I was saddened to learn yesterday that Zecharia Sitchin, one of the giants of the Ancient Astronaut or Paleocontact theory, passed away recently in New York City at the age of 90. Although he died last October 9th , his official website, www.sitchin.com, just posted this short announcement:
“We regret to inform you that Zecharia Sitchin passed away on the morning of October 9th. A small, private family funeral was held the next day.
The family asks that you respect its privacy during this difficult time and refrain from contacting family members directly. Instead, to offer tributes to Mr. Sitchin or to contact those handling his affairs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to P.O. Box 577, New York, NY 10185.
We appreciate the support that you have given over the years. Please continue to monitor this website for further updates.”
I knew Zecharia quite well. I met him for the first time in 1986, long before he became a household name in the paleocontact and ufological fields, when my friend Marcello Galluppi, a well known astrologist and paranormal radio show host from Detroit, invited me to sit for a long radio interview he did with Sitchin at his home in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was here that I heard for the first time Sitchin’s now famous story of how he started his lifelong quest for the Anunnaki, the gods of ancient Sumer, or the Biblical Nephilim, which in time he came to believe were real extraterrestrials from the planet Nibiru and not just mythological figures. Sitchin’s parents were Russian Jews from Azerbaijan who emigrated in the 1920s to what was then known as Palestine, present-day Israel, then under British rule. Zecharia was a 9-year-old boy attending Biblical school and the discussion focused on a cryptic passage from the Book of Genesis (6:4-1) concerning the so-called Nephilim, a Hebrew word usually translated as “giants,” who married the daughters of man and had children by them.
“I raised my hand and I said, excuse me teacher,” Sitchin said in that 1986 radio interview, “but why do you say giants when the word in Hebrew is Nephilim which literally means those who had come down, does not mean giants, does not mean tall people; and he said, Sitchin, sit down, you do not question the Bible; but of course I did not question the Bible, I questioned an interpretation of the Bible.” Thus began his lifelong quest to decipher the true identity of these Nephilim, which led him in time to study the mythology and history of all the ancient civilizations in the Near East, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites, Hebrews, etc. In later volumes of The Earth Chronicles he also covered other ancient civilizations of the world in India, Mesoamerica, Stonehenge and elsewhere.
Sitchin was a very private man who didn’t talk much about his personal background. The biographical blurb published in his series of books known as The Earth Chronicles is extremely short. However, having known him for many years, I was able to get a few extra details about his life. He was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (now an independent country, then a Soviet republic) in July 1920. His parents emigrated to British-controlled Palestine in the 1920s and he participated as a young man in some archaeological digs in that rich area full of antiquities. He attended university in England, studying at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science, and graduated from the University of London with a major in economic history in the late 1930s. He served during World War II at the Allied Command in Jerusalem and worked as a journalist and editor in the newly created state of Israel for several years. He settled eventually in New York, where he worked in business and continued his historical research on his spare time. Although Sitchin’s research was carried out independently from universities and scientific institutions, he was a member of the Israel Exploration Society, the American Oriental Society, and the Middle East Studies Association of North America.
THE 12TH PLANET
It was in 1976, after 30 years of research, that he finally published his first and seminal book, The 12th Planet, where he basically laid out his whole theory about the Anunnaki or Nephilim. The original hardcover edition by Stein and Day received relatively little attention. Sitchin’s style was dense and scholarly and it takes some effort to get used to it, but eventually this book and its many sequels in what became known as the Earth Chronicles series gained a wider following, particularly after Avon released them as pocket books. Sitchin’s approach was different from that of Erich von Däniken and other proponents of the Ancient Astronaut or Paleocontact theory. Unlike them, Sitchin had a complete theory; he wasn’t just saying that aliens from somewhere in the cosmos visited Earth in ancient times, he was telling the reader who the Anunnaki or Nephilim were, where they come from, when they came to Earth and what they did here, their reason for setting up a terrestrial colony and a way-up station on Mars, why and how they genetically manipulated the creation of mankind, the “adamic race,” out of a primitive ape man species that had developed naturally on this planet, when and why the Biblical floods took place, the relationship between the so-called gods and the first human kingdoms, and so on. I think it was the fact that Sitchin was providing a detailed scenario to all these key questions and issues dealing with our origins that led to an ever wider audience for his books.
This is not the time to analyze in detail Sitchin’s theory or point out its flaws (you can find several critics and skeptics on the web that have questioned some of his translations of Sumerian tablets and his interpretation of Sumerian astronomical lore). For those who are not familiar with his works, we can divide Sitchin’s theory in two broad categories: the astronomical and the mythological aspects. The astronomical is probably the more controversial one. It was Sitchin’s contention that the Anunnaki didn’t just come from some unknown planetary body in space, but from a precise celestial body in our own solar system. This is what he called the 12th planet, although it would be actually the 10th planet—he explained the reason he called it twelve was because it incorporated the Sun and Moon as well to conform to the classical tradition of 12 zodiacal constellations, 12 months, etc. In his first book he used the name Marduk for the planet, after the chief god in the Babylonian cosmogony, but in later books he referred to it by the Sumerian name Nibiru, which according to Sitchin has an extremely elongated elliptical orbit that takes 3600 years to make one full orbit around the Sun. Now, it’s true that astronomers from the U.S. Naval Observatory and elsewhere have been looking for many years for Planet X, as it’s called in astronomical circles, so the existence of a planet in the far reaches of the solar system is not that controversial. But the assertion that a planet extremely far away from the Sun has life is a concept that few scientists accept. Sitchin’s scenario for the appearance of this planet is based, among other sources, on the Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation myth epic in which the chief god Marduk defeats a dragon called Tiamat.
The mythological aspect of Sitchin’s books is fascinating and may explain in part his popularity. By the time you finish reading a couple of his volumes, you end up knowing the main psychological traits of some of the key Anunnaki figures like Enki, Enlil or the goddess Inanna (better known by her Babylonian name Ishtar) and all their plots and counter-plots. It’s fascinating stuff for sure. The 12th Planet was followed by six other volumes in the Earth Chronicles series (The Stairway to Heaven, The Wars of Gods and Men, The Lost Realms, When Time Began, The Cosmic Code and The End of Days) and seven companion volumes (Genesis Revisited, Divine Encounters, The Lost Book of Enki, The Earth Chronicles Expeditions, Journeys to the Mythical Past, The Earth Chronicles Handbook and his last book published in 2010, There Were Giants Upon the Earth: Gods, Demigods, and Human Ancestry). They are all available in beautiful hardcover editions published by Bear & Company. There are also dozens of translations of Sitchin’s books in all the major languages (Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Italian, etc.). In addition, there was a very well produced European documentary based on Genesis Revisited titled Are We Alone in the Universe?, which is available on DVD.
By the 1990s, Sitchin became sort of a cultural phenomenom with Sitchin Study Groups, Earth Chronicle Expeditions to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and other countries with important archaeological monuments, Sitchin Studies Days, etc. I am proud to say that I was the speaker chosen by Zecharia to deal with the UFO topic at the first Sitchin Studies Day, held in Denver in 1996 as part of the International Forum on New Science. Other speakers included aeronautical engineer Neil Freer, Marlene Evans, Ph.D., Madeleine Briskin, Ph.D. and Father Charley Moore, and a book of the proceedings, edited and with an Introduction by Sitchin, was published under the title Of Heaven and Earth (Book Tree). Sitchin’s last public lecture was to a packed audience at the Life Expo in Los Angeles in February 2010, where ‘Cost-to-Coast’ radio host George Noory presented him with a lifetime achievement award.
Of the many stories that I could tell about Zecharia Sitchin, one of my favorites memories is the evening we spent at Shirley MacLaine’s apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side back in 1988. Shirley was giving then one of her New Age seminars at a major hotel in New York City and she asked our common friend Marcello Galluppi, who was one of her astrologers, to arrange a meeting with Sitchin and his wife Rina at her apartment after the seminar. Also present were Shirley’s longtime friend and former New York Congresswoman, Bella Azbug, and Mr. Ian Ballantine, founder of the major publishing companies Ballantine Books and Bantam Books. Most of the evening was spent with Shirley asking Sitchin about his research, and at one point she wanted to know how Jesus fit in the Nephilim scenario. Zecharia, who could be quite cagey, refused to answer. Shirley MacLaine was obviously not accustomed to people refusing her requests, so she pressed on. Zecharia didn’t budge, so Shirley told him that his answer would be kept confidential. Sitchin responded, “what I say in this room tonight will be repeated tomorrow in another room.”
Time will tell if Sitchin’s Nibiru theory or parts of it are correct. He was undoubtedly an original character who reinvigorated the Paleocontact hypothesis big time, exposing it to thousands of new people. At the very least, he provided readers with provocative ideas and taught them a lot about ancient history and the origins of mankind.
In the following days we’ll post in this Open Minds site the full transcript of an interview I did with Sitchin in 1996. An edited version of it was published in several international magazines and languages. It deals with Planet X, alien structures on Mars, his then new book Divine Encounters, the Maya Calendar, and much more. Stay tuned.
Read more here: 1996 interview with Zecharia Sitchin