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Skeptical: Sitchin's Twelfth Planet

Rob Hafernik

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: This work is intended to be an analysis of Sitchin's book in light of mainstream archeological thought about ancient Sumeria and mainstream science in other fields such as aerospace engineering, astronomy, evolution, Bible research, and so on. -- Sitchin's work is a masterpiece of linguistic maneuvering and allegorical interpretation. He is clearly well-read in the archeology and mythology of ancient Sumeria and related lore. His work conflicts, however, with mainstream archeological opinion.

June 1996


Zecharia Sitchin's The 12th Planet purports to contain "indisputable documentary proof" that all of humanity was created by a group of aliens who visited this planet between roughly 450,000 BC and 13,000 BC. The aliens created humanity by combining their DNA with that of the proto-humans the found on Earth in a scheme to create somewhat intelligent workers for the mining enterprises they were founding on Earth.

This work is intended to be an analysis of Sitchin's book in light of mainstream archeological thought about ancient Sumeria and mainstream science in other fields such as aerospace engineering, astronomy, evolution, Bible research, and so on.

I used the following works as primary sources.

The 12th Planet, Z. Sitchin, 1976. Paperback edition published by Avon. The work in question.

The Sumerians, C.L. Woolley, 1929. Published by AMS Press, New York. One of the first authoritative works on the subject, widely quoted by others.

The Sumerians, Their History Culture and Character, S.N. Kramer, 1971. Paperback edition by University of Chicago Press. Used as a textbook by some universities, considered the best overall work in the field, as far as I can determine.

Anthropology, The Exploration of Human Diversity, C.P. Kottak, 1978. Published by Random House. A general text of anthropology and ancient civilizations.

Origins Reconsidered, R. Leakey and R. Lewin, 1992. Published by Doubleday. A look at the modern problems of anthropology and evolution of man.

Planets, A Smithsonian Guide, T.R. Waters, 1995. Published by Macmillan. The latest, most up-to-date printed information available.

The Foundations of Astrodynamics, A.E. Roy, 1965. Published by Macmillan. A good reference for orbital dynamics and orbital characteristics of the planets and moons.

I used several translations of the Bible, to cross check: King James, The New American Bible and The American Standard Bible.

Asimov's Guide to the Bible, I. Asimov, 1968. Published by Avon. One of the best handbooks to help you with the history and translations behind the Bible. The Good Doctor at his best.

Below are the URLs for assorted helpful Internet resources:

NASA RECON database. Abstracts of all papers published by NASA and NASA contractors.

Web page for Sitchin skeptics. Links to other interesting places.

Web page for Sitchin supporters. Links to other interesting places.

About Your Author
My name is Rob Hafernik and I'm not an archeologist, I only play one on the Internet. Since I don't have any training in archeology, I'll be careful to document anything I say that relates to archeology back to some expert on the subject or clearly mark it as my own non-expert opinion. I do, however, have a BS degree in Aerospace Engineering (Texas A&M, 1979) and worked as a government contractor for NASA on the Space Shuttle for three years. So, I'll express my professional opinion to matters relating to orbital dynamics, spaceships and so on.

Sitchin's work is a masterpiece of linguistic maneuvering and allegorical interpretation. He is clearly well-read in the archeology and mythology of ancient Sumeria and related lore. His work conflicts, however, with mainstream archeological opinion. In fact, in Usenet discussions of Sitchin's work, several well-published, respected archeologists familiar with this period have called Sitchin a fool and an idiot (but in less polite terms). While he's well-read, he lives in his own little world when it comes to translation of ancient texts. He also takes certain liberties in his translations and interpretations that are not usually allowed by the scientific community. His work completely falls apart, also, when modern science is brought to bear. Sitchin's interpretations of Sumerian Epics and other writings describe events that simply couldn't have happened.


The first thing that confronts a reader of The 12th Planet is an Author's Note. The note talks about the translations of biblical verses quoted within the book. The second paragraph says:
In the final version quoted in The 12th Planet, I have compared the available translations against each other and against Hebrew source and the parallel Sumerian and Akkadian texts/tales, to come up with what I believe is the most accurate rendering. (Sitchin, Authors Note)
As we will see, this is a telling statement. Instead of quoting standard translations for Biblical verses, Sitchin makes up his own translations, based on his interpretation of "the parallel Sumerian and Akkadian texts/tales". Unfortunately, he is using those verses to support his interpretation of those texts.
Right away, we're in deep academic doo-doo. He's let us know he's going to twist the translations around to support his thesis. Indeed, a reader of Sitchin's book would do well to keep a couple of Bibles handy to check up on the verses Sitchin quotes. Many of them will sound odd or unrecognizable because they have been translated from their familiar form (this is made harder by the fact that Sitchin rarely tells you just which verse he is quoting). This would be much more acceptable if he wasn't using the twisted translations to support the thesis that led to the twisted translations.

The book starts with a brief survey of ancient history, from 2,000,000 years ago to the beginning of modern man and leading up to what he sees as the real mystery: how did modern man get started and why did civilizations suddenly spring up?

Why--why did civilization come about at all? For, as most scholars now admit in frustration, by all data Man should still be without civilization. (Sitchin, 4)
None of the other books about Sumeria or general archeology bring up this question at all and Sitchin offers no support for his claim about academic frustration. Kramer, in fact, has an answer for this question:
.. there was on overriding factor which fostered a strong spirit of cooperation among individuals and communities alike: the complete dependence of Sumer on irrigation for its well-being -- indeed for its very existence. Irrigation is a complicated process requiring communal effort and organization. Canals had to be dug and kept in repair. The water had to be divided equitably among all concerned. To ensure this, a community was mandatory: hence the growth of governmental institutions and the rise of a Sumerian State. (Kramer, 3-4)
Kottak says practically the same thing:
..a group of regulatory officials arose in southern Mesopotamia, concerned with the management of domesticated animals, agricultural activities, distribution, manufacture and other economic activities. (Kottak, 234)
Now, we know that Sitchin has at least read Kramer. He lists all of Kramer's books in his bibliography and even mentions Kramer by name several times, calling him "one of the great Sumerologists of our time" (Sitchin, 40). Why does Sitchin ignore this obvious theory of the rise of Sumerian civilization without refuting it?
Sitchin moves on, describing the rise of agriculture in Sumeria and shows that Sumeria had the earliest instance of plant domestication. It's not clear that other scholars would agree that Sumeria contained the first instance of plant domestication, but it certainly was one of the first.

As he describes the rise of Sumeria, he makes many statements that run contrary to mainstream archeology, but in tiny ways that make you wonder. For example, Sitchin describes Akkadian (spoken by Babylonians and Assyrians and derived, he claims, from the Sumerians) as "the first known Semitic language, akin to but predating Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Canaanite." (Sitchin, 19). Kramer, though, says "Sumerian is an agglutinative tongue unrelated to the inflected Semitic family of languages of which Hebrew forms a part." (Kramer, 298) It's details like this that drive you crazy reading Sitchin's work.

While Kramer and Wolley make much of the idea that Sumerian civilization was almost completely unknown to us before the excavations in the 1800's and early 1900's, Sitchin argues that the Bible is full of references to Sumeria and the Sumerians.

Sitchin makes the claim that "Shinar" was the "Biblical name for Shumer [Sumeria]". (Sitchin, 22) While Kramer makes a much more sweeping and interesting statement:

..except for the rather obscure word "Shinar", which scholars usually identify with Sumer, but which actually stands for the Sumerian equivalent of the compound word "Sumer-Akkaid", there seems to be no mention of the Sumerians in the entire Bible... (Kramer, 297)
So, "Shinar", as a reference to Sumeria, is more complicated than Sitchin mentions. Sitchin never recognizes that there is any argument, however, just states his opinion and moves on. Page 24 of Sitchin's book contains a table that shows the development of some aspects of Cuneiform writing. This table is very interesting for an unexpected reason: it's copied directly from Kramer's earlier book. Since the table contains hand-written symbols, it's easy to compare the strokes, relative weights of lines, and so on and come to the conclusion that the table has been photocopied somehow, not merely reproduced by hand. Even more interesting, the labels of the table have been changed. Where Kramer clearly states that the table shows the evolution of the writing system over a 2500 year time span, Sitchin labels the table with a bunch of other classifications that obscure this fact. To his credit, Sitchin also adds in columns that show the pronunciation and meanings of the symbols.
Did Sitchin get permission to use this table? No way to tell, but he certainly doesn't credit Kramer or anyone else with drawing it.

Sitchin now continues with his rather fawning praise of the Sumerians. He claims they invented writing, printing, various metallurgical technology, a written code of laws and lots of medical technology. He goes too far, however, when he claims that one of the Sumerian tablets "shows, without question, a man lying on a special bed; his face protected by a mask, and he is being subjected to some kind of radiation." (Sitchin, 35) He refers us to a figure which is a hand-drawn copy of a scene, presumably from some unearthed tablet. Personally, I would say that the figure could represent a lot of things, but I'm not an archeologist.

This is a problem in several academic ways, however. We have no way to know what the original tablet actually showed. We have no reference or citation so we can go look up the tablet. Yet, we have a totally wild claim based solely on this reproduction.

We now come across a chapter that describes the religions of many other peoples from that part of the world over time. Greeks, Romans, Hindus, and so on all get their innings. I'm not enough of an expert to know if Sitchin gets all this right or not, I certainly didn't spot anything odd. Since this chapter has little to do with the rest of the book, let's just assume it's all correct and move on.

Sitchin now turns to the Sumerian pantheon. He heads up the Sumerian pantheon by describing AN as the master:

The head of this family of Gods of Heaven and Earth was AN (or Anu in the Babylonian/Assyrian texts). He was the Great Father of the Gods, the King of the Gods. His realm was the expanse of the heavens and his symbol was a star. (Sitchin, 89)
Well, this matches somewhat with the other sources, but not quite. While Kramer and Wolley list a pantheon and it includes An, they don't seem to put An up as the undisputed head of the group.
There is good reason to believe that AN, the heaven-god, was at one time conceived by the Sumerians to be the supreme ruler of the pantheon, although in our available sources reaching to about 2500BC it is the air-god, Enlil, who seems to have taken his place as the leader of the pantheon.

AN continued to be worshipped in Sumer throughout the millenniums, but he gradually lost much of his prominence. He became a rather shadowy figure...

By far the most important deity in the Sumerian pantheon, one who played a dominant role throughout Sumer in rite, myth, and prayer, was the air-god, Enlil. (Kramer, 118-119)
Again, we find Sitchin glossing over the way his opinion disagrees with the rest of the archeological community and stating his case as if it were generally accepted.
Sitchin goes on to develop the central gods of the Sumerians, describing each one and the relations among them. Once the main set is lined up, however, he drops off the deep end into numerology. He finds mystical significance to the idea that twelve gods made up the "ruling council" of the Sumerian gods. Not only do other authorities fail to list twelve members for this inner circle, they describe no Sumerian interest in numerology.

It may be that this group of seven deities, An, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna-Sin, Utu, and Inanna that is referred to as the seven deities who "decree the fates".

The fifty "great gods" are never named but seem to be identical with the Anunnanki, the children of An, at least with those of them who are not confined to the nether world. (Kramer, 122-123)
So, Sitchin piles some of the sons of Enlil and Enki into the ruling council, apparently to round out the number to the mystical twelve.
Sitchin moves on to describe the Nefilim, the "people of the fiery rockets". There is a few pages of wind-up here, where he lays the groundwork for his later assertions that could be nitpicked. He claims, for example, that one of the ancient statues unearthed by modern archeologists is wearing things over their ears that "remind one of pilot's earphones" (this was written before the Walkman changed our perceptions of headphones). I don't see an reason to pick the nits, however, there are larger things to come.

Now we come to the word "shem". Much of Sitchin's interpretation revolves around the interpretation of this particular Biblical word. Interestingly, Kramer also looks into the meaning of the word "shem", but comes up with a study by a guy named Arno Poebel that describes a completely different alternate meaning from the one Sitchin promotes.

From "traditional" authorities, we see that shem is generally translated to mean "name", as it would be used in the sentence: Sam has made a name for himself. In this sense, it perhaps comes closer to "reputation" than the way we use the word "name" in modern English. Originally, it may also have meant "monument", a physical artifact that bore the name of something to be remembered.

All three of the translations of the Bible I checked (representing the reputations of hundreds of Biblical scholars) translate "shem" as "name". Asimov and Kramer go along with the rest. Sitchin argues that shem meant "monument", but that the monuments were copies of the rockets used by the ancient gods (space aliens).

Stone pillars shaped to simulate the oval vehicle were erected at selected sites, and the image of the god was carved into the stone to indicate he was within the object. (Sitchin, 145)
To buck this up, he goes through a paragraph that relates the names given these pillars to the idea of fire or "going up". "The Sumerians called them NA.RU, stones that rise." (Sitchin, 145) Well, we talk about high-rise buildings all the time, but we don't mean they fly into the air.
The Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians called them naru (objects that give off light). The Amurru called them nuras ("fiery objects" - in Hebrew, ner still means a pillar that gives off light, and thus today's "candle"). (Sitchin, 145)
Well, it sounds shaky to my non-professional ears. All of these objects did indeed look like stone candles, even if they didn't glow, so it's not much of a stretch to me. The capper comes when he makes the following quote, which he attributes to Isaiah:
And I will give them,
In my House and within my walls,
a yad and a shem.(Sitchin, 145)

He goes on to talk about how this relates to the shapes of the memorials, which he claims look like rocket ships. It took quite a while for me to search through Isaiah and find this quote. He didn't give us the number of the verse, I think, since it is so different from the original and he didn't want to start an argument. The various bibles translate this as (the King James is almost identical to the New American translation):
To them I will give in My house and
within My walls a Memorial,
And a name better than that of sons
and daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
which will not be cut off.
Isaiah, 56:5, American Standard Bible

I will give, in my house
and within my walls, a monument
and a name
Better than sons and daughters;
an eternal, imperishable name
will I give them.
Isaiah, 56:5, New American Bible

When you look at the word "name" in this verse, it's pretty ease to imagine that it came from the original word "shem". You could replace "name" with "reputation" and it would all still make sense. However, if you change it to "rocketship", the meaning sort of sags. After all, how would a rocketship be better than "sons and daughters"? Sitchin has pulled yet another translational fast one, this time by not quoting the whole verse.
Next he supports his claim by quoting the verses about the building of the tower of Babel:

Let us build a city,
and a tower whose top shall reach the heavens;
and let us make a shem,
lest we be scattered upon the face of the Earth. (Sitchin, 148)

Of course, he wants us to read this as "let us make a skyborne vehicle", but it's getting hard to keep a straight face by now. If you read the quote in context, it's not so hard to read "shem" as "name". The American Standard lists this verse as:
And they said to one another, "Come,
let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly."
And they used brick for stone, and they
used tar for mortar.

And they said, "Come let us build for
ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will
reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves
a name; lest we be scattered abroad
over the face of the whole earth."
Genesis 11:3-4, American Standard

It's hard to see how they would be using burned bricks to make a rocket or how they could even talk in the same sentence about mud brick towers and rocket ships. Sitchin is tap-dancing as fast as he can here, but it's not working for me -- I'd love to hear from biblical scholars who know more about these words and they way they're used.
Sitchin beats this dead horse a while longer, then switches over to the tales of Gilgamesh for support. He quotes the following verses:

The ruler Gilgamesh
toward the Land of Tilmun set his mind.
He says to his companion Enkidu:
"O Enkidu...
I would enter the Land, set up my shem.
In the places where the shem's were raised up
I would raise my shem." (Sitchin, 156)

Interesting, as far as it goes, but notice the ellipsis in the fourth line. What's that doing there? If you see the lines in Kramer's translation, you'll understand:
The lord set his mind toward the "Land of the Living."
The lord Gilgamesh set his mind toward the "Land of the Living".
He says to his servant Enkidu:
"Enkidu, brick and stamp have not yet brought forth the fated end,
I would enter the "land", would set up my name,
In it's places where names have been raised up, I would raise up
my name,
In it's places where names have not been raised up, I would raise up
the names of the gods." (Kramer, 192)

What a difference! First of all that "brick and stamp" stuff would have ruined the whole thing, so it got accidentally "translated" into the ellipsis. That last line about raising up the shems of the gods would have been awkward too (wouldn't the gods take care of their own rockets? how could Gilgamesh set up a rocket ship of the gods?), so off it goes. If you think of "name" in it's older meaning of "monument", this all works just fine, no need to resort to "skyborne vehicles" at all. This shem business is central to Sitchin's arguments, yet it's some of his poorest scholarship.
On page 157, Sitchin quotes some verses that he claims represent the "launching of a rocket ship", but the verses don't seem to show up in Kramer's account. Whether the translation is unrecognizable or he claims Kramer left something out, I can't tell.

Continuing to gather support for these ancient rocket ships, Sitchin launches into a tale of Etana and comes up with a bizarre correlation:

The tale of Etana informs us that, seeking a shem, Etana had to communicate with an Eagle inside a pit. A seal depiction shows a winged, tall structure (a launch tower?) above which an eagle flies off. (Fig 78) (Sitchin, 163)
Figure 78 is another hand-drawn representation of a clay tablet, without reference or citation. It does contain what looks like a fluted cylinder with wings and some sort of bird above it. It also contains about a hundred other things, many taller than the "launchpad". Sitchin has more for us, though, an amazing revelation:
What or who was the Eagle who took Etana to the distant heavens? We cannot help but associate the ancient text with the message beamed to earth in July 1969 by Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft: "Houston! Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed". (Sitchin, 163)
He goes on to speculate that "Eagle" could not only represent the lander, but the astronauts inside of it as well. So could it be mere coincidence that "just as in the Etana tale, they, too, were 'Eagles' who could fly, speak, and communicate."? (Sitchin, 164) He also gives us a nice photo of the Apollo 11 mission patch, which shows an Eagle flying over the moon (when what we could have used was a photo of the tablet recreated in Figure 78).
Sitchin goes on to wind up this chapter with some drawings of ancient cuneiform symbols and pictographs, attempting to show that they resemble rocket ships. Of course, the English letter 'A' looks a little like a rocket, too... I'll get into my opinion of his aerospace engineering and orbital dynamics later on.

The next chapter has Sitchin going for the heart of the matter. His twelfth planet and the beings that lived there. It starts out innocuously enough, with more translations and speculations, but at least one of them is odd. When describing a cylinder seal, he says:

When the central god or celestial body in the Berlin seal is enlarged (Fig 89), we can see that it depicts a large, ray-emitting star surrounded by eleven heavenly bodies - planets. These, in turn, rest on a chain of twenty-four smaller globes. Is it only coincidence that the number of all the "moons", or satellites, of the planets in our solar system (astronomers exclude those of ten miles or less in diameter) is also exactly twenty-four? (Sitchin, 176)
Before we get to the Berlin seal and what it shows or doesn't show, let's remember one thing: there are a lot more than twenty-four moons in our solar system, even if you throw out those less than 10 miles in diameter (which astronomers do not). Even if there were twenty-four known when Sitchin wrote this book (and I think there were about 31), there have been some discovered recently, including Charon, Pluto's moon. Live by numerology, die by numerology, I always say.
As for the seal itself, it's hard to say what it's supposed to depict. While it does show eleven bodies around a central body with twenty four others in a ring around it, some of the eleven have rays emanating from them (and thus look more like stars than planets) and some don't. There is a guy standing in front of the whole thing too, making it hard to know if they intended for the guy to be covering up part of it or not.

In any case, he goes on to assert that the Sumerians "claimed that our system was made up of the sun and eleven planets (counting the Moon), and held steadfastly to the opinion that, in addition to the planets know to us today, there has been a twelfth member of the solar system - the home planet of the Nefilim". (Sitchin, 178)

This is hard to swallow in light of the fact that Kramer says that astronomy was "practically unknown in ancient Sumer; at least as of today we have only a list of about twenty-five stars and nothing more from Sumer". (Kramer, 90) He goes on to say "observation of the heavenly bodies must have been practiced in Sumer for calendrical purposes if for no other reasons, but if the results of these observations were recorded, they were not preserved". (Kramer, 90). Wolley makes no mention of any astronomy in relation to the Sumerians.

Here we are at the heart of the matter. These Sumerians, direct descendants of the gods from the skies, privy to the creation of the solar system, eye witnesses to rockets coming and going, didn't record enough astronomical observations that even a single tablet (out of many tens of thousands) has made it to the present day. I could just stop here...but Sitchin doesn't so I won't.

Sitchin finishes up the chapter with a survey of creation myths and cosmology from other cultures.

The next chapter starts off with a bang. Right away we're introduced to the most important illustration in the book. This time it's a photograph of a cylinder seal and some hand-drawn reproductions of it to help us out.

The seal (shown on page 205), shows a six-pointed star, surrounded by eleven circular bumps of assorted sizes. Underneath it is a drawing of the same sort, but with the bodies around the central sun moved around a bit and changed in size. Underneath this is a drawing of the same central sun, surrounded by eleven bodies, supposedly in the configuration of the actual seal.

Sitchin first claims that the bodies involved represent the planets of the solar system. Instead of being shown in increasing distance from the sun, they are shown arranged circularly around the sun, but in order from Mercury, counterclockwise to Pluto. But to say this, he refers to the first drawing, (figure 100), which isn't of the seal itself, but an explanatory drawing that Sitchin drew himself.

Now that we're supposed to have the idea in our heads, Sitchin refers us to figure 101, the drawing of the seal he has made for clarification. He says this about this figure:

The small Mercury is followed by a larger Venus. Earth, the same size as Venus, is accompanied by the small Moon. Continuing in a counterclockwise direction, Mars is shown correctly as smaller than Earth, but larger than the Moon or Mercury.

The ancient depiction then shows a planet unknown to us -- considerably larger than Earth, yet smaller than Jupiter and Saturn, which clearly follow it. Farther on, another pair perfectly matches our Uranus and Neptune. Finally, the smallish Pluto is also there, but not where we now place it (after Neptune); instead, it appears between Saturn and Uranus.

Treating the Moon as a proper celestial body, the Sumerian depiction fully accounts for all of our known planets, places them in correct order (with the exception of Pluto) and shows them by size. (Sitchin, 204)
You have to really study these pictures to see what a laugh this is. First of all, Mercury comes after Venus (assuming it's the smaller one) or is shown in the position of being a moon of Venus. Next Mercury is only a third the diameter of Venus or Earth, but it's shown a lot bigger (about three-fourths their size). Next, the Moon should be a dot on this scale, but it's shown pretty good size. Looking at the picture (rather than his drawing) Mars looks exactly the same size as Earth. Jupiter and Saturn are in reality three times the size of Uranus and Neptune, but drawn less than twice as big. Pluto is shown about the same size as the Earth, even though it's only a tiny bit bigger than the Moon (about a seventh the size of the Earth).
Lots of other details are missing: no rings around Saturn, no bands around Jupiter, Charon (half the size of Pluto, they're really a double planet) missing, and so on. It's particularly hard to understand why the earth's Moon is included in the list, but no other moons are. After all, many are large bodies in their own right. Ganymede, for example, is larger than Mercury.

So, if you're willing to overlook all these little details it's pretty accurate, except for one extra planet and one out of place! Does Sitchin think we smell like turnips? This is quite a stretch.

Before explaining the extra planet and Pluto's position and all, Sitchin takes us on a little astronomy lesson, Sitchin style. Here are some "facts" according to Sitchin:

* "Earth's heat comes from its radioactive materials, 'cooked' inside Earth under tremendous pressure" (Sitchin, 207)

* "Scientists are now certain that the Moon and the Earth, formed of roughly the same elements at about the same time, evolved as separate celestial bodies" (Sitchin, 207)
NOT! Current theory holds that the Moon was formed from the Earth after the impact of a Mars-sized body. (see "The giant impact produced a precipitated Moon", CAMERON, A. G. W, 1993, NASA RECON database).
* The asteroid belt: "beyond any doubt, this is the debris of a planet that had shattered to pieces" and "astronomers are certain that such a planet existed" (Sitchin, 209)
NOT! Current theory says the planet never formed, due to gravitational effects from Jupiter. (see Watters, and see "Structure and evolution of the asteroid belt", Chebotarev, G.A., 1974, NASA RECON database) There isn't enough mass there for a decent planet anyway.
* Bode's Law "convinced astronomers that a planet ought to revolve in a place where hitherto no planet had been known to exist - that is, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter".
TRUE! But Bode's Law ALSO predicts a planet formed where the EARTH is, which Sumerian cosmology says arrived later. Another case of Sitchin using a fact when it supports him, but ignoring it when it doesn't.
* "How could they [ancient Sumerians] know without telescopes and spacecraft that Neptune is a watery planet?" (See interview)
True! Well, not exactly. While Neptune may have water oceans, they are under extreme pressure, and tainted with methane, ammonia and ammonium hydrosulfide. They lie on top of an ocean of liquid hydrogen. It's NOT a "watery planet" the way earth is, not by a million miles. It's not a "blue planet" due to these oceans, either, it's blue because it has a methane atmosphere, same as Uranus. And how did the Greeks and Romans know that Neptune was a watery planet? After all, they had no access to Sumerian myths...
Tired of mangling astronomy, Sitchin goes back to mythology for a while, then gets to the arrival of the twelfth planet and how it molded our solar system.
I'll have to synopsize his work, he takes up lots of pages tying it in with Sumerian texts. I don't for a second doubt his translation of the texts, by the way, it's the resulting interpretation that's goofy. He has assumed that the gods represent planets, that the myths represent actual events (events that happened before the Earth or Nephilim existed) and a good deal of literary license. None of the other sources make any assumptions like this. No one else seems to think that the gods in the epics were really astronomical bodies. Sitchin himself never really explains why he thinks this is a fair interpretation, he just does it.

Here's what he claimed happened (the numbering of the steps is my own, to make things easier to refer to later):

1) We started out with a solar system just like the one we have now, but the Earth and Moon are missing and there was a planet between Jupiter and Mars.

2) The planet Marduk arrived from outer space and passed near to Neptune. Marduk is a retrograde planet, orbiting in the opposite direction of all the others. Neptune's gravity bent its orbit so that it plunged down into the solar system (still against the grain, retrograde). At the same time, Neptune's gravity pulled a bulge in the side of Marduk (which was still plastic at this stage, it had just been formed).

3) The planet Marduk passed Uranus, where the bulge ripped open and several moons were pulled out of Marduk to orbit it. It's path was bent even more inward. As it pulled on Gaga, a moon of Saturn, Gaga was pulled loose and eventually became Pluto in its present day orbit.

4) Marduk approached Tiamat (the planet where the asteroid belt is now) and its gravity began to tear away bits of Tiamat.

5) Marduk missed hitting Tiamat, but its orbiting satellites delivered a mighty blow. They also exchanged lightening in the form of static electricity. Tiamat was cracked, but still together.

6) Marduk sailed out into deep space again, past Neptune.

7) When it came around again, Marduk smashed Tiamat all to hell. Half of Tiamat was destroyed and became the asteroid belt, the other half was hit sideways by one of Marduk's orbiting moons, knocked into the orbit of Earth and became the Earth. Kingu, one of Tiamat's satellites, went along with the broken half and became the Moon.

8) Marduk continues in this orbit today, swinging out past Neptune and back into the Asteroid belt in a retrograde orbit that takes 3,600 years to complete.

There you have it, in all its glory, the twelfth planet wrecks the solar system but creates the planet Earth in the process.

There is so much wrong with all of this, from a cosmological and physical standpoint, that it's hard to know where to start (well, you can start by laughing, but that won't help the situation at had). Let's go through it a step at a time:

1) No way to know whether this is true or not, let's give him the benefit of a doubt and assume this is true.

2) No current scientific cosmology can account for a large planet forming in a retrograde, very eccentric orbit. If Neptune pulled on Marduk, then Marduk pulled on Neptune. Yet its present-day orbit is very circular, more so even than the Earth's. Same is true of Uranus. If Marduk is falling freely near Neptune, the gravity of Neptune effects it the same all over, no "bulge" would be pulled in it's side. Pack a ball of dirt together with your hands and throw it into the air. Does the large gravity of nearby-Earth pull a bulge out of the side of it? No. Tidal forces might create small effects if Marduk got very close, but obviously it didn't.

3) More of the same. How did Gaga get flung out to where Pluto is? It could be flung outward by gravitational force, but what circularized its orbit out there?

4) More gravity tearing away at things, a childish view of physics.

5) OK, assume this is true. However, after such a close encounter with a massive retrograde body, both planets would have their orbits seriously altered. They would both slow down quite a bit, changing their orbits drastically.

6) OK, funny how it misses everyone on the way back out...

7) This is just nuts. Suppose that it came around again to exactly the same spot (a huge supposition), how did Marduk smash Tiamat and still not lose enough energy to alter its orbit? It's even worse: if Tiamat collided with Marduk and picked up the vector needed to head for the Earth's orbit, how did it get circularized? It's flatly impossible (ask anyone how knows about this sort of thing) for a body to have left the asteroid belt and ended up in a circular orbit where the earth is without some additional acceleration. Flatly impossible. So what accelerated the entire earth by a couple kilometers per second to circularize the orbit once it got down to the right slot? Sitchin offers no answer.

Lots of other questions come to mind, too many to go into here. Some examples I just can't resist:

* If Marduk is still in this retrograde orbit that crosses through the outer planets every 3,600 years, why hasn't it disturbed the nice, circular orbits of Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus? If the disruption caused by puny Pluto (smaller than Earth's Moon and not in a retrograde orbit) is noticeable, why not Marduk? Why haven't those asteroids been swept out of there by Marduk in the millions of times it has cruised through?

* How did Kingu become tide-locked (one side facing always towards the Earth) if it used to be a satellite of body twice as large and how did its orbit get so circular after that rough ride?

* Where's all the missing mass? There just isn't an Earth-sized planet worth of junk in the asteroid belt.

* Marduk should have swung through the asteroid belt sometime in the last 3,600 years. While the Chinese and others have very good astronomical records over this period, there is no mention of what would no doubt have been a very important event -- a bright new planet.

* Marduk, having an orbital period of 3,600 years must swing out about 230 AU from the Sun (about 6 times further out than Pluto). It seems to me that any body in such an orbit (receiving almost no solar radiation) would be dark and frozen most of the time. I know some people argue that it might have a hot core that heats the surface. Fine, it's still completely dark, nothing like earthly life could evolve there.

You get the picture, you can probably come up with a lot of examples of your own. This is unquestionably the screwiest cosmology since Velikovsky. Nothing in his text gives one any reasons to think that he's even considered these sorts of problems, much less suggested answers.

Now we're set to meet the aliens. The next chapter introduces us to Sitchin's theory about the people who have evolved and developed on Marduk, then made their way to Earth. Along the way, we're treated to the usual mangled Bible verses. There is one that I great difficulty finding (of course, Sitchin was no help):

The Book of Job, having described the celestial collision, contains these significant verses telling us where the lordly planet had gone:
Upon the Deep he marked out an orbit;
where light and darkness [merge]
Is his farthest limit. (Sitchin, 239-240)

Since the book of Job is pretty clear in it's purpose and contains nothing but the sufferings of Job, I was sure this verse is weirdly translated, but I couldn't find it. Luckily, David Byrne was reading this document and emailed me the answer. This is Sitchin's translation of Job 26:10. Here's what is really in the bible:
"He has marked out a circle* on the surface of the deep
as the boundary of light and darkness." (New American Bible)

*The footnote on "circle" reads, "26, 10: Circle: the horizon
of the ocean which serves as the boundary for the activity of
light and darkness."

Clearly, Sitchin has translated to his own benefit again. Translating "circle" to "orbit" is quite a transgression.
After a bunch of additional Bible and Sumerian Epic quotes, we wind up at figure 114, on page 246. The explanation of this figure shows Sitchin's childish understanding of orbital dynamics.

This figure shows a view of the solar system with Earth to the left of the sun, in a counter-clockwise orbit. Below and to the right is Marduk, the twelfth planet. To show how some Sumerian verses might be adapted to orbital dynamics, Sitchin draws a line from Earth down and to the right to intersect Marduk at what is labeled point "A", where Marduk supposedly first comes into view (at this angle, looking past the orbit of Mercury). He also draws a line from Earth to point B, where Marduk is now just past the orbit of Jupiter. Then he draws a line from Earth to point C, where Marduk is in the orbit of the asteroids (hard to describe without the figure). Each of these lines corresponds to a verse from an ancient epic and the purpose of the figure is to show us how Marduk can actually occupy all three positions in the course of its path through the solar system.

Only one problem with this figure: Marduk moves, but the earth stands still! Yep, he missed this one by a mile. If Marduk was seen by Earthlings along line "A", the Earth would be half-way (or more) around the Sun before it could be seen at point "B", at which point the angle would be completely different. The same goes for the line to point "C". Now, you can argue that he's just showing what's possible, that the earth could be moving, he's just showing us some of the possible angles. Fine, what he doesn't mention, then, is that every angle is possible if Marduk is in an orbit outside of the earth's -- Marduk could appear anywhere in the ecliptic, just as the other outer planets do (this, however wouldn't tie his quotes in quite so easily).

The whole figure is goofy (no, wait, that's Pluto...).

On we go. Not only has Marduk scrambled a couple of planets, but now life has evolved there. Life with DNA exactly the same as that of Earth (we'll see how this happened later on). We get another dose of psuedo-science:

Scientists have also come to the unexpected conclusion that not only could life have evolved upon the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), but it probably DID evolve there. (Sitchin, 254)
This is balderdash. Check any and every source you can find. I can't find anyone who thinks this now or did in the past. While it is true that organic molecules can be found in space (as Sitchin suggests), there is no suggestion, none, that DNA has evolved anywhere else. You can't prove a negative, but I challenge Sitchin supporters out there to come up with a source for this one.
Think a little about Marduk, too. Here is a planet out past the orbit of Mars at its closest. All of the other planets in this range are composed mostly of liquid hydrogen, frozen methane and so on (Watters, 126-181). No planet in this range will evolve an Earthly form of life. None of the outer planets have liquid water (at a reasonable pressure anyway), none have free oxygen (necessary for most earthly life), none have carbon or nitrogen in any large amounts (necessary for earthly life), none receive enough solar radiation for photosynthesis or other earthly life. Of course, this is all speculation anyway, so why not just decide that Marduk was different from all the other outer planets...

So, the Nephilim come from Marduk to earth, just to explore and exploit, the same way we would. They come in ships that resemble rockets and they desire the petrochemicals of earth (well, you would too, if you came from a planet that was mostly liquid hydrogen). Sitchin goes to a lot of trouble to make us believe all of this, but it's hard to keep believing by this time.

Once they get to earth, they set up a base and start to create improvements. This turns out to be tough though, as Sitchin mentions:

The task was understandably complex and time consuming. Enlil stayed in Larsa for 6 shar's (21,600 years) while Nippur was under construction. (Sitchin, 295)
Of course, we lowly humans have built all of the cities of the earth and all other human works of engineering and construction in a mere 5,000 years or so. Evidently Nippur was quite a feat of engineering. Of course, nothing of any Nephilim engineering survives to this day. The mud-brick ziggurats of the ancient Sumerians survive, but not the great engineering feats of the Nephilim.
Now we're treated to a series of linguistic and geological arguments for the location of the Nephilim's cities. One of the most interesting is the map, Figure 130, shown on page 300. The map is used to show us why the Nephilim decided to settle the area they did. Only one problem: this is a current map and we know the area has changed drastically over time, both in the boundaries of the land and the courses of the rivers. For example:

Lower Mesopotamia, which includes both Sumer and Akkad, is a delta reclaimed from the Persian Gulf whose waters once reached as far north as Hit, and it is a delta of very recent formation. (Woolley, 2)
Of course, Sitchin claims the Nephilim selected this region more than 400,000 years ago as their base -- when it was underwater (Hit, by the way, is north of present-day Baghdad).
We're treated now to more and more inducements to believe this theory (none of which ring very true to me personally, but I'll leave their refutation to experts who follow me), including one that will ring the bell of any devout Jew: Sitchin seems to think that are Ark of the Covenant, built by Moses to Gods specification was "principally a communications box" (Sitchin, 307). Oddly, Moses and the Jews in general, came long after the Sumerians were dust and the Nephilim had fled the scene (or were, at least, only in communication with earth a little bit out of every 3600-year orbit). If it was a "communications box", just whom was Moses going to call on it?

The next chapter has Sitchin interpreting more myths. The gods settle southern Africa and decide to mine there. I won't attempt any critical analysis of the section. There's not enough to go on. Sitchin rarely tells you exactly what parts of the epics he's quoting and mixes them all together as needed to make his point. A more serious scholar than myself will be required to judge his interpretations in this section.

According to Sitchin, the Nephilim were hot to mine the Earth primarily of what we would consider precious metals today: gold, silver and copper (well, copper isn't too precious, but he says they needed all of these strictly for engineering purposes anyway). They planned, evidently to purify them and ship them back to the home planet, Marduk.

This is pretty nutty when you consider the incredible expense of lifting them against Earth's gravity in rocket ships. It also ignores the fact that iron, aluminum and titanium are needed in much greater volume to build rockets - gold, silver and copper aren't tough enough for structural uses. Why didn't the Nephilim mine the asteroids where there is no gravity well to overcome?

The lesser Nephilim gods start to get mad, however. All that mining is harder labor than they had bargained for. Sitchin grants that they probably used some sort of sophisticated tools, but that the labor was still too much for them. The lesser gods throw down their tools and go on strike against Enlil.

Enlil is pretty mad and almost decides to take up arms against the strikers, but decides not to. He thinks about throwing in his godly towel and going home, but one of the other gods comes up with a brilliant idea: they'll create some slaves!

Instead of building better machines or robots, they decide to do some genetic engineering and combine their own DNA with that of the proto-humans already inhabiting the earth and create a new breed of man smart enough to be a decent slave.

The next chapter goes into the proof of this assertion in more detail. Of course, there is the old Genesis tale of God creating man "in his own image" and so forth. Sitchin also argues:

But evolution cannot account for the appearance of Homo Sapiens, which happened virtually overnight in terms of the millions of years which evolution requires, and with no evidence of the earlier stages which would indicate a gradual change from Homo Erectus. (Sitchin, 340)
Again, I'm not qualified to argue this myself. My reading on the subject, however, indicates that current mainstream opinion in the archeological community is that evolution works just fine and that the evidence is strong enough. Perhaps someone reading along can comment.
We do know, for example, that evolution proceeds in fits and starts, goaded by conditions that leave niches open. Richard Leakey, who has been personally present for so many of the important archeological discoveries of this century, sees no problem in proclaiming that man has evolved steadily from proto-humans to homo sapiens sapiens. He presents the competing theories of how it might have happened quite eloquently (Leakey, chapters 12 and 13), but never seems to doubt that it happened for a moment.

Sitchin even goes a bit farther. He claims, "during the celestial collision, their planet had seeded the earth with its life". (Sitchin, 344) In other words, the cosmic ping-pong match that cracked Tiamat in half and sent one half down to earth orbit to become earth also transferred life (in the form of DNA, etc) over to Tiamat to evolve, eventually, into the proto-humans (and incidentally, all other earthly life). Of course, Marduk was still hot enough to be "plastic" at this point (remember the steps numbered before), so the chance of highly evolved organic molecules being present seems slight.

Now, we know that Tiamat was molten after the collision, since it was half a planet that somehow flowed back into a round shape (and, despite Sitchin's claims, the earth is round, to within a couple of parts per thousand). Somehow, however, the fragile organic molecules of life managed to survive this rough handling. After a billion years or more, when earth had cooled and had oceans, these organic molecules were still around to kick-start life on earth.

My "skeptic" circuits have burned out by this point, however, so I'll just let this silliness lie. (very, very small pun there, if you're keeping score at home)

It gets even better, however. Since the biological science of the Nephilim was limited, they decided to gestate these new slaves inside their own women (goddesses, that is). The Nephilim, evidently, were not exactly into women's lib. To get around all this awful mine labor, they decided to let their women labor and birth a bunch of slaves to take their place. Imagine suggesting this on Earth today...

This scheme worked and the new slaves were gleefully put to work with "pickaxes".

So, what happened to the Nephilim, how come they aren't under foot today? Well the next chapter tells us. First, the Nephilim didn't intend man to procreate on his own. They intended for the goddesses to manufacture man in the assembly line of their own bellies. Why they would be this stupid, Sitchin doesn't say. However, man soon learned to reproduce (amazingly discovering sex unaided), a feat that didn't sit particularly well with the gods.

This reproductive ability, evidently practiced to extreme by man, along with man's tendency to violence and other unwholesomeness angered the gods that had created man (you can see how this follows Genesis, if you fracture the quotes just right). So, the gods "held a council and voted on the destruction of mankind". (Sitchin, 381)

The next chapter (we're getting near the end, hold on) tells of the Deluge that the gods allowed to destroy most of mankind. To cut the story to its basics, the gods foresaw a great Deluge coming. Since they had decided to kill off man anyhow, they decided not to tell any men about it and let the Deluge wipe mankind out for them. Enki, however, had a soft spot for man and arranged for one group of men to escape the flood in a boat, along with a bunch of animals.

Since the Sumerian descriptions of the Flood and the deliverance of Man from that Flood by divine intervention are very similar to Biblical tales of Noah, Sitchin has no trouble bucking up this story with many quotes from the Bible and Sumerian epics. The flood, he asserts (on flimsy evidence) was caused by a gigantic sheet of ice breaking off the Antarctic and falling into the ocean, all at once.

The Nephilim's science was completely unable to cope with this coming flood. To escape the Flood, the Nephilim retreated into orbit (suggesting that the flood was indeed world-wide and very, very deep -- moving to orbit is much more expensive than moving to high ground), where they watched all of their centuries of engineering efforts being wiped out (they evidently had never built a single building or artifact on high ground -- not one shred of their works has ever been found). Somehow, there was enough water to cover everything and wipe out all of the works of the Nephilim, but it "subsides" quickly (where does it go?) and the men in the boat can get out and get on with their lives.

Feeling a bit guilty, the Nephilim land back on earth and decide to teach the upstart humans that survived the flood enough agriculture and animal husbandry to get by. They had had enough, however, of trying to colonize the earth. From now on, they would only visit occasionally and help man out here and there (which, in Sitchin's view, accounts for much of the rest of mankind's advances over the rest of ancient times).

Of course, there is no geological or archeological evidence for a gigantic world-wide flood 13,000 years ago (the date Sitchin uses) that I can find. Perhaps an alert reader (if any are so by this time) can shed additional light.

There you have it! The Twelfth Planet laid bare.

Of course, Sitchin has more books. Lots more books. I'm tired, though, and I'll leave them for someone else.


Clearly, Sitchin is a smart man. He weaves a complicated tale from the bits and pieces of evidence that survive from ancient Sumeria to the present day. Just as clearly, Sitchin is capable of academic transgressions (fracturing quotes, ignoring dissenting facts), theft of intellectual property (those tables he copied) and flights of intellectual fancy (the whole book, really). Worst of all, he is almost utterly innocent of astronomy and other assorted fields of modern science.

He nevertheless paints a picture that is very attractive. One wants to believe it, for it explains so many things. Intellectual honesty, however, prevents anyone with common sense, access to archeological and astronomical data and the ability to read from taking his book seriously. In the end, he's just another nut making a living selling books that treat folks to a tale they want to believe in.

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Zecharia Sitchin