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My brother and I love Ancient Aliens. We derive that same strange joy out of watching the show that we do from watching movies like Housefull and Singham with like-minded company.

While I do believe aliens exist, I do not like the narrow or no definition of ‘alien’ the show seems to suggest. They never really specify who or what they imply by the term. Sometimes, the aliens are angels. Sometimes, the Hindu gods are aliens. Sometimes, some of the prophets are aliens. Though I do not recall seeing it in an episode, I am sure some of our long-gone creatures must have been branded aliens too, or perhaps their going-away had something to do with aliens.

Always, the show talks of these entities from somewhere away from the three-dimensional earth, that have come to our planet, who the ancient people often mistook as Gods or their agents. Or these entities helped us build the pyramids and the Angkor Wat. The explanation of all historic mysteries is ‘aliens.’ They might as well be saying ‘because we don’t know the explanation, it must be the aliens,’ like this meme so aptly illustrates. I feel they equate ‘can’t be explained with all the known science and facts’ with ‘aliens.’

It is difficult to explain the unknown with the little-known, specially when ‘known’ isn’t as quantifiable as it parades itself.

An occasional episode here and there does provide food for thought, and one such idea had to do with Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Renaissance painter whose work is so familiar with all.

Imagine my excitement, when the opening segment of the show suggested that his paintings contained aliens and UFOs. Load of stuff to do with him being a messenger of aliens and it was they who inspired him to sketch out all those inventions we today take for granted. In the commercial break, I tried hard to remember whether I ever noticed these aliens before. Except that the Mona Lisa has a kind of odd face and that famous enigmatic smile, I couldn’t think of any other. Then just when I was about to place that episode into Rohit Shetty category, the second segment began. That is where they started mirror-imaging those paintings and then superimposing these mirror-images. Before my eyes, the screen was showing how Virgin of the Rocks became an archetypal alien. Then there was The Madonna with Saint Giovannino, and no way could the Unidentified Flying Object in it be hastily dismissed as a cloud or the moon (a moon isn’t ever a grey hexagon with yellow streaks emerging from it, is it?).

To summarize, about half a dozen paintings of the master could be superimposed on their own mirror-images to form what were obviously portraits of, well, aliens; and some paintings depicted UFOs without even having the need to mirror-image them or anything.

After my brain was bamboozled completely, I realized that I could see this for myself. Yes, I had that much time and curiosity. But to be fair, in the spirit of science and statistics, I also decided to do the mirror-bit with another Renaissance painter’s works, just to see whether the appearance of aliens had something to do with the style and approach towards painting back then. And also to see if every well-composed painting would result in a symmetry that bears likeness to a human-face that could be mistaken for… you guessed it right, an alien.

I am not sure whether I did exactly what the show did, but here are some of the edits anyway:

Virgin of the Rocks

Lady with an Ermine

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder
A detail from The Annunciation

Here are two of Raphael’s:R_01
The Nymph Galatea
Detail from The School of Athens

I can’t say whether there are any aliens in the last two, because I have never come across (in popular culture) any looking like the things in above.

To summarize, my photo-editing adventure resulted aliens in four out of the eight Vinci paintings I tested, and zero out of four for Raphael. Visual reference point for aliens was based on how ‘obvious’ the symmetry looked like alien-forms, rather than one having to struggle to see them. This brings us back to the point I earlier mentioned regarding the unknown and the known.


Here’s the said Ancient Aliens episode.