My first thanks must go to my wife, Olivia, who has been an excellent proof-reader and collater and who made the greatest number of helpful suggestions concerning the manuscript.

Two friends who read the book at an early stage and took extreme pains to be helpful, and devoted much of their time to writing out or explaining to me at length their lists of specific suggestions, are Adrian Berry of the London Telegraph, and Michael Scott of Tangier. The latter gave meticulous attention to details which few people would trouble to do with another’s work.

This book would never have been written without the material concerning the Dogon having been brought to my attention by Arthur M. Young of Philadelphia. He has helped and encouraged my efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery for years, and supplied me with invaluable materials, including the typescript of an English translation of Le Renard Pale by the anthropologists Griaule and Dieterlen, which enabled me to bring my survey up to date.

Without the stimulus and early encouragement of Arthur C. Clarke of Ceylon, this book might not have found the motive force to carry it through many dreary years of research.

My agent, Miss Anne McDermid, has been a model critic and adviser at all stages. Her enthusiasm and energy are matched only by her penetrating intuition and her skill at negotiation.

Others who have read all or part of this book and who made helpful suggestions of some kind are Professor W. H. McCrea of the Department of Astronomy, University of Sussex, John Moore of Robinson & Watkins, Brendan O’Regan of the Stanford Research Institute, Edward Bakewell of St Louis, and Anthony Michaelis of the Weizmann Institute Foundation.

I am indebted to Adrian and Marina Berry for bringing me into touch with A. Costa, and to A. Costa for generously supplying his splendid photographs of the Dogon, some of which appear in this book, and also for his introduction to Mme Germaine Dieterlen. I am indebted to Mme Dieterlen for giving her permission and the permission of the Societe des Africainistes of Paris (of which she is Secretary-General) to publish in English the entire article ‘Un Systeme Soudanais de Sirius’, which Mme Dieterlen wrote in collaboration with the late Marcel Griaule.

Among those whom I have consulted on specific points in my research and who have been extremely helpful are Geoffrey Watkins, Brigadier R. G. S. Bidwell, O.B.E., the Hon. Robin Baring, James Serpell, Seton Gordon, Herbert Brown, and Robert and Pauline Matarasso. I am also indebted for help or encouragement of varying kinds to Fred Clarke, Professor Cyrus Gordon, Robert Graves, Kathleen Raine, William Gunston, Professor D. M. Lang, Professor Charles Burney, Professor O. R. Gurney, Dr Irving Lindenblad, Dr Paul Murdin, Hilton Ambler, Gillian Hughes, Carol MacArthur, R. Markham, Richard Robinson, Dr Michael Barraclough, and Angela Earll.

In production of this book my British editor, Mrs Jan Widdows, and my American editor, Thomas Dunne, have been cooperative, helpful, and sympathetic. The cartographer Daniel Kitts has cheerfully prepared maps and diagrams to requirements which were often exasperating. Miss Mary Walsh showed ingenuity in picture research. Stephen du Sautoy has also been helpful and shown a great deal of imagination in connection with production of the British dust-jacket design, allowing the author a considerable say in a matter which is often barred to him.

I would like to acknowledge indirect debts to the African priests Manda, Innekouzou, Yebene, and Ongnonlou, without whom the subject for this book could not honestly be said to exist, since it probably could never have been formulated.


Two early pioneers deserve especial mention: the late Sir Norman Lockyer, who found ways to consider together the previously separate fields of astronomy and archaeology, and the late Thomas Taylor of London, who devoted his life to the translation and exposition of texts which have survived the centuries of malignity, abuse, book burnings, and slaughter which for two millennia have been the fate of those who adhered to ‘the Great Tradition’ - nor did Taylor himself escape the consequences of his position in pain and suffering.


Thanks are also due to the philosopher Proclus for making public certain specific allusions to secret traditions which he might have concealed.
r. K. G. t.


Back to Contents



Summaries follow each chapter in Part Two. The sheer amount of the material dealt with makes it advisable for the reader to put it into a smooth perspective by reading over these summaries which have been prepared so that the reader may refresh his memory if he wishes. The author can offer no apology for the complexity of the material, but he can present these slight aids for its comprehension.

Every effort has been made to trace the ownership of all illustrative material reproduced in this book. Should any error or omission in acknowledgement have been made the author offers his apologies and will make the necessary correction in future editions.

What is the Mystery?

The question which this book poses is:

Has Earth in the past been visited by intelligent beings from the region of the star Sirius?

When I began writing this book in earnest in 1967, the entire question was framed in terms of an African tribe named the Dogon, who live in Mali in the former French Sudan. The Dogon were in possession of information concerning the system of the star Sirius which was so incredible that I felt impelled to research the material.


The results, in 1974, seven years later, are that I have been able to show that the information which the Dogon possess is really more than five thousand years old and was possessed by the ancient Egyptians in the pre-dynastic times before 3200 B.C., from which people I show that the Dogon are partially descended culturally, and probably physically as well.

What I have done, therefore, is to push back by over five thousand years the terms of reference of the original question, so that it now becomes more tantalizing than ever. But now that I have done that, it becomes less easy to answer. The Dogon preserve a tradition of what seems to have been an extra-terrestrial contact. It is more satisfactory not to have to presume the preposterous notion that intelligent beings from outer space landed in Africa, imparted specific information to a West African tribe, then returned to space and left the rest of the world alone.


Such a theory never really struck me as possible. But in the beginning it did have to serve as a working hypothesis. After all, I had no idea that the Dogon could have preserved ancient Egyptian religious mysteries in their culture. I also had no idea that the ancient Egyptians knew anything about Sirius. I was in that state of ignorance so common among people who know nothing more about ancient Egypt than that the Egyptians built pyramids, left mummies, had a Pharaoh named Tutankhamen, and wrote in hieroglyphs.


My own academic background concerned oriental studies, but I never touched on Egypt except regarding the Islamic period after a.d. 600. I knew almost nothing whatsoever about ancient Egypt. If I had, perhaps I might have saved myself a lot of time.

It took many, many months for two or three small clues to work themselves around in my head long enough to force me to study ancient Egypt and a whole range of subjects which I had never previously tackled. I doubt if, even then, I could have been persuaded to spend considerable sums of money such as the necessary fifty pounds for the essential and out-of-print Wallis Budge Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, which consists of 1,356 pages and cannot even be lifted off the table by a ten-year-old child.


But as fate would have it, I was actually given one of these huge dictionaries, along with many other essential books on the subjects with which I needed to become concerned. This helped overcome my natural disinclination to erect a camp bed in some scholarly library and move in for a couple of years. I must therefore note my debt to my dear friend the late Miss Mary Brenda Hotham-Francklyn for giving me in the ninety-fourth year of her life what amounted to a sizeable library of books, which were so interesting that I found it impossible to neglect them, and the result is now before us.

This entire matter of the Sirius mystery first came to my attention around 1965. I was working on some philosophical and scientific problems with Arthur M. Young of Philadelphia, the inventor of the Bell helicopter and more recently (1972) co-editor of and contributor to the book Consciousness and Reality. Arthur single-handedly taught me more science concurrently with my official university studies from 1961-7 than an entire university faculty might have done.


For while I was ploughing my way through the Sanskrit language and other onerous subjects at the official university level, I imbibed a considerable scientific education from Arthur in company with a few friends from the university, with whom I participated for years in a series of extremely stimulating seminars and research projects supervised by Arthur Young and occasionally linked to a philanthropic foundation which he had established, entitled the Foundation for the Study of Consciousness.

Arthur Young had a particular passion for reading about mythologies from all over the world, including those of obscure tribes. One day he showed me a book entitled African Worlds, which contained several chapters, each dealing with a different tribe, with its views of life and its customs and mythology. There was a chapter about the Dogon translated into English from the French of Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, the eminent anthropologists.1

Arthur pointed out to me a passage he had just read in this chapter, in which these anthropologists were describing the cosmological theories of the Dogon. I shall quote the paragraph which I read then, which first brought to my attention this whole extraordinary question, so that the reader will begin this subject just as I did, with this brief reference:

‘The starting-point of creation is the star which revolves round Sirius and is actually named the “Digitaria star”; it is regarded by the Dogon as the smallest and heaviest of all the stars; it contains the germs of all things. Its movement on its own axis and around Sirius upholds all creation in space. We shall see that its orbit determines the calendar.’

That was all.


There was no mention by the anthropologists of the actual existence of such a star which revolves around Sirius. Now Arthur Young and I both knew of the existence of the white dwarf star Sirius B which actually does orbit around Sirius. We knew that it was ‘the smallest and heaviest’ type of star then known. (Neutron stars and ‘black holes’ were not much discussed and pulsars had not yet even been discovered.)


We both naturally agreed that this was a most curious allusion from a supposedly primitive tribe. How could it be explained? I had to let the matter drop, due to other activities and concerns at that time.

Approximately two years later in London, I suddenly was struck by the irresistible urge to investigate this question. I was prompted to do so by reading the rousing futuristic essays of Arthur C. Clarke, whom I had come to know by then. By this time I could not even remember the name of the African tribe, so I wrote to Arthur Young for it.


He replied and kindly sent me a photostat of the entire chapter I had seen in African Worlds. So, armed with the knowledge that it was a tribe called the Dogon that I was after, I bravely made my way to the Royal Anthropological Institute to see what I could find out about this peculiar tribe.

The librarian went over the catalogue listings with me and I ran into a problem: everything was in French, and I did not know French. However, I persevered and found an article listed which included the word ‘Sirius’ in its title. That looked promising (for nothing else did). I asked for a photostat.


When I picked this up a week or two later (in early November 1967) I was unable to make any sense of it, of course. So I eventually found someone to translate it for me in return for a fee. Finally I was presented with the material in English - and it was quite as rewarding as I could have wished.2


For this article dealt exclusively with the most secret of all the traditions of the Dogon which, after years of living with them, the anthropologists Griaule and Dieterlen had managed to extract from four of their head priests,3 after a special priestly conference among the tribe and a ‘policy decision’ to make their secrets known to Marcel Griaule, the first outsider in their history to inspire their confidence.

The most secret traditions of the Dogon all concern the star which the Dogon call after the tiniest seed known to them, the botanical name for which is Digitaria, and which is thus used in the article as the name of the star instead of the actual Dogon name, po.


However, even in this article which deals exclusively with this subject, Griaule and Dieterlen only mention the actual existence of a star which really exists and does what the Dogon say Digitaria does, in a passing footnote and in this brief remark:

‘The question has not been solved, nor even asked, of how men with no instruments at their disposal could know the movements and certain characteristics of stars which are scarcely visible.’

But even in saying this, the anthropologists were indicating their own lack of astronomical expertise, for the star, Sirius B which revolves around Sirius, is by no means ‘scarcely visible’. It is totally invisible and was only discovered in the last century with the use of the telescope.


As Arthur Clarke put it to me in a letter of 17 July 1968, after he had suggested he would check the facts:

‘By the way, Sirius B is about magnitude 8 - quite invisible even if Sirius A didn’t completely obliterate it.’

Only in 1970 was a photograph of Sirius B successfully taken by Irving Lindenblad of the U.S. Naval Observatory; this photograph is reproduced below.

In the article which I had obtained from the Royal Anthropological Institute, Griaule and Dieterlen recorded that the Dogon said the star Digitaria revolved around Sirius every fifty years. It didn’t take me long to research Sirius B and discover that its orbital period around Sirius was indeed fifty years. I now knew that I was really on to something. And from that moment I I have been immersed in trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Arthur C. Clarke was extremely helpful during the next few months. He wrote from Ceylon and was fairly often in London, so he and I also discussed at great length many of the mysterious facts from around the world which have since been given such public prominence by the Swiss-German author Erich von Daniken in his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods and its sequels. At first I found myself preparing a book on all these exciting mysteries. (No one had at that time heard of von Daniken.)


Arthur Clarke introduced me to one interesting professor after another - each with a pet mystery all his own. Derek Price, Avalon Professor of the History of Science at Yale University, had discovered the true nature of the now famous mechanical computer of approximately 100 B.C. found in the Anti-Kythera shipwreck at the turn of the century and unappreciated until it was dropped on the floor in Athens, cracked open and they saw what it was.


He also had found traces of Babylonian mathematics in New Guinea and talked a lot about ‘the Raffles shipwreck’.

Then there was Dr Alan McKay, a crystallographer of Birkbeck College at the University of London, who was interested in the Phaistos Disc of Crete, in a mysterious metal alloy found in a Chinese tomb, and in the wilder stretches of the Oxus River. I found that, with people like this around every corner, I was rapidly becoming distracted from my true quest by so many glittering riddles.

I therefore abandoned all those mysteries and determined to concentrate in depth on cracking the one really hard and concrete puzzle that I had been initially confronted with:

how did the Dogon know such extraordinary things and did it mean that the Earth had been visited by extraterrestrials ?

The trouble with trying to undertake a serious investigation about the possibility of extraterrestrial contact with Earth, is that a lot of sensible people will be put off by the very idea. Then again, a lot of the people who will enthusiastically receive my researches with open arms are the sort of people one least wants to be classed with.


I have therefore undertaken all the work on this subject with a certain degree of reluctance, and if anyone pressed me during several years to say what I was doing and they extricated from me the confession that I was working on a book, I did not say what it was about, but merely mumbled it was ‘about the ancient Egyptians’ or, before that stage, ‘about the mythology of some tribe in Africa - not very interesting, really’. This book will inevitably, I suppose, put me in that most unenviable category of ‘those people who write about little green men from outer space’.


However, this is meant to be a serious inquiry. I am tempted to apologize for the subject, but that would be pointless.

It is important that this strange material be placed before the public at large. Since learning was freed from the tyranny of the few and opened to the general public, through first the invention of printing and now the modern communications media and the mass proliferation of books and periodicals and more recently the ‘paperback revolution’, any idea can go forth and plant the necessary seeds in intellects around the world without the mediation of any panel of approval or the filtering of a climate of opinion based on the currently accepted views of a set of obsolescent individual minds.

How difficult it is to keep in mind that this was not always the case. No wonder, then, that before such things were possible, there were secret traditions of priests which were handed down orally for centuries in unbroken chains and carefully guarded lest some censorship overtake them and the message be lost. In the modern age, for the first time secret traditions can be revealed without the danger that they will be extinguished in the process.


Can it be that the Dogon came to realize something of this when, through some powerful instinct and after mutual consultations among the highest priests, they decided to take the unprecedented step of making public their highest mysteries ? They knew they could trust the French anthropologists, and when Marcel Griaule died in 1956, approximately a quarter of a million tribesmen massed for his funeral in Mali, in tribute to a man whom they revered as a great sage - equivalent to one of their own high priests.


Such reverence must indicate an extraordinary man in whom the Dogon could believe implicitly. There is no question but that we are indebted to Marcel Griaule’s personal qualities for laying open to us the sacred Dogon traditions. I have now been able to trace these back to ancient Egypt, and they seem to reveal a contact in the distant past between our planet Earth and an advanced race of intelligent beings from another planetary system several light years away in space. If there is another answer to the Sirius mystery it may be even more surprising rather than less so. It certainly will not be trivial.

It should not surprise us that there must be other civilizations in our galaxy and throughout the entire universe. Even if the explanation of the Sirius mystery is found to be something entirely different in the years to come (though I cannot imagine what), we should bear in mind that, as we are definitely not alone in the universe, the Sirius mystery will have served to help us speculate along proper and necessary lines, and opened our innately lazy minds that much further to the important question of extraterrestrial civilizations which must certainly exist.

At the moment, we are all like fish in a bowl, with only the occasional leap out of the water when our astronauts go aloft. The public is becoming bored with space exploration before it has even really begun properly. We even find that Congressmen need continual injections of ‘space rescues’ and ‘satellite gaps’ in their tired bloodstreams, like a heroin fix, in order to stimulate them in their horrible state of lethargy to vote funds for the space programs which so many of them consider a bore and lacking in excitement and suspense.

The psychological impact of photographs of the Earth from space, a giant and beautiful orb resting on nothing, pearled with clouds and sparkling with sea, has begun to send resonances down the long and sleepy corridors of our largely drugged psyches. Mankind is imperceptibly struggling to the new and undeniable realization that we are all in this game together.


We are all perched on a globe suspended in what appears to be emptiness, we are made up of atoms which are mostly themselves emptiness, and above all, we are the only really intelligent creatures directly known to us. In short, we are alone with each other, with all the fratricidal implications of such a tense situation.

But at the same time as we are all slowly realizing these things, the inevitable conclusion which follows upon all this is beginning to make some headway with us as well. It has begun to occur to more than a handful of exceptional people (exceptionally intelligent or exceptionally insane) that if we are sitting here on this planet fighting among ourselves for lack of any better distraction, then perhaps there are lots of planets all over the universe where intelligent beings are either sitting and stewing in their own juice as we are, or where those beings have broken out of the shell and established contact with other intelligent beings on other planes or planets.


And if this is really going on all over the universe, then perhaps it will not be all that long before we find ourselves linked up with our fellows elsewhere - creatures living beside another star out in that vast emptiness which spawns planets, suns, and minds.

For years I have thought that those organizations which spend millions of dollars on ‘peace’ and attempts to find out what is wrong with human nature that it should indulge in so perverse a thing as conflict, would be better advised to donate their entire treasuries to the space programs, and to astronomical research. Instead of seminars for ‘peace research’ we should build more telescopes.


The answer to the question: ‘Is mankind perverse?’ will be known when we can compare ourselves with other intelligent species and evaluate ourselves according to some scale other than one which we fabricate out of the air. At the moment we are shadow-boxing, chasing phantoms. . . . The answers lie out there somewhere with other stars and other races of beings. We can only compound our neuroses by becoming even more introspective and narcissistic. We must look outward. At the same time, of course, we must look back relentlessly into our own past. To go forward with no conception of where we have been makes no sense whatsoever.


There is also the probability that we may discover mysteries about our own origins. For instance, one result of my research, which began harmlessly with an African tribe, has been to demonstrate the possibility that civilization as we know it was an importation from another star in the first place. The linked cultures of Egypt and Sumer in the Mediterranean area simply came out of nowhere. That is not to say that there were no people alive before that.


We know there were lots of people, but we have found no traces of civilization. And people and civilization are vastly different things.


Take for instance these words by the late Professor W. B. Emery from his book Archaic Egypt:

At a period approximately 3400 years before Christ, a great change took place in Egypt, and the country passed rapidly from a state of advanced neolithic culture with a complex tribal character to two well-organized monarchies, one comprising the Delta area and the other the Nile valley proper.


At the same time the art of writing appears, monumental architecture and the arts and crafts developed to an astonishing degree, and all the evidence points to the existence of a well-organized and even luxurious civilization. All this was achieved within a comparatively short period of time, for there appears to be little or no background to these fundamental developments in writing and architecture.

Now, whether or not one supposes that there was an invasion of advanced people into Egypt who brought their culture with them, the fact remains that when we get back to that period of history we are faced with so many imponderables that we can hardly say anything for certain.


What we do know is that primitive people suddenly found themselves living in thriving and opulent civilizations and it all happened rather abruptly. In the light of the evidence connected with the Sirius question, as well as other evidence which has either been dealt with by other authors or remains to be tackled in the future, it must be entertained as a serious possibility that civilization on this planet owes something to a visit by advanced extraterrestrial beings.


It is not necessary to postulate flying saucers, or even gods in space suits. My own feeling is that this matter has not been dealt with in a sophisticated enough manner so far. Bur rather than enter into mere speculation as to what extraterrestrials landed in, etc., let us move on to the evidence that at least indicates that they might have been here. In Part Three we shall consider some details and clues that the extraterrestrial visitors from Sirius, whom I postulate, may have been amphibious creatures with the need to live in a watery environment.


But all this gets into the speculative areas which are such treacherous ground. It has always been my policy, as well as my temperamental inclination, to stick to solid facts. We shall see as we proceed just how solid the facts are, and that is a strange enough tale for the moment. As usual, truth has proved itself stranger than fiction.

The book which now follows poses a question. It does not present, but merely suggests, an answer. In Part One the question is posed in its original form, and in Part Two it is rephrased. But nowhere is it answered with any certainty. The best questions are the ones which often remain unanswered for a long time and lead us down new avenues of thought and experience.


Who knows where the Sirius mystery will lead us in the end? But let us follow it for a while.


At the very least it will be an adventure. . . .




  1. African Worlds, ed. by Daryll Forde, Oxford University Press, 1954, pp. 83-110. I wish to point out to the reader that in the article in African Worlds, the French word arche is mis-translated ‘arch’ and should instead be rendered ‘ark’.

  2. The translation was, it turned out, extremely inept. The article has been entirely retranslated by a professional translator for inclusion in this book. It has also been vetted by Mme Germaine Dieterlen herself, who has kindly given permission for the publication in English of the entire article written by herself and Marcel Griaule. It is to be found just after Chapter One.

  3. Photographs of these four tribal priests are reproduced in Plate 2. I thought it particularly important that these original native informants be seen by the reader. Apart from the fact that their faces are extremely interesting, we owe these four people a great deal. Without them the public at large might never have known anything about the Sirius mystery, and the entire tradition might, after its thousands of years on earth, actually have sunk without trace.

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