Zecharia Sitchin is a Soviet-born American writer on paranormal studies and alleged influence in early human history by alien travellers (so-called “ancient astronauts”). In particular, Sitchin believes that a planet following an extremely long elliptical orbit through our solar system, called Nibiru, is home to an advanced species which was known to ancient Middle Eastern civilizations and which played an important role in the creation of the modern human race. Currently Sitchin’s ideas are universally rejected by academic archaeologists and historians.
Sitchin was born in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, but raised in Palestine, where he learned Hebrew and other ancient languages, studied the Torah, and learned about Middle Eastern archaeology. He then studied economic history at the London School of Economics and pursued a career in journalism, before turning to writing books on paranormal research beginning in the 1970s.
– Early Man and Ancient Astronauts –
According to Sitchin’s first major book, The 12th Planet (1976), the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations were aware of a ninth (and currently undiscovered) planet following a 3600-year-long elliptical orbit taking it far beyond Neptune or Pluto, but dipping into the inner solar system at the end of each orbit. Sitchin claimed that a proper reading of Babylonian manuscripts revealed that Nibiru’s moon had once collided with a tenth planet, Tiamat, resulting in the creation of the Asteroid Belt as well as the formation of the early Earth. Sitchin’s book explicitly referred to a “twelve-planet” solar system because his reading of the Sumerian writings showed they were aware of all of the currently known planets, but counted those, plus Pluto, Nibiru, the Sun, and the Moon as planets (for a total of twelve).
Sitchin’s theory went much further, however. The above is simply the astronomical history of the solar system. However, he believed that the intelligent aliens living on Nibiru, which he claims that the ancient Jewish people knew as the Nephilim (after the obscure reference to “nephilim” early in the Book of Genesis) and the Sumerians knew as the Anunnaki, played a much more intimate role in the evolution of humanity. About half a million years ago, during one of Nibiru’s close passes during the inner solar system, he claims that they visited Earth on a prospecting expedition, constructed gold mines in Africa, and then created a native work force by splicing their own genes with a native primate species – thus creating Homo sapiens.
From there, the Anunnaki played a diminishing role in human history. The Sumerian civilization was set up by some of these beings, whom the local humans mistakenly believed were gods, and then placed under the control of local administrators – i.e. kings. However, roughly during the time of Ur in 2000 B.C., an extraterrestrial war occurred during which large numbers of nuclear weapons were used. The Anunnaki present on Earth were wiped out in the war; indeed, Ur itself was destroyed in the war, Sitchin claims.
The theory has gained in popularity in recent years because of claims that Nibiru is now approaching the inner solar system again, about to swing by Earth. If it did so in 2012, it would feed into other beliefs in the “wisdom of the ancients” which hold that the Mayans knew of a coming catastrophe in 2012 (and therefore ended their calendar in that year). Thus far, however, no confirmed sightings of this planet have ever occurred, nor has any evidence of the perturbations in other planets’ orbits which this planet would certainly cause ever been uncovered.
– Critical Reception –
Sitchin’s ideas are universally rejected by academics in archaeology, history, and astronomy. Astronomers note that a planet with Nibiru’s attributes would have an orbit which took it an order of magnitude farther from the Sun than Pluto – and then back in to within the orbit of Earth. The formation of such a planet is extraordinarily unlikely. Even if it did form, it would not have a stable orbit – and many of the other planets would not have one, either. Each pass by Nibiru through the solar system would effectively scramble the trajectories of itself and other planets it passed. Moreover, it seems implausible that an intelligent civilization could ever evolve on such a planet, which would spend most of its time even colder than Pluto (which, on the outward leg of its orbit, grows so cold that its atmosphere literally freezes and falls to the ground as snow and ice). Sitchin’s argument that they might have been warmed by some underground radiation source does nothing to account for the darkness that far from the Sun.
Moreover, anthropologists and archaeologists argue that ancient Babylonian artifacts do not give Sitchin’s theory the support he claims they do. Far from seeing the “twelfth” planet Nibiru, there is no evidence that the Babylonians ever identified more than five (plus the Sun and Moon), which is not surprising given that Neptune and Pluto cannot be seen with the naked eye from the surface of the Earth. His evidence is based on a single seal which bears twelve dots, possibly representing planets, whereas all other similar seals explicitly charting planets identify only five planets.
For the moment at least, Sitchin’s theory is considered more or less bunk by the academic community. Still, his controversial theory of the origins of man continues to attract adherents from other segments of society, especially those more willing to accept claims about ancient astronauts or about 2012-related cataclysms. The next return of Nibiru, if Sitchin is correct, would certainly involve major orbital disruptions and possibly our first confirmed visit from an extraterrestrial civilization. However, so far the evidence to support his theory is virtually entirely absent.