However, until archeology reveals more of the preparatory stages, as it tends steadily to do, it seems reasonable to assume that ancient cultures evolved, as modern ones do, in a procession of slow, uneven steps.
There are those, though, who suggest that early civilization may have indeed appeared out of nowhere--nowhere on Earth, that is. Will Hart, an Arizona journalist, photographer and filmmaker, is one of them.
In his new book, The Genesis Race: Our Extraterrestrial DNA and the True Origins of the Species, Hart argues that primitive hunter-gatherers couldn't possibly have created civilization by themselves. He writes that the seemingly sudden and roughly simultaneous appearances of Earth's earliest civilizations, coupled with the sophistication of their knowledge and the testimony of their myths, is strong evidence that ancient humans had help--most likely from an advanced race of space aliens.
Alien-intervention theories are nothing new. Erich von Däniken, whose Chariots of the Gods? caused a stir during the '70s, is perhaps the most well-known spokesman for the genre. Others have speculated that Earth life originated in a distant galaxy. Nobel laureate Sir Francis Crick has suggested that life may have developed from spores sent to Earth on a rocket ship from another planet. Others have proposed that the seeds of life may have been borne to Earth on light waves or comets.
Leaving aside the question of how life originated, Hart writes that, millenniums ago, extraterrestrials may have journeyed to Earth, genetically altered and bred with early proto-humans and imparted knowledge that led to the emergence of civilization.
Hart examines some of the marvels and conundrums of our earliest civilizations--Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indus Valley and several in the Americas--as well as UFOs, ice ages and natural cataclysms, mythological accounts of creation and apocalyptic end times, and discoveries of ancient cities beneath oceans and lakes.
He presents a cohesive and engaging text, but, unfortunately, fails to prove his point. Doing that would have required evidence--the remains of a spaceship, the bones of aliens, contact with extraterrestrials, something. This book is simply an anthology of interesting facts.
In a mesmerizing process that can often convince people of just about anything, Hart provides readers with an interpretive viewpoint, and then forces his facts to conform to that interpretation. Facts, of course, can frequently be interpreted in any number of ways.
That early civilizations arose at generally the same time (actually, over a period of several millennia) is not evidence that aliens were involved. It's just a fact. That many ancient cultures possessed advanced mathematical, astronomical and geodesic knowledge is also just a fact. That ancient man was able to build pyramids and other megalithic structures is certainly an amazing fact, one whose secrets will hopefully be uncovered by further research.
Hart refers to several mythological sources including the Bible. He points to similarities found in a number of cross-cultural creation myths that recall the arrival, in early times, of god-like creatures from the sky who transmitted to man the keys to civilization and then left. He contends that the biblical reference to God creating man in His image may indicate an ancient bio-engineering project, and that the passage in Genesis regarding the "sons of God" mating with the "daughters of men" could denote a period of inter-galactic cross-fertilization.
Hart maintains that this correspondence between myths is not likely to be coincidence, but suggests that many myths may be attempts by primitive humans to record actual events. He fails, however, to consider the work of Joseph Campbell and other mythologists, who affirm that certain mythic themes are universal because they reflect the processes of the human psyche, which are essentially the same the world over.
Hart might be right; he just didn't prove it. This book is not the ramblings of a crank. It contains an important underlying message: In a world in which, if you go back far enough or deep enough, everything disappears into mystery, practically anything is possible. Perhaps we crept out of the primordial ooze and did all of this ourselves. Perhaps we had help from aliens, angels or folks from unthought-of dimensions.
Who knows? In a world like ours, it's best to keep an open mind.