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.
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.
CHARIOTS OF THE DROPAS
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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