The history of flight may be considerably grander than we have ever dared imagine. Indeed a consistent wealth of evidence hints at the secrets of powered flight
at a time now unimaginably distant. At the very least there is convincing evidence that hints at a much earlier age of aviation - one now completely forgotten.
Perhaps the earliest preserved record attesting to early aviation is a Babylonian set of laws named the Halkatha. This reportedly includes a passage which
reads: "To operate a flying machine is a great privilege. Knowledge of flying is most ancient, a gift of the gods of old for saving lives."
Other Babylonian scripts like the "Epic of Etana" also contain references to the magical flight of Etana on the back of an enormous eagle. This eagle
takes him higher and higher, and throughout the narrative there are remarkably authentic descriptions of the view that unfolds before them. This is obviously the account of someone familiar
with flying. The sense of perspective, and patchwork of colour and haze, together with an accurate depiction of geographical features make this difficult to understand. Difficult that is
unless the author, or someone close to him, had actually experienced the wonder of flight.
In his book Secrets of the Lost Races, author Rene Noorbergen makes the following comment: "Whatever the vehicle of ascent may have been, the 'Epic
of Etana' certainly supplies us with a very accurate description of the Earth's surface from various altitudes - descriptions which were not verified in our own era until the high altitude
aerial flights of the 1950s, and the first space shots of the 1960s.
Question: Who made and recorded this observation in the ancient East before 2400 BC ?"
In the same book Secrets of the Lost Races Noorbergen also mentions a 5000 year old Chaldean manuscript the Sifr'ala. This is believed to
contain a detailed account of how to build an aircraft. An archaeologist who worked on its deciferment was astonished to discover text that speaks of "vibrating spheres, graphite rods
and copper coils.." Writes Noorbergen: " on the subject of flight the writer comments on wind resistance, gliding and stability. Unfortunately many key lines of the text are
missing, making any attempt at reconstructing the craft impossible."
Chinese flying machines.
Ancient Chinese texts also contain numerous references to experimental aircraft. Some of these have been documented to before the year 2000 BC.
In 1766 BC the Emperor Cheng Tang is believed to have ordered the construction of a flying machine that was subsequently destroyed lest anyone discover the
secret of flight. In the 3rd century BC the Chinese poet Chu Yun made a detailed aerial survey of the Gobi desert, giving special praise to the durability of his craft over wind and sand
Written records of oral traditions from Nepal also mention powered flight. They also acknowledge that the real secrets of flight were known only to the Yavanas. This is interpreted as the light-skinned people of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece. This is highly significant because Greece has perhaps the best known account of the perils associated with early aviation.
Icarus and Daedalus.
The story of Icarus and Daedalus is almost exclusively looked at in terms of a colourful myth. A closer look at the story however reveals a great deal more.
In his work Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid describes Daedalus as a highly skilled architect, the designer of the infamous Cretan maze. When this was
complete he felt homesick, yet knew that king Minos would block his return, and that he was shut in by sea. His answer was to build a flying machine. As Ovid has him saying: " The king
may block my way by land or across the ocean, but the sky, surely, is open, and that is how we shall go."
According to Ovid: "With these words, he set his mind to sciences never explored before, and altered the laws of nature."
Eventually two flying craft were made ready. One for Daedalus, and the other for his son Icarus. Daedalus made sure his son was aware of the rudiments of flight,
and once in the air cast a watchful eye over him. Meanwhile on the ground the sight of these two flying machines excited considerable attention. Describes Ovid: "Some fisherman, perhaps
plying with his quivering rod, some shepherd leaning on his staff, or a peasant bent over his plough handle caught sight of them as they flew past and stood stock still in astonishment,
believing that these creatures who could fly through the air must be gods."
The two aviators then headed out from Crete across the Aegean Sea. For Icarus this was an exhilarating experience. In fact so overjoyed was he by the thrill of
it all that he forgot his fathers instructions and soared further skywards, till the wax of the wings began to melt and he was "swallowed up in the deep blue waters, which are now called
Today the Icarus legend is seen almost entirely in terms of poetic hyperbole. Yet surely we have here a testimony to early aviation. This was not after all a
magical exploit. Daedalus was a master architect. He knew precisely how to fashion an aircraft and was also aware of its shortcomings. He realised there were things you just couldn't do, and
these limitations - unlike many obvious myths - attest to its authenticity as an example of prehistoric aviation.
Tucked away in the Cairo Museum of Antiquities item number 6347, RM 22, was for many years considered just a small and insignificant artifact. This was after all
no more than a tiny wooden plane discovered in a tomb near Saqqara in 1898. For many years it was kept in a basement storage area, where it was marked as 'bird object', and lay almost
In 1969 however, Dr Kalil Messiha, an archaeologist, noticed the resemblance of the object to modern aircraft and decided to investigate further. A research
committee was formed and the intitial findings were so impressive that the object was put on immediate display. Aerodynamic experts were later to testify that the model was remarkably
airworthy, "indicating knowledge of principles of aircraft design which had taken European and American designers a century of airfoil experimental work to discover." Some experts
noted similarities between the model and the lastest NASA developments in oblique-winged aircraft.
Dozens of examples.
Over the years dozens of such artifacts were discovered, all bearing testimony to an underlying knowledge of advanced aerodynamics.
But how could the ancient Egyptians have known of these things? Moreover was there a much larger working equivalent of this model that was now lost ?
These were all intriguing questions. Meanwhile another discovery of a miniature flying machine deepened the mystery still further. This was the so called Gold
Jet from Colombia in South America. Considered to be well over a thousand years old, this tiny gold object was even more like a modern fighter plane. Thought to come from a pre-Incan culture,
it measured just two inches long, yet posed enormous questions out of all proportion to its size.
Once again the Colombian plane artifact attracted considerable attention. For here was an ancient object bearing an unquestionable resemblance to a modern
fighter plane. Aviation experts were particularly impressed. A test pilot Jack A. Ullrich noted that the shape of the wings and the tapering of the fuelage, implied that the original aircraft
was jet powered and capable of supersonic speeds. Critics pointed out that the object could just as easily represent a bird or flying fish, and this was certainly a possibility. However the
strongest clue that this was actually a depiction of a former flying machine came from the tail of the object. This triangular upright tail-fin had no equivalent in the animal kingdom.
Moreover the resemblance to a modern fighter was complete even to the existence of an insignia on the tail fin. This was likened to the second letter in Hebrew alphabet - the letter beth.
The suspicion now grew that perhaps this amazing artifact did not after all originate in Colombia but was a Phoenician import from the Middle East.
Whatever the truth, the reality is that ancient knowledge of flying machines was a world-wide phenomenon. Neither was South America limited to just this one
artifact. Elsewhere on the continent at least six very similar artifacts were also discovered in Venezuela and Peru, and also in the Central American state of Costa Rica.
We must also remember that the vast linear markings in the desert around Nasca in Peru, could only really be viewed from the air.
If no one was capable of flight at that time, what was the point in constructing these vast linear networks? It just doesn't make sense!
The evidence however suggests that here as in Egypt and China, and the islands of Greece, flight had become a reality long before it was re-invented in our
modern world. In fact wherever you go in the world there exist long standing traditions of pre-historic flight.
India is another country with a particularly rich tradition of ancient flying machines. An ancient collection of sacred Hindu books, the Samaranga Sutradhara, contains
at least 200 hundred stanzas concerning almost every aspect of flying. The International Academy of Sanskrit research conducted a special study into this work and published its findings in a
book entitled Aeronautics, a Manuscript From the Prehistoric Past. What emerged was a knowledge of avaiation - machines, and equipment, that came astonishingly close to what we know
These ancient texts speak of the flying machines as Vimanas. They possessed "carefully welded joints", and were heated and driven "by
controlled fire from the iron containers..." . This sounds remarkably like modern jet powered planes, even down to the noise that they made. This was like "the roar of a lion",
by which the whole thing was set in motion so that "the traveller sitting inside the Vimana may travel in the air, to such a distance as to look like a pearl in the sky"!
For books dealing with the topic of Vimana aircraft please turn to the book
column on the right where you might need to scroll up the page till the right topic is found.
In the Polynesian Islands of the South Pacific we find yet more references to early flight. Here local legends talk of a fair skinned people who arrived from the
west aboard "shining boats", that "flew above the sea"! Other island groups of the Pacific have similar legends of "flying canoes" that bring with them people
Evidence - What evidence?
To many the enormous bulk of this evidence is conclusive enough. Indeed the inescapable conclusion is that thousands of years ago a form of aviation did once
exist. A form of transport that enabled people to travel to and fro about the world much like we do today! But if so, where are the remains of these machines? We hear no mention of them being
found at archaeological sites, and presumably if they had existed we should have found some trace of them?
Age of Atlantis.
The answer to this is that many of these machines were extant during the pre-catastrophe era. This was the age of Atlantis - a time, that like our own was
reputed to have attained a high level of technological achievement. Then came the massive disaster that wiped it all away. If things like jet planes had existed in those times they would have
been completely obliterated. Any surviving remains would have rusted and decayed. In time there would be no evidence they had ever existed. None that is except for a few artifacts from a much
later culture, and written records that bore witness to this amazing era of prehistoric aviation.
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