A guest post by Mira:
Alien astronaut theory is one of the most popular pseudoscientific theories about Ancient Egypt. According to it, ancient monuments, as well as many aspects of Egyptian civilization, were made by aliens. The proof? Ancient Egyptians were, obviously, unable to build all those impressive monuments (such as pyramids), or to align them like they are, so they must be made by ancient astronauts.
When their views are challenged, proponents of the ancient astronaut theory claim there are so many unexplained things about Egyptian civilization. Namely, the pyramids.
In many cases, what these people (usually without any academic education) see as “strange” is something that archaeology, history, astronomy and other sciences explained a long time ago.
On the other hand, it is undeniable that there are so many things we do not know about Ancient Egypt. This is not surprising: science evolves through time. There are still things to be explained and discovered. But just because we do not have a satisfying answer at the moment does not make these phenomena “unexplainable”. To bring aliens as an explanation is an easy way out. It violates the principles of logic and scientific method.
In short, what makes for a more plausible explanation: that Egyptian pyramids were built by Egyptians, or an alien race that we don’t even know about?
It is also important to note how offensive this theory is to the actual ancient Egyptians. It denies them agency, intelligence and capability to build these monuments. This sort of attitude happens fairly often. It might be described, perhaps, as some sort of “modernistic elitism” that people have shared since the late 18th century. It is an idea born in the Western world; it is a belief in progress, technology, science and knowledge. Therefore, if “we” cannot build a pyramid with ancient tools, it means Egyptians could not do it either.
And because we cannot do it, then there must be somebody with an even superior technological knowledge than ours: aliens or, maybe, people from Atlantis or time travellers from the future. Not the Egyptians.
Modernism originated in the Western civilization, but certain aspects of this elitism exist in many of today’s cultures. People of the 20th and 21st century are taught to look into past cultures for religion, identity, spiritual guidance, tradition, stories, norms and values, but not for technology or scientific knowledge superior to ours.
The ancient astronaut theory is often used on other cultures too. However, Egypt offers a perfect example because it is so famous. Note that most of these other cultures are not European, though there are notable exceptions.
Still, the fact that aliens and other superior beings are often used as an explanation of phenomena found in non-European cultures shows strong Eurocentric attitudes. These cultures, even if greatly admired, cannot be superior in any way to Western civilization. So if a Western man cannnot build it, nobody can.