On the fringe
Looking for alien DNA
June 15, 2010 at 8:24 PM ET
Zecharia Sitchin says he's willing to stake everything he's written about alien astronauts on DNA tests that could be performed on the 4,500-year-old remains of a high-ranking Sumerian woman. It's the latest - and possibly the last - cause celebre for a fringe celebrity. The way Sitchin sees it, the long-dead woman's genome could contain the signature of the gods and demigods he's been talking about since 1976. The 90-year-old Sitchin was born in the Soviet Union, grew up in Palestine and now lives in a New York apartment. He has written 14 books about way-out subjects, starting out with claims that a "12th planet" named Nibiru swung past Earth thousands of years ago and dropped off alien visitors who were looked upon as gods by Middle Eastern cultures. Sitchin says these aliens were the Annunaki
mentioned in Sumerian scriptures, and the Nephilim
mentioned in the Bible. Needless to say, Sitchin's ideas - like those of another ancient-astronaut author, Erich von Däniken
- have been roundly scorned by the scientific community. But now Sitchin is asking that very community to help him with the mystery of Queen Puabi. Puabi's remains were unearthed from a tomb in present-day Iraq during the 1920s and 1930s, roughly the same time frame as the discovery and study of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt. Forensic experts at London's Natural History Museum determined
that Puabi was about 40 years old when she died, and probably reigned as queen in her own right during the First Dynasty of Ur. Sitchin contends she was something more than a queen - specifically, that she was a "nin," a Sumerian term which he takes to mean "goddess." He suggests that Puabi was an ancient demigod, genetically related to the visitors from Nibiru. What if these aliens tinkered with our DNA to enhance our intelligence - the biblical tree of knowledge of good and evil - but held back the genetic fruit from the tree of eternal life? Does the story of Adam and Eve actually refer to the aliens' tinkering? The way Sitchin sees it, the ancient myths suggest that "whoever created us deliberately held back from us a certain thing - fruit, genes, DNA, whatever - not to give us health, longevity, and the immortality that they had. So what was it?" Sitchin wants scientists to test the DNA from Puabi's remains, just in case it holds the answer. "Maybe by comparing her genome with ours, we would find out what are those missing genes that they deliberately did not give us," he told me. "Maybe. I cannot guarantee that, but maybe."
Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. Zecharia Sitchin says "There Were Giants Upon the Earth" will be his last book.
That kind of talk has led Sitchin's critics to label him a pseudo-historian
, a fraud
or just plain wrong
. But that kind of talk has also sold millions of books since the '70s. Sitchin's latest, "There Were Giants Upon the Earth,"
recaps all the theories he's built up over the years - the unorthodox interpretations of ancient scriptures, the planet Nibiru's eccentric travels and the existence of a superhuman space society that hopped over to our planet and sparked the ancient myths. Sitchin claims that the ultimate fate of all those theories would be decided by the DNA tests he wants done on Queen Puabi's remains. "I'm really risking my life's work on this outcome," he said. Michael Heiser, for one, isn't buying it. He's a scholar in biblical languages who maintains the "Sitchin Is Wrong"
website, and he thinks Sitchin's DNA challenge to genetic researchers is just a lot of bluster. "He wants them to search for something when they don't know what it looks like," Heiser told me. "It's not as if we have a known sample of alien DNA. How do you know when you sequence something, because junk DNA doesn't qualify. What's a hit? If they find anything where they say, 'Hey, we don't know what this does,' he would latch onto that. ... He would zero in on the gaps and the ambiguities." On his website, Heiser provides in-depth discussions of the objections that have long been raised about Sitchin's writings: that the one-time journalist misreads the ancient texts, that he takes ancient myths as honest-to-goodness history and builds an outlandish cosmology around them, that he indulges in pop-culture paleo-babble
Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. Zecharia Sitchin.
Sitchin has a different perspective, of course. The way he sees it, modern science is proving him right. "In field after field, all my conclusions - including some that seemed out of place - are being corroborated," he told me. "If you go to my website
you'll see entry after entry about how a new discovery has corroborated my claims." For example, astronomers have found that distant worlds can trace orbits far more eccentric and skewed
than they expected. There's even talk that an unseen giant planet
may be lurking on the edge of our own solar system. All this has made Sitchin feel more confident in claiming that the planet Nibiru, home of the Annunaki, really does exist. You won't find any top-drawer scientists willing to pick up on Sitchin's suggestions, but that's exactly the kind of person he's looking for right now. The Natural History Museum says that any request to conduct DNA tests on Puabi's remains would have to come from "a researcher with recognized experience and skills in this field, or with access to the necessary facilities required to undertake ancient DNA analysis." Sitchin told me he's checking with various research groups, including some of the researchers behind last month's Neanderthal DNA findings
and the DNA analysis conducted on 4,000-year-old human hair from Greenland
. "I'm offering from my minuscule family foundation to fund this, by the way, so I'm not asking them for money," Sitchin told me. "And I'm not asking them to say Sitchin is right or wrong. I'm asking them to tell the museum in London this is too important not to do it. And that's where it stands." It probably wouldn't be right for researchers to take Sitchin's money - but a TV documentary about the glittering riches of ancient Ur, climaxing with experts doing forensic tests on the remains of ancient royalty? Hey, if it worked for the Discovery Channel with "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen,"
... for the History Channel with "Coroners Report: King Tut"
... and for the National Geographic Channel with "The Real Cleopatra"
... well, it should work with Queen Puabi as well. Here are edited excerpts from my interview with Sitchin, followed by the statement I received via e-mail from the Natural History Museum:CosmicLog: Studying Puabi's remains would be important whether or not something extremely peculiar is found. But if something extremely peculiar is not found? If they find that the DNA sequence for these remains is pretty ordinary?Zecharia Sitchin:
Then I will look foolish. I’m really risking my life’s work on this outcome. Q: So you feel as if this is something that would definitely disprove your view of who these Sumerians were?A:
Well you can't really "disprove." If somebody says "I did not see so-and-so," it doesn't disprove. But probably many will say it disproves my whole life's thesis. I'm so convinced that when you find the skeletal remains of this female with three cylinder seals, one of which specifically names her as "Nin" … there’s no doubt in my mind. I’m willing to risk everything from 40 years of writing and publishing on this. Now whether I could be proven right, I don’t know.
Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. Gold jewelry that was found next to the head of Queen Puabi was apparently assembled into an ornate headdress, as shown on this mannequin.
The results may say, we don’t find anything interesting. Maybe a difference here and there, but it looks like our DNA. I’m sure people will then say, 'OK, Sitchin’s stature has collapsed.' Whether this means so or not, I don’t know. But listen, I’m 90 years old, so what the heck. This is my final book. This is really my challenge to the scientific community. ... I’m really challenging science to corroborate the bibles. If you want it stated in one sentence, that’s what I’m doing. Science, with its ability to do whole-genome comparisons, now has the unique opportunity to test those ancient bones. Maybe Sitchin is
right. I’m not asking them to undertake it to prove me right. But I think maybe if I am right, it opens such vistas of understanding in religion, in history, in genetics, in every field, that it ought to be done. Q: A lot of people have talked about how you’re a pseudo-historian, or you have an incorrect understanding of how the Sumerian language, how the cuneiform inscriptions should be interpreted. Does this sort of criticism make you rethink some of the things you’ve said?A:
Absolutely not. First of all, I think anybody has the right to disagree with me. If I say that this sentence means this and that, you may say, ‘No, it does not say this and that.' There is one classic instance where I was going to the meeting of the American Oriental Society
. ... I was shocked, because there was an assertion about this and that, I don't know, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. The speaker had 10 minutes, and then there are five or 10 minutes with questions and answers. Well, the speaker gets up and asserts that a certain Sumerian word may have another meaning in addition to the accepted usual meaning. The guy is afraid to overstep boundaries, so he qualifies what he says. "Well, maybe I'm suggesting..." He qualifies in 10 different ways. He has his 10 minutes, and then there are questions and answers. Somebody gets up and calls the speaker by his first name, so they must know each other. "Jim, I'm amazed at your stupidity. How could you even come up with this notion that this word has this second meaning that you're talking about?" And he runs down the poor fellow, insulting him, and that's it. The guy doesn't have a chance to answer because there's one more question and his time is up. So what's the point? One guy thinks the word may have a second meaning, and the other guy calls him names for it. So what's one to do? Q: Are there areas where you see that new evidence has come out and the view that you’ve had has changed through the years?A:
No, on the contrary, because of the evidence that is coming mostly from other fields. Let me give you an example. ... The planet Nibiru is listed in countless astronomical texts from Mesopotamia. The question was debated by scholars already in the 19th century, what planet is it? One school said, it’s another name for Mars. And another school said, it’s another name for Jupiter. Each group had their reasons to say it wasn’t Jupiter, or it wasn’t Mars. And I basically agreed with both of them: those who said it could not be Mars and those who said it could not be Jupiter. So finally I came up with my solution, that it’s one more planet with a great elliptical orbit, etc., etc. So one of the criticisms that came out when “The 12th Planet,” my first book, was published in 1976 was that such an elliptical orbit is not possible, because in time, either the orbit would become more rounded and the planet would orbit closer to the sun, or it would be thrown out of the solar system. But to continue in an elliptical orbit, orbit after orbit after orbit, is not possible. Now, I subscribe to all the magazines – Nature, Science, Archaeology – I’m keeping myself up to date on scientific discoveries. So now that we know about so-called extrasolar planets, the verdict is that an elliptical orbit is the norm
. So a few months ago, there was a program [on TV] titled "Curse of the Yo-Yo Planet."
I’m watching it, and the guy is talking about my planet! No doubt about it. He describes it, and calls it the "yo-yo planet" because it goes farther out and comes back. And when the program is over, there’s not one word mentioned about Sitchin! Q: Yes, people have renewed the search for planets that may be out in the Oort cloud. For example, Sedna is a world that is between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud. People wonder how it got there. There is a sense that the sun may have been born in a cluster with other stars, and that gravitational attraction may have disrupted a lot of orbits. There was a study just a couple of days ago suggesting that as many as 90 percent of the comets in our solar system were actually stolen from neighboring star systems during the early stage of solar system development.A:
This is the whole reason for orbiting in the opposite direction … it comes from those very findings you’re talking about. How does one explain why not only Nibiru but some of the comets have retrograde orbits? If the solar system was just by itself created because of this swirling cloud, then how come not everything orbits in the same direction? All these findings keep corroborating what I have said. Q: But I think some people have interpreted those remarks to suggest that a companion star or a dark planet may once again disrupt the solar system as early as 2012.A:
Don’t link me to 2012. Nothing will happen in 2012.
The last time that Nibiru was in our vicinity was in the 6th century B.C. I provide information about this and sky maps and anything you want in my book “The End of Days.” But don’t link me to 2012. Another aspect, by the way, is that if you do a search on “Annunaki” you get a million and a half websites. People use my writings and make up their own stories … I’m responsible for what I say, but not for what others say and their interpretations. In general I think there’s a whole industry that has grown up in the media, mostly in the movies, for creating panic and fear. Who knows? “Something will happen, it’s coming.” I don’t think so. Nothing will return. But I think ["gods" visited Earth] because of all the biblical prophecies. They created us, they gave us knowledge, but what they kept from us … I’m trying to find out through the DNA tests. Maybe it has to do with health, immortality, maybe cancer and such. We are their children, many of us are the result of their intermarriage. If Noah was like the Sumerian hero, a demigod, then we are all demigods. So they are not coming back to destroy us. They are not coming back to use us as food. I’m really shocked, shocked by this fearmongering, which is unjustified. I do what I do and say what I say, and now I’m throwing down the gauntlet to the scientific community. You don’t have to do my genome, you have to do the genome of Nin Puabi. Q: Another thing that people say is that you’re trying to read too much literal, actual history into something that was intended more as a myth, a story about the spiritual world. It would be as if someone was looking back from the future at our different cultures, and saying, “Well, God had to be like this because all these different cultures are telling the same story.” Whereas actually it’s the case that a common theme – for example, the Gilgamesh story or the story of a great flood – made its way into different cultures and doesn’t necessarily reflect historical reality.A:
Well, if that is the criticism, then it’s true. My answer to that is, so what? I take it literally, and others say I shouldn’t, so … I plead guilty. Now, let me tell you, I think it was November or December of last year, a documentary filmmaker came by with a camera crew, and for three days he really pestered me to the extent that he camped outside my home. I told him, listen, leave me alone. What did he want? He was making a film about the 10 most important people alive today in the world. And I’m one of them, according to him. So I said to him, "Why do you think I’m one of them? Why give me the honor?" He said, "Because you have demythologized mythology. You have done a tremendous thing, You took the mythologies of all the peoples, you showed where they stem from. And you show step by step that this is based on a series of actual events." So I plead guilty. That’s why mythology is so similar all over the world. Not necessarily detail by detail, name by name, event by event, but basically it reflects human recollection of past events. Now, here's the e-mail I received from Sam Roberts, media relations manager at London's Natural History Museum: "First, as background to the collections, The Natural History Museum holds a collection of approximately 20,000 human remains dating back to prehistoric times. Over half is from the UK and has been collected by the museum from when we were founded in 1881. They range from a single tooth, hair sample, single bones to complete skeletons and come from a variety of sources - for example, by transfer from other institutions such as Royal College of Surgeons or archaeological digs. "The human remains in the collection are used by both NHM researchers and visiting researchers in studies to form comparative samples in a wide variety of studies including human evolution, human variation, forensic and medical studies among many more. "I have been in touch with the relevant team and they confirmed that Zecharia Sitchin has contacted the Museum to request that it collect comparative samples from the remains of Nin Puabi (Queen Shubad). The Museum has a responsibility to safeguard and maintain its collections for scientific research. It does not routinely conduct ad hoc analysis of its collections, and requests for DNA analysis would need to be part of recognised research project. To date the Museum has not received a request from a researcher with recognised experience and skills in this field or with access to the necessary facilities required to undertake ancient DNA analysis. All research and loan requests involving human remains in the collection are subject to the relevant Museum policy and procedures, which are based on guidance set out by the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport." In the days leading up to my interview, I heard from some Cosmic Log correspondents who thought Sitchin was totally bogus, and others who thought he just might be on to something. (The latter category probably overlaps with the estimated 32 percent of Americans who believe in UFOs
.) Myself, I don't believe any of Sitchin's tales about alien astronauts or ancient demigods from the planet Nibiru. But I am
intrigued by tales of Ur and its riches. In the right hands, I think the story of Queen Puabi
could be as gripping as the stories of Queen Hatshepsut or even King Tut. What do you think? Feel free to hold forth with your comments below. More about aliens, on Earth and beyond:Join the Cosmic Log corps by signing up as my Facebook friend or hooking up on Twitter. And if you really want to be friendly, ask me about "The Case for Pluto."