I’m lucky enough to have visited both Machu Picchu in Peru and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. And these famous sites both posed the same immediate question to me: How on Earth did they build these? The size of the rocks and stones used, the advanced construction techniques and in the case of Machu Picchu, the fact that it’s built on top of a precarious hidden mountain. Surely the relatively primitive peoples of Ancient Egypt or the Incan Empire couldn’t have achieved these extraordinary feats, given the limited technology and lack of tools of the time? One common conspiracy theory about the Pyramids is that they and other ancient structures were built by aliens…
Now, we don’t actually believe this theory. We prefer instead to give credit to the ancient civilizations that we still do not fully understand. But it is an interesting idea. So, for a bit of fun, here are seven ancient structures that were DEFINITELY (not) built by aliens.
#1 Machu Picchu, Peru
It’s quite a popular idea that Machu Picchu was built by aliens. This theory has been put forward by TV presenter and ufologist Giorgio Tsoukalos. He claims that the layout of stones used to build Machu Picchu is proof that it was built by aliens. The stones in the oldest bottom layer of the citadel are often the size of cars or even bigger. The middle layer is smaller, and the top layer is smaller still.
Tsoukalos argues that no sane civilization would have gone to the huge effort to drag giant stones up to the top of the mountain when the higher layers are proof that smaller stones did the job. And he questions why the oldest blocks are the largest. If by some miracle the Incas did have the technology to use huge blocks, why didn’t they continue to do so with the later layers? Is this not proof that the first layer of Machu Picchu at least was built by aliens?
Unfortunately for Tsoukalos, his claims can be debunked quite easily. This is because the citadel of Machu Picchu has been built using the same ashlar style of construction used throughout the Inca Empire. The stone blocks are finely cut and shaped together without the need for mortar. And it clearly works, because Machu Picchu has survived perfectly well for hundreds of years! Sacsayhuaman in Cusco is also often falsely claimed to be the work of aliens. Besides, it is almost universally agreed upon that Machu Picchu was built as a palace for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti. And large blocks on the base make a more stable structure, that’s just basic architecture. Sorry, Giorgio.
See Machu Picchu for yourself with our range of Peru group tours!
#2 The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
On my King Tutankhamun Egypt tour, there was a discussion with the tour guide about whether aliens built the Pyramids. And it’s easy to believe when you’re standing in front of them. However, there is a lot of evidence to dispute this claim. This is mostly in the form of archaeological evidence including tombs for the workers who built the Pyramids. This also suggests that slaves DID NOT build the Pyramids, debunking another popular theory. These tombs, normally reserved for kings and nobles, suggest that pyramid builders were actually well-paid, highly-skilled, respected contractors. When Elon Musk lent his support to the idea that aliens built the Pyramids in 2020, it was this evidence which Egyptian authorities used to shut him down.
However, this doesn’t explain how millions of stones weighing two tonnes each were hauled on top of each other to create the three colossal Pyramids of Giza. If a modern architect in the USA or elsewhere decided to build the Pyramids today, they would struggle. Even with the hydraulic cranes and other technology available in the modern world.
Adding fuel to the conspiracy theory about the Pyramids is the fact that they align with the stars in Orion’s Belt. That is some seriously advanced astrology and math, even today. So the idea that aliens built the Pyramids is a popular one, despite much evidence to the contrary.
Make up your own mind by visiting the Pyramids of Giza for yourself. All of our group tours to Egypt include a visit.
#3 Teotihuacan, Mexico
Mexico’s ‘City of the Gods’ has long been thought by some to be the handiwork of aliens. This is because of its sprawling size, impressive pyramids, and, just like Giza, astronomical alignments. Digs at Teotihuacan also unveiled stores of liquid mercury and strange golden orbs. And there’s the fact that we do not know what happened to the city, people disappeared from what was once the sixth-largest city in the world, in around 550 AD.
Addressing some of these mysteries, scientists believe that the city was built over many centuries by the Maya, Zapotec, and other civilizations, with much archaeological evidence to support this. The city was advanced, there’s no denying that, with evidence of tools, murals, and transportation suggesting Teotihuacan was very much ahead of the time.
As for its collapse, the city is thought to have begun to decline in the 6th century, with signs of internal unrest suggesting a rebellion in the city. Droughts and climate change in the mid-550s seem to have hastened this decline. The remains of many young people support the idea that climate change-induced famine may have been the main cause of the collapse of the city.
#4 Nazca Lines, Peru
Lying 320 kilometres southeast of Lima, there is a collection of white lines, some in the shape of animals or geometric shapes. These form the Nazca Lines and have baffled scientists and archaeologists for decades. Dating back to around 500 BC – 500 AD, the carvings cover a total length of 1,300 kilometres. And they feature such creatures as a hummingbird, spider, and monkey. They are very precise and individual images can span as far as 1,200 feet. In fact, the best way to see them is from the air. So how did ancient man manage to create such precise etchings from the ground without being able to fly? Unless…
It remains a mystery as to how the images are so precise. But the explanation for how the Nazca Lines were physically created is quite simple; they are geoglyphs. The top layer of soil and rock is removed, exposing the white earth beneath. And it is believed the Nazca Lines were used as part of ceremonies or rituals related to water and fertility.
The only theoretical way that people could have flown in the air at this time was with a very primitive form of hot air balloon, as suggested by American explorer Jim Woodman. This hypothesis has been widely rejected. The most likely theory is that grids and rope were used to mark out the lines before they were very carefully carved. But we don’t know for sure. So, the Nazca Lines remain a fascinating enigma.
#5 Stonehenge, UK
Talking of ancient structures built by aliens: a circle of stones, each weighing up to 50 tonnes, that sits in the middle of the English countryside. Stonehenge dates back to, you guessed it, the Stone Age, and has long been a mystery. Geochemical techniques have proved that the stones came from West Woods, 32 kilometres away from the site. This is quite a way to carry 50-tonne stones without any lorries! Conspiracy theories abound that it was an alien landing pad. But the truth is much simpler. As English Heritage detail, the technology did exist at the time to create the stone circle, it will have just required more manpower and time than it would take today. Like many of the sites in this list, it appears that Stonehenge was also built to align with solstices and eclipses.
#6 Tiwanaku, Bolivia
The Tiwanaku Empire stretched across parts of modern-day Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, and Chile, and had its capital at Tiwanaku, on the shore of Lake Titicaca. The empire collapsed in around 1200 AD and was followed soon by the Incan Empire. Much of the site is yet to be uncovered. But it is clear that Tiwanaku was once a huge city, complete with temples, pyramids, gates, and separate neighborhoods. It was also built nearly 4,000 metres above sea level.
What really has alien conspirators interested though, is the unearthed carvings and statues of alien-like faces. Did the people of Tiwanaku worship some alien overlord? Unlikely. As pointed out by biologists, even the strange faces of these “aliens” look more human than anything else. If a creature from space really had ruled Tiwanaku then the chances of it looking even slightly human are incredibly slim. More likely that these carvings are simply the faces of gods, worshipped by the people of Tiwanaku.
#7 Moai statues, Easter Island
The 900 or so human carved faces that make up the Moai statues of Easter Island are shrouded in mystery. On average the figures weigh around 14 tonnes, though many are significantly heavier. It is thought that they were created by the Rapa Nui people more than 1,000 years ago, carved from a quarry on the island.
But how were they transported to their permanent locations on the island? And why are so many unfinished, as if the workers who built them vanished overnight? This tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean can hardly have been an easy place for humans to colonize and survive on, and no one knows for sure what happened to the Rapa Nui people who are thought to have carved the Maoi statues. Scientists’ best guess is that an environmental disaster caused by the overexploitation of native resources may have led to a decline that virtually wiped out the society, though this view has been challenged. But there remain many unanswered questions – how were the statues moved around the island, and what tools were used to carve them? Could it be aliens…
This article is a light-hearted look at the many mysteries we are yet to uncover about the past. The reality is that these structures were most likely built by extremely advanced civilizations, such as the Ancient Egyptians and the Incas. These are civilizations that we don’t fully understand, and which don’t get enough credit. Whilst it is fun to consider that aliens built the Pyramids and other places, in reality, this is very unlikely. Unlikely but of course, nothing is impossible and there is much we don’t know about the past. Whether you believe Machu Picchu was built by aliens or the Incas, it simply has to be on the bucket list of every traveller, as do all of these legendary ancient sites.