If there is one thing that keeps humans in a state of endless curiosity, it is the possibility that we are not alone in this vast, 14-billion-year-old universe.
Over the years, people have reported many sightings of mysterious objects in the sky that could possibly carry extraterrestrial beings.
Some are hoaxes; others remain unexplained.
Even in ancient times, scribes and historians had put down on paper accounts of UFOs that might or might not be alien ships that have come to visit them.
1. The Victory of Thutmose III
Thutmose III is one of Egypt’s mightiest warriors.
The nephew of Queen Hatshepsut was only 21 when he began to conquer new territories and take them under his rule.
In his 54 years of reign, Thutmose waged 17 military campaigns, winning over 350 cities.
While he did display war prowess, the pharaoh credited the success of his last campaign to the appearance of a UFO over his enemies. A granite stela dating back to 1457 BC gives this away.
Archaeologists found the stone slab at the Temple of Amun at the foot of Mount Gebel Barkal. The mountain sits at the southern border of Thutmose’s empire in Nubia, now called Sudan.
Lines 33 to 37 of the inscription describe how a “star” appeared in the sky during the wee hours of the morning. It beamed its light on Thutmose’s rivals, causing fear among the troops and making the battle horses bolt. Later on, the object is called a “snake”.
Here is what the Stela of Gebel Barkal says:
“When the guards were just about to come in order to meet at night and to keep the regular watch, it was at the second hour, a star appeared to their south. Never had the like happened. It shone exactly towards them.
None withstood there. I killed them like those who had never been, they lay in their blood, enemies in heaps(?). But now the snake was behind their backs with flame towards their faces, not one found his hand among them, not one looked back. Their horse teams no more, they had bolted in the desert.”
In 1933, the German Egyptological journal Zeitschrift fur Agyptischen Sprache und Altertumskunde published the contents of the stela.
The slab itself is now available for viewing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
2. The Roman Fireball of 74 BC
In his encyclopedic work Natural History, Pliny the Elder recounted how the proconsul saw a UFO drop to Earth and fly back to the sky.
Marcus Junius Silanus, Governor of Asia, saw a “spark” drop from the sky. It grew into the size and, presumably, shape of a moon. After a while, the object turned into a “torch” and went back to the sky.
“A spark was seen to fall from a star and to grow as it approached the earth; after it had become as large as the moon, the light was diffused all around as if on a cloudy day; then, retreating to the sky, the object changed into a torch. This is recorded to have occurred only once; Silanus the proconsul with his retinue saw it, in the consulship of Gnaeus Octavius and Gaius Scribonus,” Pliny wrote.
Skeptics point out that the object could have been a comet or a ball lightning.
However, NASA’s Dr. Richard Stothers dismissed the explanations. He said they don’t account for the object turning into a “torch” and going back to the sky.
This is not the only time the Roman naturalist documented cases of UFO sightings.
In 122 BC, Pliny wrote that “three moons” appeared over the consulship of Gnaeus Domitius and Gaius Fannius in Ariminum, now the city of Rimini in Italy. Roman historian Cassius Dio verified this. He wrote that “three moons” were seen from many parts of Italy.
Pliny also noted a battle-like phenomenon in the sky over the Italian cities of Ameria (now Amelia) and Tuder (possibly modern-day Todi) in 104 BC.
He said people saw “weapons in the sky rushing together from east and west, those from west being routed.”
Greek biographer Plutarch recorded a similar account a year later. He described the objects as “flaming spears and shields”. They went in different directions before assuming “the formations of men in battle” and heading west.
3. Livy’s Prodigies
Titus Livius Patavinus, or Livy as he is known to the West, is one the greatest historians of Rome.
He was prolific in recording UFO sightings during the ancient period.
Because of the painstaking process that authorities used to verify eyewitness accounts, most modern-day scholars consider Livy an accurate, credible source.
Some of his most notable prodigies include:
- “a spectacle of ships” seen gleaming in the sky in 218 BC
- “round shields” floating in the sky over Arpi (now Apulia) in 217 BC
- “a huge stone” that was flying about in an erratic manner over Reate (now Rieti) in 212 BC. Dr. Stothers said this could have been a bird.
- “a spectacle of a great fleet” hovering over Lanuvium (now Lanuvio) in 173 BC
- “weapons” were seen flying in the sky in Camposa in 154 BC
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Encounters with actual beings are rare, even in ancient times. However, Livy was able to document one such encounter in 214 BC.
He wrote that eyewitnesses at Hadria, which is now most likely Atri, saw humanoid forms shining in bright, white garb. They saw an “altar,” although there was no description of it. Around the altar were “forms of men in shining white.”
Nothing else was said of this. But Livy did record a similar account four years earlier.
The same “forms of men in shining white” were seen in the sky over Amiternum, an ancient city that now belongs to Italy’s Abruzzo region. The historian said the “forms did not approach.
Similar modern-day sightings have been reported. Specifically, the Boianai tribe of Papua New Guinea were said to have seen “figures” of men standing on top of a flying saucer in 1959.
5. Chariots in the Sky
In 75 AD, Jewish scholar Josephus wrote about omens that portended the downfall of the Jews. At least, this is what some Bible scholars say.
Some modern-day religious believers see Josephus’ account as a prophecy of a second coming. But ufologists think it is one of the earliest accounts of mysterious celestial phenomena that happened in ancient times.
There were seven omens, but one that strikes UFO hunters is the fourth.
In The Jewish War, Josephus wrote that people saw “chariots and troops of soldiers” in the clouds at sunset. This was followed by an earthquake, a great noise, and an unexplainable voice in the temple that told them all to get out.
Skeptics point out it was just people seeing images in the clouds.
But Dr. Stothers argued that ancient Jews and Romans were the top meteorologists of their time; they would have been able to tell if the sky army was simply a change in atmospheric conditions or something else.
Josephus wrote: “Besides these [signs], a few days after the feast, on the one-and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.”
Cornelius also included this in The Histories. He said there were “armies in conflict, of glittering armour” in the sky. This was followed by a lightning striking the temple and a “superhuman” voice that said the gods were fleeing the place.
6. The Alien Pharaoh?
Akhenaten was a rebel pharaoh. The king overturned two millennia of worship of the gods of Thebes and introduced the first monotheistic religion in Egypt in honor of the sun god Aten.
This is recorded in the Boundary Stelae found in the ancient city of Akhetaton, now El-Amarma in the modern-day province of Minya.
According to records, Amenophis IV was walking along the Nile River one summer morning when he saw a “shining disc” descend from the sky. A voice from the disc told him to build a city and name it Akhetaton, which stood for “The Horizon of the Solar Disc”.
Thus, on the sixth year of his reign, Amenhopis changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning “devoted to Aten”, and established a new religion in Egypt.
It is obvious that the disc-shaped object being referred to is the sun itself. Even the ideographic symbol for “horizon” is a sun over a mountain.
However, modern ufologists take it that the disc may also be a flying saucer.
Some theories even go as far as suggesting that Akhenaten himself and his wife, the enigmatic Queen Nefertiti, are of extraterrestrial descent.
After their death, traces of Akhenaten and Nefertiti were wiped off from history. Akhetaton’s temples were torn down and the city partially destroyed, perhaps by those who wanted to hide proof of their extraterrestrial origins, as speculated by UFO enthusiasts.
In 1980, archaeologists discovered the royal couple’s tombs, but they were empty.
Akhenaten’s appearance is also used as argument for what could be alien lineage.
Depictions of the king show a prolonged skull, spider-like limbs, a protruding stomach, and huge hips. He is also portrayed as an androgynous figure with prominent facial features.
Images of Nefertiti and their children also show the same prolonged skull.
Modern-day scientists believe the pharaoh suffered from Marfan’s syndrome, an inherited disease that had symptoms shown by Akhenaten and his family.
However, testing of the body of Tutankhamun, son of Akhenaten, showed him negative for Marfan’s.
7. Shogun Yoritsune’s Mysterious Lights
At around 8 p.m. on a clear spring night, Yoritsune Fujiwara saw sparks of light moving in loops in the southwestern sky.
The Japanese warlord, who was serving his time as the fourth leader of the powerful Kamakura shogunate, said the lights flashed in the same circling movements until the wee hours of the morning, according to his fortune-teller Suketoshi Abe.
Yoritsune demanded his astrologers, who were said to be skilled in the study of stars, to investigate the mysterious lights. T
hey came back to him with the conclusion that “it was only the wind making the stars sway.” They even suggested that Yoritsune issue an official apology for what he saw.
Deeply bothered by what he saw as an omen, Yoritsune resigned from his position. His son Yoritsugo took his place. The former shogun went on to become a Buddhist monk afterwards.
The account can be found in the Azume Kagami, a chronicle of Japanese events that took place from 1185 to 1333.
8. Plutarch and the Wine Jar-Shaped Object
In The Parallel Lives, Plutarch described a mysterious object that fell from the sky, interrupting the battle between the conqueror Lucullus and King Mithridates of Pontus.
Plutarch mentioned a “huge, flame-like body” that fell between the advancing armies, delaying the battle because of the astonishment of the troops.
The object was shaped like a jar of wine and was “molten silver” in color.
“But presently, as they were on the point of joining battle, with no apparent change of weather, but all on a sudden, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. In shape, it was most like a wine jar (pithoi), and in color like molten silver. Both sides were astonished at the sight, and separated. This marvel, as they say, occurred Phrygia, at a place called Otryae,” Plutarch wrote. He did not mention the object again.
Skeptics point out it could have been a meteorite. However, as pointed out by Dr. Stothers, a meteorite is black, not molten silver.
The Phrygians also had a long history of worshipping meteorites. If the object had been one, Dr. Stothers argued that there would have been historical accounts of it being worshiped by the locals.
There are none.
9. The Vision of Constantine
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge is historically significant for two reasons.
One, it cemented Constantine’s position as one of the greatest emperors of Roman history. Two, it heralded the event that would bring about the invention of Christianity as we know it.
Constantine had been a pagan devotee of the sun god Sol Invictus all his life.
Before the battle broke out on October 28, 312, the emperor and his army were said to have seen a glowing light in the sky shaped like a cross with a P on the upper end. Beside the light were the words “In this sign conquer,” according to Eusebius of Caesaria.
“He saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription CONQUER BY THIS. At this sight, he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on the expedition, and witnessed the miracle,” Eusebius wrote in Life of Constantine.
Additional accounts by Eusebius, and also by Lactantius, said Constantine dreamed of Jesus himself, who told him to order his soldiers to inscribe the sign they saw on their shields.
Miraculously, Constantine’s troops, which were outnumbered by that of his brother-in-law Maxentius, defeated the latter.
The soldiers drove their enemies through a pontoon bridge that collapsed under pressure, carrying Maxentius and his warriors into the Tiber River.
Modern-day scholars, of course, doubt the authenticity of Constantine’s prophetic visions.
However, UFO enthusiasts believe what Constantine saw was not a sign from God, but messages from possible alien beings.
10. Angel Hair
Reports of modern UFO sightings sometimes mention a thin, white substance that can be likened to a spider’s web.
In Rome 126 AD, historian Cassius Dio made the first substantial account of a similar material falling from an unseen source in the heavens.
In Roman History, Cassius Dio wrote: “A fine rain resembling silver descended from a clear sky upon the Forum of Augustus. I did not, it is true, see it as it was falling, but noticed it after it has fallen, and by means of it I plated some bronze coins with silver; they retained the same appearance for three days, but by the fourth day all the substance rubbed on them had disappeared.”
On the night before he found what ufologists now call “angel hair,” the historian said a “great fire” suddenly appeared in the northern sky. It was so bright that the people thought the entire sky was on fire.
Earlier records of “rains of chalk” or “wool” were also made by Livy and his extractors, but they did not describe the material in detail.
In 2016, witnesses were able to take a few samples of the material and send them off for testing.
Laboratory analysis showed the “fine rain” is a biologically derived material similar to spider silk, but with an unidentified rust-colored material running through its white threads.