Erich Anton Paul von Däniken (born 14 April 1935 in Zofingen, Aargau) is a Swiss author best known for his controversial claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, in books such as Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968. Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the "paleo-contact" and ancient astronaut hypotheses.
Building on previous works by other authors (including Italian Peter Kolosimo, who was later critical of Däniken), Däniken claimed that intelligent extraterrestrial life exists, has entered the local solar system in the past, and that evidence of this past contact is abundant. He also speculates as to whether human evolution may have been manipulated through means of genetic engineering by extraterrestrial beings.
The evidence that Däniken has put forward to support his paleo-contact hypotheses can be categorized as follows:
Artifacts have been found which are alleged to represent a higher technological knowledge than existed at the times when they were manufactured. Däniken maintains that these artifacts have been manufactured either by extraterrestrial visitors, or by humans who obtained the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts include the Antikythera mechanism, Stonehenge, the statues of Easter Island, and the Piri Reis map.
In ancient art throughout the world, themes are observed which can be interpreted to illustrate astronauts, air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, and artifacts of a high technology. Däniken also points out details that are similar in the art of unrelated cultures.
Origins of religions might be a reaction to contact with an alien race by primitive humans. The humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. According to Däniken, the oral and literal traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from "stars" and vehicles traveling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and have become more obscure, rather than as symbolic or mythical fiction. One such is Ezekiel's revelation in the Old Testament, which he interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft.
Several scientists, such as Carl Sagan and I. S. Shklovskii, have written about Däniken's paleocontact and extraterrestrial visitation claims. Although Sagan did not rule out the possibility of visitation, he insisted that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", which Däniken fails to provide.
Däniken claimed that a non-rusting iron pillar in India was evidence of extraterrestrial influence. Later, Däniken admitted in a Playboy interview that the pillar was rusty and man-made, and that as far as supporting his hypotheses goes "we can forget about this iron thing."
Some also question von Däniken's credibility, as he has also knowingly put forward fraudulent evidence to advance his hypotheses, such as photographs of pottery "depicting UFOs", supposedly from an archaeological dig dating back to the biblical era. The PBS television series Nova determined that this was a fraud, and even located the potter who made them. When confronted with this evidence, von Däniken argued that the deception was justified because some people would only believe his ideas if they saw actual proof.
In The Gold of the Gods von Däniken claimed to have been guided through artificial tunnels in a cave under Ecuador, Cueva de los Tayos, containing gold, strange statues and a library with metal tablets, which he wrote was evidence of ancient space visitors. The man who he claimed showed him these tunnels, Juan Moricz, told Der Spiegel that all of von Däniken's descriptions came from a long conversation and that the photos in the book had been "fiddled". Von Däniken eventually told Playboy that although he had seen the library and other places he had described, he had also fabricated some of the events to add interest to his book.
Some have accused Däniken of European ethnocentrism, and suggested that views such as his "constitute the ultimate in racism".
Ronald Story published The Space Gods Revealed in 1976, providing an almost page-by-page refutation of the hypotheses and evidence in Däniken's Chariots of the Gods?.
In The Spaceships of Ezekiel Blumrich asserts that Ezekiel's account in the Bible was not a description of a meeting with God in a prophetic vision, but a description of several encounters with ancient astronauts in a shuttlecraft from another planet.
Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who wrote about several visions he had in which he said God showed him the future and gave him various messages to deliver. Ezekiel describes seeing God riding in a chariot-like vehicle attended by angels.
Blumrich analyzes six different translations of the Bible in conjunction with his experience in engineering and presents one possible version of the story as seen by a modern, technological society. In the appendices to his book he presents technical specifications of his hypothesized spacecraft.
Blumrich also published an article on his belief, "The spaceships of the prophet Ezekiel" in the UNESCO journal Impact of Science on Society. 
Ronald Story in his book Guardians of the Universe?  stated "Blumrich doctors up his Biblical quotes just a smidgen to make them conform a little better to his spaceship interpretation", and "The Spaceships of Ezekiel, in all honesty, can only be described as an extreme form of rationalisation, with a good supply of technical jargon, charts, and diagrams, carefully designed to impress the general reader. The book does contain a good collection of impressive drawings which prove nothing more than that whoever prepared them is a good draughtsman."
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