Zecharia Sitchin

Together with Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin is one of the two leading lights of the Ancient Astronauts school of thought, whose purpose is to seek out evidence of the influence of alien visitors on our past. But whereas Däniken always emphasises his amateur status, and even advertises that he is only a layman, Sitchin is regarded as exactly the opposite: a renowned historian, and expert in ancient oriental languages, who turned against his own colleagues …
But is this an accurate version of events?

Sitchins grades

From the blurb of Sitchin’s1995 book ...und die Anunnaki erschufen den Menschen [… and the Annunaki created Men; published in English as “Divine Encounters”], the reader learns that:

"Zecharia Sitchin was born in Russia and grew up in Palestine. There, he gained an in-depth knowledge of ancient and modern Hebrew, and other Semitic languages, eventually graduating from the University of London (“Sein Diplom erwarb er an der Univeristät von London”). He is one of the few contemporary orientalists who can read Sumerian clay tablets … “

Yes, there it is, in black and white. Language studies in Palestine, and then a degree from a respected English university. The “Diplom” mentioned in the German text was at that time a very high degree, somewhere between a master and a Ph.D.
Sitchin and his publishers use Sitchin’s educational qualifications as proof positive of his proficiency – something that is emphasised on many web pages dealing with Sitchin-related topics. I am frequently e-mailed by his fans with requests to stop criticising him, because I, being only an amateur, have no grounds for attacking an academic as distinguished as Sitchin.
Oddly enough, however, in books published by Sitchin before 1995, his biographical details appear dissimilar. In the biographical description attached to his first book, The Twelfth Planet, published in 1986, we find the following:

"Zecharia Sitchin was born in the USSR, and grew up in Palestine, where he studied ancient, and modern, Hebrew, and other Semitic and European languages. After his studies at the London School of Economics, he worked for many years as a leading journalist in Israel ..."

So there seem to be some differences here with the earlier version. No mention of the "University of London"; instead, we find only the "London School of Economics". Why this discrepancy?
Well, as with Sitchin’s theories, some of the published details, when subjected to hard scrutiny, don’t quite match up. The London School of Economics (LSE) is just one of several colleges associated with the University of London, and forming part of it. The LSE has an excellent reputation, its alumni including many highly intelligent people. But, unfortunately for Sitchin, none of the subjects taught there has any connection at all with archaeology, ancient Sumer or hieroglyphics. According to Sitchin, his degree was in Economic History (B.Com., or Bachelor of Commerce and Administration), which covers nothing before 1704. This subject area, therefore, is as irrelevant for someone wanting to become proficient in archaeological subjects as a degree in biology or chemistry would be. But, after what appears to have been some creative re-working of Sitchin’s CV, we find that, in his later works, all reference to the London School of Economics has disappeared, and that he is now described as having simply studied at the University of London - where, of course, there is a whole plethora of archaeological subjects on offer! This point is thrown into sharper relief if we compare the details of Sitchin’s degree with those of various economics graduates on this site, for example, who are described as: “B.Com. London School of Economics, University of London,” rather than as graduates of the federal “University of London.”
There are also other problems with Sitchin’s account of his early education. According to the information in his first book, he studied languages during his time in Palestine. A friend of Sitchin’s told me something similar: that Sitchin studied extensively, but that his academic records were lost during the Second World War.
But it is simply impossible to make sense of this chronology. Sitchin was born in 1920 (some sources say 1921). It says here: “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”). The official version has it that he subsequently came to England in about 1937, which means that he must have left Palestine at some point between the ages of 15 and 17. So, if he studied languages extensively during his time in Palestine (although not all sources are in agreement; some describe these studies as “profound”, while others are more circumspect), this schoolboy prodigy must have finished those extensive studies at the same age … all before enrolling for his university course in England. Closer scrutiny of the circumstances of his earlier life might, however, throw more light on this situation. As just mentioned, Sitchin and his family were Jewish (see, for example, here and here). If the family followed traditional Jewish observance, then the young Sitchin would have taken part in a Bar Mitzvah ceremony when he was about 13. This would have involved learning a certain amount of ancient Hebrew, being able to read passages from the Torah, etc. So, by the time he was 17, Sitchin might have been exposed to several languages: some Azeri, possibly Yiddish (although, after about 1923, teaching in Yiddish was apparently discontinued in Azerbaijan), modern Hebrew, ancient Hebrew and English (and perhaps even Arab dialects, too), simply as the result of growing up in the politico-geographical context that he did. Could it have been this that formed the basis of his “extensive studies of ancient and modern Semitic and other languages” … ? Could Sitchin’s CV have been reworked to change a simple financial journalist into a renowned scientist? To endow him with expertise in a topic that he had never actually studied?

Sitchin and the A.A.S.

Card-carrying ancient-astronaut followers like the German section of the A.A.S (formerly the "Ancient Astronaut Society", now the "Society for Astronautics, Archaeology and SETI", Honorary Chairman: Erich von Däniken) have now lent official recognition to Sitchin’s bungling fabrications. At one time, he was very unpopular on their discussion boards, even senior members mocking him. He was held up as living proof that the A.A.S. had the ability to rid itself of nonsensical ideas. One might therefore be forgiven for thinking that, at first sight, at least, this was a very positive sign.
A little more research, however, reveals that many aspects of Sitchin’s "evidence" are still being recycled in books by the very authors who earlier ridiculed him, as in these examples:

Even in current publications the forgery tradition is kept alive, although the authors know the reserch about Sitchin by me and other persons like Martin Stower. So why do they offer no rebuttal? Well, there is an agenda at work here. Accepting the inscriptions as genuine would mean accepting Khufu as the builder - and that would invalidate large portions of the permanently recycled "mythical lore" of alternative writers.

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© for all pictures and texts: Frank Dörnenburg