by John Chambers

Alien spaceships sweep into the spaceport from a huge blue-green planet that swam into the regions near Earth only centuries before. On the giant runways made of quarried stone, alien-human hybrids scurry to make sure all is in readiness for the landing of the gods from another planet. In the plains and hills beyond, thousands of their servant/slave brothers labor to extract minerals from the soil for their alien overlords.

Nearby and tens of thousands of miles across the planet astronomical clocks like those of Stonehenge and Machu Picchu not only keep watch over the procession of the stars, but also serve respectively as symbols for the alien masters, themselves vastly ancient, who, in a complex rotational system of 2,160 years apiece, share the responsibility for all of human activity.

Science fiction? No. The true history of man's ancient past as recreated by Alan Alford, a 36-year-old Welsh former chartered accountant who has joined the ranks of those authors, like Erich von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchin, who believe that ancient astronauts' visited our planet millennia ago and critically influenced the evolution of our species.

Clearly, though, Alford whose book, Gods of the New Millennium, was published by Hodder & Stoughton on July 17 and has been among the top 20 on the U.K. bestseller list ever since has brought some new revelations and discoveries to the table. The Swiss-born von Daniken, whose first book, Chariots of the Gods, was a bestseller in 1970, was content to point his readers however innovatively for the time in the direction of various ancient artifacts, such as the supposed sculpting of an ancient astronaut on the cover of the Mayan King Pacal's tomb, which he claimed represented proof of alien intervention. Beginning in 1976 with
The 12th Planet, the Israeli-born scholar Zecharia Sitchin sought to present evidence, based mostly on his reading of ancient Sumerian artifacts and inscriptions, that an extraterrestrial race called the Annunaki had bestowed the gifts of civilization on the Sumerians.

Sitchin claimed the interventions took place during the long sojourns the Annunaki managed when their home world, Niburu, wandered near Earth in the course of its 3,600-year-long, vastly elliptical orbit that began beyond the regions of Pluto. Sitchin also contended that homo sapiens is a genetically engineered combination of Annunaki and human DNA, created so that the masters of Niburu and now of the Earth could have a race of servant-slaves to quarry much-needed minerals for them.

This is basically Alan Alford's position, but he has elaborated upon it in several ways. Working arithmetical magic on the odd Sumerian counting system in a way that only a late-twentieth century accountant could manage, he has greatly extended Sitchin's chronologies, deducing along the way that the Annunaki had genetically engineered themselves to live for hundreds of thousands of years, and making the time spans that he had extrapolated for ancient Niburan-human history square with the chronologies of the Old Testament and the Sumerian Kings List.

Alford has also determined that the increasingly recognized capability of ancient astronomical clocks like that at Stonehenge to measure the 25,920-year-long precession of the equinoxes' was a gift of knowledge from the Annunaki. He has found new extraterrestrial purposes for ancient monuments like the Great Pyramid. And he has become convinced that the alien masters worshipped as gods by the Sumerians and other races oversaw the building of the observatories in order to stabilize and memorialize the rotational system of ruling the earth that they had devised as a solution to their own tendency toward internecine warfare.

Perhaps most ominously, Alford believes the Annunaki's gene splicing-induced longevity is such that they may well still be nearby, poised perhaps to make yet more genetic alterations to their wayward, earth-laboratory creations.

Few might have supposed that the tallish, pleasant-looking Alford, with his Welsh lilt, easy ways, and ability to address an audience with such good grace and humor that he became something of the darling of this summer's Ancient Astronaut Society Conference in Orlando, Florida, would also be the chief proponent of one of the strangest and most brilliant theories about the origins of mankind ever to be devised. But Alford has shown a fierceness about defending his ideas that suggests not only a deep commitment, but also the ability to do whatever it takes to bring these ideas before the mainstream public. In a recent web site pronouncement, he asserted that the U.K. national newspapers had entirely boycotted all mention of his book in the interests of promoting Michael Drosnin's best-selling The Bible Code, which, Alford declared, suggests that only God could have produced such a code and caused its prophesied events to come true.

According to Alford, the media feared that most of us will abandon the idea of control by a supernatural God if made aware that our puppet masters are a down-to-earth flesh-and-blood people namely, the Annunaki. Gods of the New Milennium, Alford asserted, is the one book which can explain in much more prosaic terms who had the technology to write the code and, moreover, who has the ongoing power to manipulate world events in other words, to make the code come true.

Previously Alford, a graduate of Birmington and Coventry universities, had provided proof of his determination by quitting his career as an accountant in 1995 and using his savings to self-publish under the name of Eridu Press his envelope-pushing account of the origins of mankind. ( Eridu is the name of one of the earliest Sumerian settlements, and, according to Alford, the first Annunaki settlement; the word means Home in the Faraway Built'.) Alford's gamble paid off. This spring, London's Hodder & Stoughton acquired the rights and republished the book, negotiating a lucrative deal with the author which included a second book, due out September 1998, on ancient Egypt and its connections with a highly advanced prehistoric civilization, and a third, expected in late 1999, on UFOs and their connection with the Annunaki. Meantime, Gods of the New Millennium is being translated into Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Spanish, and probably French.

Central to Alford's theory is the increasingly accepted realization by modern science of the amazing and improbable nature of man's evolutionary history. Homo erectus emerged from the apes about six million years ago, according to Alford and others, and for millions of years thereafter changed hardly at all.

Then, abruptly, about 200,000 years ago (Alford gives a figure of 184,000 years, based on his Sumerian readings), homo sapiens emerged from homo erectus and our species took a remarkable leap forward in a very short span of time (evolutionarily speaking), acquiring a 50 percent increase in brain size, language capability, and an utterly changed modern anatomy. At the dawn of history, in ancient Sumeria, the leap became an exponential curve as mankind acquired in a few short centuries most of the benefits, albeit in primitive form, of modern civilization.

In his book, and in interviews, Alford insists that straightforward Darwinism cannot explain such a magisterial leap forward. Such prodigies of random mutation and natural selection would have had to take place, he says, almost simultaneously, and so perfectly, over such short periods of time, that there is just no way this could have happened. Citing Stephen Jay Gould's oft-quoted reference to the amazing improbability of human evolution, Alford points to a wealth of inscriptions, translated only recently, to back up his contention of alien-inspired genetic meddling in the history of our species. To cite one example, he refers to what seems to be a Sumerian reference to a knowledge of cloning on the part of the gods:

The Birth Goddess brought forth/the Wind of the Breath of Life./In pairs were they completed,/in pairs were they completed in her presence.

To cite another, he is able in examining the strange Sumerian counting system, which alternated in almost arbitrary fashion between the powers of ten and 60 to show that the Babylonian measurement of a sar was not 3,600 but 2,160 years, thereby squaring the Sumerian Kings List with the Book of Genesis.

Increasingly, Alford is receiving support for his thesis from a number of at least semi-mainstream sources. Dr. Johannes Fiebag, of Bad Neustadt, Germany credited with having coined the term paleo-CETI studies' drew attention in a recent paper to the early discovery, by scientists working on the Genome Project, that the majority of human DNA appears to have no real function, but is, in the words of evolutionary biologist Robert Shapiro, trash, nonsense, or litter.'

Fiebag contends that this litter' could well be important information about the structural code or a genetic language not yet recognized as such. And, he speculates, if extraterrestrial intelligences have carried out the manipulation of our DNA in the distant past, hints of such an event would have to be found precisely here, in this so-called litter.'

Edinburgh University graduate Dr. Thomas Dorman, a specialist in internal and orthopedic medicine now practicing in Wellington, Washington, contends that the pelvic area of a two-legged animal such as homo sapiens is so radically different from that of a four-legged animal that an impossibly huge number of successful and simultaneous evolutionary changes would have had to take place for the latter to have evolved into the former. In fact, says Dorman, at a certain point the evolving creature would have been unable to walk at all, and therefore would not have survived. This leads him to conclude that man never evolved from the apes at all, but along a quite different evolutionary path. It is not far from this contention to the suggestion that man's remarkable evolutionary changes might have been engineered by gene-tinkering aliens exactly the thesis of Sitchin, and now Alford.

Still, the notion of ancient astronauts DNA engineers or not intervening to create homo sapiens and human civilization has a long way to go before it can be accepted by conventional science. For many, the final word was said by the great Rumanian anthropologist and Professor of Comparative Religion Mircea Eliad, several decades before Erich von Daniken ever penned a word. Writing in The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History, published in 1947, Eliade argues that archaic man, out of his insecurities and in order to give substance to the transient nature of everyday life, was driven to imagine that the mundane world derived any reality it possessed from its participation in certain paradigmatic, primordial, archetypal events what Eliade called the architectonic symbolism of the Center.

Eliade described this symbolism as follows:

1. The Sacred Mountain where heaven and earth meet is situated at the center of the world.

2. Every temple or palace and, by extension, every sacred city or royal residence is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a Center.

3. Being an axis mundi [an axis of the world], the sacred city or temple is regarded as the meeting point of heaven, earth, and hell.

But everywhere underlying Eliade's words is the assumption that these were not literal realities, but archetypal images welling up from the collective unconscious of archaic man alone and terrified in a universe he could not understand.

Asked about such anthropological subtleties, Alford replies, I would certainly have accepted this theory, if I had not come up with documented [from ancient Sumerian writings] proof of my own theories. Alford argues that Eliade was blinkered by the perceptual and conceptual frameworks of his time; had he lived in an age like ours where the possibility of the scientific reconfiguring of DNA had been demonstrated, than he would have been open to the ideas of Alford and others, regarding the aliens' forced march of homo erectus by means of genetic engineering to the manhood of homo sapiens.

But, if Eliade was blinkered in such a way, are Alford's own ideas not blinkered by the perceptual and conceptual frameworks of our own time? And, if this is the case, can it ever be possible for homo sapiens to rise above its own time - and space - inflicted limitations long enough to understand its own origins?

Such objections have little relevance for the U.K. author, who clearly believes that, at a certain point, mankind's perceptions rise to the level of those who have created it. Such a time is now emerging, suggests Alford, with a note of somberness one when perhaps we should be preparing to meet our makers.

A native of Nova Scotia, Canada, John Chambers holds an M.A. in English from the University of Toronto. He has worked as a full-time instructor in English at Dawson College, Montreal, Quebec, and as a senior editor with McGraw-Hill Publishing and a managing editor with International Thomson Transport Press, both in New York. He currently lives with his family in Boca Raton, Florida, where he writes articles on New Age'/'new paradigm'/anomalous phenomena-related topics and is an adjunct professor of writing at Florida Atlantic University.