The Dogon people are an indigenous tribe who occupy a region in Mali, south
of the Sahara Desert in Africa. There are about 100,000 members in the
They are a reclusive tribe of cave and hillside-dwelling farming people
inhabiting a sparse, rocky plateau in southeastern Mali, West Africa.
live in the Homburi Mountains near Timbuktu.
Isolated topographically and
culturally from the outside world for countless centuries, they may well
appear on first sight to be exceedingly unlikely receptacles of highly
advanced astronomical knowledge which only goes to show just how easily we
can be deceived by outward appearances.
They are believed to be of Egyptian descent. After living in Libya for a
time, they settled in Mali, West Africa, bringing with them astronomy
legends dating from before 3200 BC.
The first Western scientists to visit and study the Dogon people were French
anthropologists Drs Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, who initially
made contact with them in 1931, and continued to research them for the next
three decades, culminating in a detailed study conducted between 1946-1950.
During their work, these anthropologists documented the traditional
mythology and sacred beliefs of the Dogon, which included an extraordinary
body of ancient lore regarding
Sirius the brilliant, far-distant Dog Star.
Their priests told them of a secret Dogon myth about the star Sirius (8.6
light years from the Earth. The priests said that Sirius had a companion
star that was invisible to the human eye. They also stated that the star
moved in a 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius, that it was small and
incredibly heavy, and that it rotated on its axis.
Sirius - which we now call Sirius A - was not seen through a telescope until
1862 and was not photographed until 1970.
The Dogon name for Sirius B (Po Tolo) consists of the word for star
and "po," the name of the smallest seed known to them. By this name they
describe the star's smallness -- it is, they say, "the smallest thing there
They also claim that it is "the heaviest star," and white.
The tribe claims that Po is composed of a mysterious, super-dense metal
called sagala which, they declare, is heavier than all the iron on Earth.
Not until 1926 did Western science discover that this tiny star is a white
dwarf a category of star characterized by very great density. In the case
of Sirius B, astronomers have estimated that a single cubic metre of its
matter weighs about 20,000 tons.
Many artifacts were found describing the star system, including a statue
examined by Dieterlen that is at least 400 years old.
They go on to say that it has an is elliptical orbit, with Sirius A at one
foci of the ellipse (as it is), that the orbital period is 50 years (the
actual figure is 50.04 +/- 0.09 years), and that the star rotates on its own
axis (it does).
The Dogon also describe a third star in the Sirius system,
called "Emme Ya" ("Sorghum Female"). In orbit around this star, they say, is
a single satellite. To date, Emme Ya has not been identified by astronomers.
In addition to their knowledge of Sirius B, the Dogon mythology includes
Saturn's rings, and Jupiter's four major moons. They have four calendars,
for the Sun, Moon, Sirius, and Venus, and have long known that planets orbit
The Dogon say their astronomical knowledge was given to them by the Nommos,
amphibious beings sent to Earth from Sirius for the benefit of mankind. The
name comes from a Dogon word meaning 'to make one drink', and
the Nommos are
also called 'Masters of the Water', the 'Monitors', and the 'Teachers'.
The Dogon tells the legend of the Nommos, awful-looking beings who
in a vessel along with fire and thunder.
After they arrived here - they put out a reservoir of water onto the Earth
then dove into the water.
There are references in the oral traditions, drawings and cuneiform tablets
of the Dogons, to human looking beings who have feet but who are portrayed
as having a large fish skin running down their bodies.
The Nommos were more fishlike than human, and had to live in water. They
were saviors and spiritual guardians: "The Nommo divided his body among men
to feed them; that is why it is also said that as the universe "had drunk of
his body," the Nommo also made men drink. He gave all his life principles to
Watching the Nommo arrive
The Nommo was crucified and resurrected and in the future will again visit
the Earth, this time in human form. Later he will assume his amphibious form
and will rule the world from the waters.
Dogon mythology is known only by a number of their priests, and is a complex
system of knowledge. Such carefully guarded secrets would not be divulged to
friendly strangers very easily. If the star Emme Ya is eventually discovered
in the Sirius system, this would give considerably weight to the Dogon's
The Nommos, who could live on land but dwelled mostly in the sea, were part
fish, like merfolk (mermaids and mermen). Similar creatures have been
noted in other ancient civilizations - Sumer,
Babylonia's Oannes, Acadia's Ea, Sumer's Enki, and Egypt's goddess
Isis. It was from the Nommos that the Dogon claimed their knowledge of the
The Dogon also claimed that a third star (Emme Ya) existed in the Sirius
system. Larger and lighter than Sirius B, this star revolved around Sirius
And around it orbited a planet from which the Nommos came.
The Sirius Mystery
Acccording to Robert Temple's Book The Sirius Mystery, the Dogon, a tribe of
about 100,000 in western Africa, have had contact with extraterrestrials.
One of Temple's main pieces of evidence is the tribe's alleged knowledge of
Sirius B, a companion to the star Sirius. The Dogon are supposed to know
that Sirius B orbits Sirius and that a complete orbit takes fifty years.
of the pieces of evidence Temple cites is a sand picture made by the Dogon
to explain their beliefs. There are a number of other astronomical beliefs
held by the Dogon which are curious; e.g., traditional belief in a
heliocentric system and elliptical orbits of astronomical phenomena;
knowledge of satellites of Jupiter and rings of Saturn, among other things.
Where did they get this knowledge, if not from extraterrestrial visitors?
They don't have telescopes or other scientific equipment, so how could they
get this knowledge?
Carl Sagan concludes that the Dogon could not have acquired their knowledge
without contact with an advanced technological civilization. He suggests,
however, that this civilization was terrestrial rather than
extraterrestrial. Western Africa has had many visitors from technological
societies located on planet Earth. The Dogon have a traditional interest in
the sky and astronomical phenomena. As Sagan notes, if a European had
visited the Dogon in the 1920s and 1930s, conversation would likely have
turned to astronomical matters, including Sirius, the brightest star in the
sky and the centre of Dogon mythology.
Furthermore, there had been a good amount of discussion of
Sirius in the
scientific press in the '20s so that by the time Griaule arrived, the Dogon
may have had a grounding in 20th Century technological matters beyond their
understanding brought to them by visitors from other parts of Earth and
transmitted in conversation. (Sagan notes that some of the discussion of the
day involved the nature of white dwarfs, for example. Sirius B is a white
dwarf, an extremely dense star, e.g., about a ton to the cubic inch.)
Chronologically, the earliest of these amphibious entities would appear to
be the Babylonian fish-people. They were known to the Babylonians as
the Annedoti, which translates as 'repulsive', but notwithstanding their
unappealing appearance they were sufficiently influential for the
Babylonians to accept their teachings and acquire from them the fundamental
tenets of civilization. The most august member of the Annedoti was Oannes, portrayed in ancient Babylonian depictions as a curious, complex hybrid of
human and fish, with a bearded man's head beneath the head of a fish, and
the body of a fish borne upon the back of a man's body.
According to Babylonian legends, this aquatic deity would come on land
during the day to teach the people, and would dive back at night into the
Persian Gulf, where he lived in an underwater palace called the Apsu. Was
Oannes the original Nommo?
Equivalent to Oannes in the religion of the Philistines at Philistia (in
what is now Israel) was a human-bodied, fish-tailed deity called Dagon.
Further to the west, Pharos in northern Egypt was said to be the home of
'the Old Man of the Sea' a shape-shifting amphibious deity known as
Proteus, son of Oceanus and renowned among the ancient Greeks as an oracle.
Significantly, their traditional legends specifically claimed that he often
sheltered in a cave to avoid the heat of Sirius.