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Serious Sirius mystery, Dagon and the Dogon: the background

Serious Sirius mystery, Dagon and the Dogon: the background
Fair use, to illustrate article's context.

This is the first article in a series about a serious mystery behind “The Sirius Mystery” but it is not that which one may generally think. “The Sirius Mystery” is a book first published by Robert K. G. Temple in 1976 AD. Its premise is ancient astronaut or, as the terms has been updated, ancient aliens or actually, in this case, ancient extraterrestrial amphibians.

It is called “The Sirius Mystery” because the claim is that “the Dogon people of Mali, in west Africa, preserve a tradition of contact with intelligent extraterrestrial beings from the Sirius star-system.” That is, the Dogon have knowledge of the Sirius system embedded with their ancient mythologies and traditions; knowledge they had no Earthly way of knowing, “Sirius B, the white dwarf companion star of Sirius A, invisible to the naked eye.”

“Though anthropologists failed to find a genuine Sirius B tradition among the Dogon outside what they had gleaned from recent contact with Europeans…and skeptics refuted Temple’s extraterrestrial conclusions, The Sirius Mystery continues to serve as a standard reference work in the New Age and alternative archaeology movements…The internet, too, is a hotbed of Temple-derived Sirius theories. And, of course, Temple continues to publish books…”

“Temple’s book and the debates that followed its release publicized the existence of the Dogon tribe among many New Age followers and proponents of ancient astronaut theories. Speculation about the Dogon on numerous websites is now mingled with fact, leading to wide misunderstanding among the public about Dogon mythology.”

“Robert Temple…claims to be able to trace the Sirius-B myth back through Egyptian mythology to Sumerian mythology, thus establishing the certainty that the informants were extraterrestrials.”

The journalist James Oberg has collected published claims about Dogon mythology and published them in chapter 6 of his book James Oberg, UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries – A Sympathetic Skeptic’s Report (Donning Press, 1982 AD).

Making first contact “5,000 or more years ago” the fish/frog humanoid amphibians:

“are hypothesized to have taught the arts of civilization to humans, are claimed in the book to have originated the systems of the Pharaohs of Egypt, the mythology of Greek civilization, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, among other things.”

The following references are to Adams, H. H. 1983a. "African Observers of the Universe: The Sirius Question" and Van Sertima, I. 1983. "The Lost Sciences of Africa: An Overview" both quoted in I. Van Sertima, ed. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern, pp. 27-46:

“Claims that the Dogon knew these things for at least 700 years (not 500) and that the ancient Egyptians also possessed this knowledge were first made in Adams (1983a) and endorsed by Van Sertima (1983). The sole source this information about Dogon astronomical knowledge is the research of two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen…”

One, main, issue is:

“the Dogon legends about a companion to Sirius are claimed to originate before any terrestrial astronomer could have known of the existence of Sirius B, let alone its 50-year orbit or its nature as a tiny, condensed white dwarf star, all of which the Dogon allegedly knew.” (emphasis added for emphasis)

“Ogotemmêli, the sole source of data used in The Sirius Mystery…Griaule first published this data [along with Germaine Dieterlen] in Dieu d’eau: entretiens avec Ogotemmêli (‘God of water: conversations with Ogotemmêli’, 1948), in which he records his conversations with a blind hunter, Ogotemmêli, who claimed to have extensive knowledge of Dogon lore, much of which was restricted to certain tribal elders.”


“Griaule's original data, on which this whole edifice is built, is very questionable. His methodology with its declared intent to redeem African thought, its formal interviews with a single informant through an interpreter, and the absence of texts in the Dogon language have been criticized for years.”

To state it in more detail, “The sole source this information about Dogon astronomical knowledge is the research of two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen” and the sole source of the anthropologists’ knowledge was Ogotemmêli.


Resources for this series of articles include the following:

Astrophysical Journal: R. S. Harrington, 82: 753, 1977 AD, I. W. Lindenblad, 78: 205, 1973 AD and H. L. Shipman, 206: L67, 1976 AD

Bad Archaeology site, The Sirius Mystery

Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano, The Dogon Revisited

Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain

François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire, Micromegas

Genevieve Calame-Griaule, “On the Dogon Restudied,” Current Anthropology, 32 (5): 575–577, 1991 AD

George Michanowsky, The once and future star: The Mysterious Vela X Supernova and the Origin of Civilizations

Griaule and Dieterlen, God of water: conversations with Ogotemmêli

I. Van Sertima, ed. Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern, pp. 27-46

Ian Ridpath, “Investigating the Sirius ‘Mystery’,” Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1978 AD

Ian Ridpath, Messages from the Stars – Communication and Contact with Extraterrestrial Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1978 AD)

Isaac Asimov, Quasar, Quasar Burning Bright

Jacky Boujou, “Comment,” Current Anthropology 12: 159 (1991 AD)

James Oberg, UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries – A Sympathetic Skeptic’s Report (Donning Press, 1982 AD)

Jason Colavito, Golden Fleeced

Jay B. Holberg, Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky

Jonathan Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver aka Gulliver's Travels

Luc De Heusch, “On Griaule on Trial,” Current Anthropology 32 (4), 1991 AD

Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, The Stargate Conspiracy

Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, The Pale Fox

Marvin Luckermann "More Sirius Difficulties"

Nigel Appleby, Hall of the Gods: The Quest to Discover the Knowledge of the Ancients

Noah Brosch, Sirius Matters

P. and R. Pesch, The Observatory, 97: 26, 1977 AD

Paul Lane, “Comment,” Current Anthropology 12: 162 (1991 AD)

Philip Coppens, Dogon shame

Peter James and Nick Thorpe, Ancient Mysteries: Discover the Latest Intriguing, Scientifically Sound Explanations to Age-Old Puzzles

Pop-occulture: Gene Roddenberry & the psychic (Deep Space) Nine

Ralph Ellis, Thoth Architect of the Universe.

Ron Oriti "On Not Taking it Seriously"

Tom Sever "The Obsession with the Star Sirius"

Walter van Beek, “Dogon Restudies. A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule, Current Anthropology 12: 139-167 (1991 AD)

Wikipedia, The Sirius Mystery


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