assumption the idea of ‘visitors from other worlds’ using “chemical propulsion rockets and uncomfortable 1960s space suits” is “wrong in so many ways” may itself be wrong.

    First of all, the ‘visitors’ might’ve in fact be a terrestially derived group who, by dint of having such technology thousands of years ago, have continued to stay technologically well in advance of the rest of us right upto the present day, hence the difference between UFOs then, and UFOs now.

    Second of all, if in fact the ‘rocketeers’ of yore were visitors from (an)other world(s), they may well’ve had technology beyond our comprehension even now.

    In which case they may’ve left traces of downsized versions of their technical capabilities specially designed to make sense to our species only when we attained those particular levels of technology ourselves.

    For instance, as Carl Sagan himself observed, how did the ancient Hindus conceive the preposterous idea thousands of years ago that the universe was eight billion years old, a figure that only began to make sense to Western civilization well into the 20th Century with the advent of the likes of Hubble?

    Alternatively, these traces may’ve been left as sophisticated ‘seeds’ designed to sow into our consciousnesses the possibilities open to us.

    Then again, such traces may’ve simply been planted to innoculate us against the culture shock that’ll eventually ensue when we finally grow up enough to start hanging out with the big boys, (which sadly seems some way off since we can’t even hang out with each other before resorting to physical and psychological internecine violence!).

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