Thinking Critically about UFOs: Are They Really Piloted by Extraterrestrials?
Although it seems that it is taboo to speak openly about them, unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are a part of our planetary history. Evidence of their existence is found in some of the earliest human records, including cave paintings in various countries that depict humanoid figures alongside flying craft. One of them, found at Palatki, which is just outside Sedona, Arizona, clearly shows a humanoid figure wearing some type of helmet, and an airplane-like craft in the sky above. Some petroglyphs like this one are more than 20,000 years old.
Petroglyphs at Palatki, near Sedona. A humanoid figure seems to be wearing some type of helmet, while a craft flies through the sky above. (©Ken Jeremiah)
The earliest texts, including those from Sumer, which existed 5,000 years ago, also mention flying craft and their pilots. The Kebra Negast, written in the 13th century, mentions flying craft, as do the ancient Indian texts Mahabharata, written between 540-300 BCE and the Vymaamika Shaastra (Science of Aerodynamics), penned in the fourth century BCE. The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmosis III reported bright objects in the sky more than 3,500 years ago. Initially he only saw one, but a few days later there were many of them. Confused, he recorded the event anyway and it is still preserved on papyrus.
Many ancient cultures contain pictorial and written records of ‘flying machines’, yet these are usually dismissed as myth and legend. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Alexander the Great likewise reported UFOs in the sky in 329 BCE, which he described as resembling shiny shields. In 1463, a large craft surrounded by light flew over several cities in Europe, and Hermann Schaden illustrated the occurrence for posterity. Similar craft were spotted over Nürnberg, Germany on April 4, 1561. According to witnesses, many craft in the sky seemed to be battling each other, and the event was recorded by Hans Glaser as a woodcut.
Woodcut by Hans Glaser documenting what might have been an aerial battle between UFOs. ( Public Domain )
Other famous UFO sightings occurred in Japan. One was in 1180 when a craft resembling an earthenware vessel flew across the sky, and another was in 1235 when the samurai general Toritsune sent his troops to investigate flying lights that had encircled his camp. In one case, a UFO (which was called utsurobune, meaning “hollow ship”) emerged from the water and came to shore at Hiruto no Hama. The event was recorded on various woodblock prints, the most famous being those by Nagahashi Matajiro and Kyokutei Bakin.
Woodblock print of the UFO that emerged from the ocean by Nagahashi Matajiro. ( Public Domain )
Another woodblock print of Utsurobune by Kyokutei Bakin. (Public Domain)
From Ancient Sightings to Modern Experiences
There have been other famous UFO sightings, which are clearly a part of the historical record. Sightings stretch from the earliest human records to modern day, and the beginning of the modern UFO phenomenon is generally held to be in 1947. Ken Arnold’s report of nine UFOs flying in formation near Mt. Rainer in Washington made newspaper headlines across the country. After that, the floodgates had opened, and reports proliferated, demonstrating just how widespread this phenomenon is.
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Top Image: Deriv; Petroglyphs called "astronauts", Rock Drawings in Valle Camonica. ( Public Domain ) and strange lights ( CC BY 2.0 )
By Ken Jeremiah
First I believed in UFOs, then I thought the distances between the stars were too great for any civilization to cross, and now I wonder if they possibly could do it. I also wonder if it hadn't been for the long reign of the dinosaurs we, or somebody like us, might have evolved on earth 200 million years ago and we'd be a civilization traveling elsewhere across space. Would we be somebody else's ancient astronauts or gods?
I look forward to ancient origins
The terminology was right, the part about needing a pilot was an assumption..
A UFO is pretty straightforward and anyone on this planet above the age of 5 knows what you mean, i just wouldn't use the part about needing a pilot, as we simply don't know. Even on this planet we have robots, there is no reason to assume anything we might see in the sky is even physical.
I agree with you that linguistically the term UFO should not be used. I personally believe we have identified such craft. However, not everyone agrees with me, and they have connected UFOs with craft in the sky that are not piloted by modern human beings. This entire article points to the fact that's such craft are likely piloted by earthlings and not extraterrestrials. Therefore terms like "extraterrestrial craft," "alien craft," and the like cannot be used. If I used the term "terrestrial craft" it would refer to every craft on this planet including cars, planes, helicopters and the like. Although I agree with you that UFO refers to unidentified flying object, I think the majority of people use it to refer to those crafts that cannot be explained in any other way. I used it so the majority of people who might read this article would know right away what I was referring to. My doctoral degree was in critical thinking and I'm a linguist; I teach Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. So I'm curious, what term would you use to refer to these craft that everyone would understand?
Really, having the guts to use 'critical thinking' in the title, and then assuming something that is unidentified needs to have a pilot?
What a turn off.