Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Puzzle Pieces: Ancient Flight

By Analea Styles

ancient flight, carving, ancient man, human flight, flying
Ancient carving depicting human flight?

In The Genius of Ancient Man we talk about the various puzzle pieces that make up the “big picture” (Chapter 12). Many times the pieces aren’t recognizable at first or don’t seem to fit anywhere; but as we continue to study and learn, we widen our view and sometimes the pieces fall suddenly into place.

Did Ancient Man Fly?

Now you may be one of those people who have never and would never even think to ask such a question. Perhaps it seems ridiculous, absurd, and foolish to ponder or speculate about. Or maybe you are the opposite and have scoured the internet and searched through dozens of books looking for a conclusive answer to that very question.

Unfortunately, this post will not provide such an answer. It will however highlight some of the mysterious evidences that seem to support that ancient people may have achieved flight long before our modern airplanes. Like the other posts (Chinese Language, Giants, and Dragons), this is yet another puzzle piece to approach with a mixture of fascination and trepidation.

We know ancient man had a fascination with the heavens. The many examples of their astronomical knowledge, star worship, and astronomically aligned monument building testifies to this fact (see chapters 4, 6, and 8 in The Genius of Ancient Man). Could it be that their enthrallment with the skies led them to attempt flight?

Legends of Flight

One of the most fascinating and perhaps convincing evidences of ancient flight comes from the legends and writings of the ancient world, particularly India.

The vimanas were supposedly ancient flying machines and are referred to in many Indian texts such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Samara Sutradhara.

Vimana, india, ancient flight, flying, temple relief, sanskrit text
A temple relief supposedly depicting a flying vimana
The Mahabharata describes a vimana as “an aerial chariot with the sides of iron and clad with wings”. The Yanta Sarvasva says they were “impregnable, unbreakable, non-combustible and indestructible; capable of coming to a dead stop in the twinkling of an eye”[1].

Indian epics also describe fantastic aerial battles, weapons of terrible destructive power, and some texts even explain how to build and fly the aircraft.

Vimana, India, ancient flight, ancient man, ancient text, drawings
Drawings supposedly made from the vimana texts
What should we do with such records? Are they completely imaginative? Or were their authors writing real historical accounts?

India is not the only culture with such records. The “Hakatha” (Laws of the Babylonians) records that, “The privilege of operating a flying machine is great. The knowledge of flight is among the most ancient of our inheritances. A gift from ‘those from upon high’. We received it from them as a means of saving many lives.” And the Chaldean work, “The Sifrala”, clearly describes how to build a flying machine.[2]

There are also several accounts of supposed successful flights in ancient China. Apparently both Emperor Shun (2258-2208 BC) and Emperor Cheng Tang  (1766 BC) designed working flying machines and the Chinese poet, Chu Yuan (3rd Century BC) describes a flight he made in a jade chariot, including an aerial survey[3].

Ancient myths of flight abound in many other cultures around the world. However these are often related to the activities of the gods and could perhaps come from pure imagination as mankind observes the abilities of birds and other flying creatures.

“The Prince of the Power of the Air”

It is interesting to note that the Bible describes Satan as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and as believers, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). We cannot exclude the work of Satan and his demons because we know that there is a spiritual war waging. Could these legends and written records come from interactions with the spiritual world?

What about Geoglyphs?

One of the great mysteries in archeology is the enormous geoglyphs that are found carved into the earth’s surface in various places. Though theories for their purpose abound, some researchers claim that these massive formations are evidence of ancient flight. From ground level, geoglyphs are generally unimpressive and incomprehensible, however from above, the big picture emerges and the mysterious lines form images of animals, plants, human-like figures and geometric shapes.

Geoglyph, geoglyphs, brazil, amazon, ancient man, ancient flight
Amazon Geoglyphs 
The Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines of Peru are probably the most well known geoglyphs. First discovered in 1927 by an archeologist hiking in the foothills nearby[4] they were made well known as people saw them from airplanes flying over since 1939. Archeologists believe they were created between 500 BC and AD 500. To accomplish the etchings, the ancient peoples dug down removing the top layer of reddish gravel (about 15-20 inches deep) to reveal the lighter substrate beneath[5].

Nazca lines, hummingbird, ancient flight, ancient man, mystery, Nasca, Peru
The "Hummingbird" 310 feet across
Wikimedia Commons
But just because the geoglyphs appear most obvious and purposeful from above, does not mean that they were created to be viewed in such a way. We may be quick to jump to conclusions of ancient flight or aliens but this could simply be due to the influences of the culture we live in.

Nazca lines, Peru, ancient flight, geoglyphs, trapezoid
Wikimedia Commons

German researcher, Maria Reiche studied the lines for 40 years and was convinced that they were used for astronomical and calendrical purposes. However later researchers claim that the etchings had more religious purposes. They suggest the people used the lines in rituals to obtain water and crop fertility. Similarly, the animal etchings could simply be symbols of rain and fertility[6]. However why they were created so massive and how they managed to make them so accurate is not readily explained by this theory.

Other large geoglyphs include:
·      The Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire England (dated around 1000 BC)
·      The Sajama Lines, Bolivia (dated around 900 BC)
·      The Atacama Giant (as well as over 5000 figures nearby) in Chile (around 900 AD)
·      Over 60 humanoid figures found in the Colorado Desert of California (around 900 AD)
·      The recently discovered Amazon geoglyphs in Brazil (dated between 600-1000 AD)[7]
·      Another possible geoglyph has been discovered in Russia north of Kazakhstan in the Ural mountains (supposedly dated to be at least a thousand to two thousand years older than Peru’s Nazca Lines)[8]

Russian geoglyph, mystery, Russia, geoglyphs, ancient flight, ancient man
Russian Geoglyph
Google Earth image:

Aircraft Artifacts

There are also a couple significant artifacts that have convinced some people that ancient man could fly, or at least attempted to, with some sort of airplane-like craft.

For instance, the Saqqara Bird, found in a tomb in Egypt, resembles a model plane. It supposedly has the exact proportions needed to glide and stay in the air almost by itself, apparently requiring extensive aeronautical knowledge to create. Archeologists theorize it was made around 200 BC[9].

Saqqara bird, ancient flight, egypt, artifact, ancient man
The Saqqara Bird
Wikimedia Commons 
Similar golden models have been found in South America, estimated at over 1000 years old. The trinkets do not seem to resemble any known animal and contain several features that lend support toward the airplane model theory[10].
ancient flight, model, ancient man, gold artifact planes

 Concrete Proof?

Do any of these evidences prove ancient flight? Not really. Not until more substantial and physical evidence is found and precisely dated to ancient times will the scientific community accept such a theory. However, there is enough out there to get us thinking and speculating.

We have no problems with ancient cultures mastering the ability of flight. We already know that they had skills and capabilities that we don’t understand so it is hardly difficult for us to accept that they could fly as well.

Created to fly?

It is interesting to note that God did not create mankind with the ability to fly. But He did give us a fascinating brain that we still have not figured out. He made us creative and persistent and inventive. He gave us the ability to reason, solve problems, and calculate. But it is what we do with these abilities that matters.  

Our purpose is not merely to build, invent, discover and fly. We were made for so much more; we were created to bring glory to the only One who deserves it. We are in fact commanded to do all to the glory of God (1 Peter 4:11, 1 Cor. 10:31).

So today, in your own attempts to fly (or whatever your dream may be), let God’s glory be the center and the focus. What is your motivation? Who are you serving? What will all your accomplishments mean in the end? These are the truly important questions to ponder and answer correctly.

Read about other Puzzle Pieces:

[1] Childress, David Hatcher. Fly the Friendly skies in Air India Vimanas. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[2] Ancient Flying Machines. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[3] Early and Ancient Records of Flying Machines. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[4] Reece, Kathrine. Grounding the Nasca Balloon. In the Hall of Ma'at. Accessed August 26, 2013. 
[5] Top Ten Geoglyphs – UK and the World. Britain Explorer. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[6] Golomb, Jason. Nasca Lines – The Sacred Landscape. National Geographic. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[7] Top Ten Geoglyphs – UK and the World. Britain Explorer. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[8] Jarus, Owen. Mysterious ‘Nazca Lines’ in Russia are Thousands of Years Old. October 12, 2012. Accessed August 26, 2013.
[9] Ancient Flying Machines. Accessed August 20, 2013.
[10] Ibid.


  1. In "The Word Came With Power" the missionary mentions how the locals weren't surprised to find knowledgeable people who could fly. They'd told stories about such highly civilized people for centuries.
    These were Tribals farming the same ancient terraces in the Philippines for who knows how long.

    1. It's fascinating to learn about these ancient tribes! Do you know which tribe specifically the book was talking about? There are many cultures with old stories and legends about things like flying or high tech building techniques or even magic and sometimes it is very difficult to separate the truth from the myth. Still the existence of so many accounts worldwide does lend support to our belief in ancient genius, perhaps even ancient pilots. Thanks for sharing!