History

UFO Sightings Are Not a Modern Phenomena

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Although the UFO craze began in earnest in 1947 or ’48, UFO sightings are nothing new. In fact, historical sightings of strange flying phenomenon date back over two millennia to an ancient, divided China, a time when separate states governed small provinces instead of a rule by a single dynasty. 4th century Chinese texts speak of a “moon boat” that came every twelve years and hung over China. As vague as the texts are, it is impossible to know exactly what was meant by the phrase, and its cyclical recurrence seem to suggest natural phenomena, but it is an interesting tale, to be sure.

Some ufologists believe that UFOs are depicted in certain Egyptian hieroglyphs. They point to an uncovered image that seems to depict representations of modern aircraft, technology that was millennia away at the time, as proof that alien visitors came to earth in the early ages of civilization. While it’s probable that these symbols represent something else entirely and their resemblance is happenstance, it is certainly a curious coincidence.

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Tales of mysterious, unidentified objects are not unique to ancient Egypt and China. There are numerous Roman accounts of inexplicable sightings as well over a period of nearly four centuries, with report dating as far back as 218 B.C. and as late as 150 A.D. (Reports of strange substances falling from the sky were reported by Roman historians on at least three occasions between 214 B.C. and 196 A.D., but these are not UFO sightings, per se.) These were not merely anecdotal stories, either, as some of the tales were reported by influential classical historians. Plutarch told of a “huge, flame-like body” that interrupted an impending Roman battle. Josephus described “armed battalions hurtling through the clouds.” In Livy’s chronicles of the Second Punic Wars include tales of “navium” and “parmas” seen in the sky, Latin terms that coincide with many modern descriptions. Not all of these tales coincide directly with contemporary UFO sightings, but they are interesting nonetheless.

Looking forward some fifteen centuries, accounts of an unidentified object streaking through the sky were recorded by the Puritan settler John Winthrop, who was the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first of these accounts is eerily similar to many contemporary accounts of UFO sightings. A man named James Evrell reported seeing a great light darting back and forth between their raft on the Muddy River and the nearby village of Charleston. Interestingly enough, once the strange light disappeared, Evrell and his companions reported finding themselves a mile or so upstream, although they had no recollection of rowing against the tide. This is a familiar story to anyone who is familiar with tales of UFOs. Replace the raft with an automobile, and the story is the same.

Tales of this nature are apt to give one pause. While the vast majority of UFO sightings occurred in the last fifty years, how many other instances occurred in the past that simply went unreported by history? No one will ever know.

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