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Mayan King Pakal and His 'Spacecraft' - The Wonders Expedition™ - @Archeoastronomy
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April 22, 2021

Mayan King Pakal and His ‘Spacecraft’

I don’t know if you saw the season premier of Ancient Aliens Season 5 a week or so ago, but to his credit, Giorgio Tsoukalos had a guy from Lucas Films on displaying what appeared to be Mayan King Pakal in what Erich Von Daniken has long portrayed as a “spacecraft.”

The image is based on the sarcophagus cover of Pakal’s tomb in Palenque, Mexico and since the 1970s has been the red meat, smoking gun of the UFO fringe to support Ancient Astronaut Theories.  I even tweeted that night that Giorgio and the producers of Ancient Aliens deserved credit; the 3D model the Lucas Films designer made looked pretty darn cool–of course it did, he works for Lucas Films.

The problem is of course, it’s ridiculous when you place it in actual context to what’s on the cover of Pakal’s tomb.

The Ceiba Tree

The Ceiba Tree of South American origin is a pretty unique looking tree.  It also has been found in Southeast Asia, but it’s primary interest here is its use in Pre-Columbian MesoAmerican mythology where it was incorporated into beliefs associated with “The World Tree” and how it connected the heavens, the earth and the underworld all in one fell swoop.

Pakal's Sarcophagus

Just the root system of the tree is pretty amazing and curious.  But it’s branches tend to grow out  horizontally at 90 degree angles from the base of the trunk and in many an ancient drawing, etching, stone carving, sarcophagus cover, it’s pointing in the four cardinal directions of north, east, south and west.

Such is the case clearly depicted on Pakal’s tomb cover.

To the right, I’ve posted a colored drawing for your own assisted observations.

So what do we have here?  Well, in green, I’ve colored in what appears to be a rather large bird sitting atop the tree. In orange below is the actual Ceiba tree.  Notice the branches of the tree pointing out at 90 degree angles?

In red is clearly a two-headed snake, with a symmetrical head appearing on both end of the snake.

Apparently, this was a quite-often-featured type of snake and it usually signified the birth of some new form of something happening.

Moving on down is King Pakal, almost lying on his back.  It was this pose that Von Daniken made famous by showing similar photos of former US Astronaut John Glenn in a similar pose in a Mercury spacecraft of the 1960s.  By showing US Sen. Glenn as though he were in his Gemini spacecraft, Von Daniken was able to convince many a reader over the past four decades that surely Pakal must have been in a spacecraft, too, and that the Mayans were suggesting in this representation that their king was either an ancient alien or space traveler.  Indeed, in the Season 5 Ancient Aliens premier episode, Author David Childress proclaims Pakal as “The original rocket man.”

Good grief, Charlie Brown! And Snoopy could fight the Red Barron from atop his doghouse.

Below Pakal in the drawing to the right is the base of the Ceiba tree.  Von Daniken says the texture at the bottom of the tree is fire coming out of the engines of the spacecraft. The Lucas Film model maker actually put rocket cones on the model displayed in the TV show.


It is just this sort of distortion that takes place in shows like Ancient Aliens that those none-the-wiser fall prey to.  Here at The Wonders Expedition, over the next few years, we are going to investigate hundreds of sites around the world and help the public by showing them nonsense like that depicted on Ancient Aliens is ridiculous and shameful.  It’s one thing to do things in a light-hearted manner in the guise of entertainment, but it’s also another to sit there in front of a camera like Childress, Daniken and Tsoukalos do and clearly misrepresent the truth.

Add this other thought, too: What ruler in present day society do you know, as well, who if they did have access to a spaceship, would be the one sitting at its controls?  Does President Obama fly Air Force One?  It’s just as nutty to think that King Pakal more than 1,000 years ago also would have been the one to fly an ancient spacecraft isn’t it?  I mean, seriously.  He was the king of his people. Wouldn’t an ancient ruler, if he had had access to such sophisticated travel also have been sophisticated enough to build in a space for him to ride as a passenger and not as the actual pilot?  Seriously?

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  1. Thanks very interesting. One minor correction. Glenn never flew in a Gemini

  2. And fixed. Changed to Mercury! Thank you.

  3. I must say, the picture really doesn’t look like a tree either. They knew what the Ceiba tree looked like.
    Why would they draw it like that? It’s a very strange picture.

  4. I’ll send Dr. Mark Van Stone a message and see how he replies. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Well, Donny and Dougen,
    This is an excellent question.
    One of the mysteries of art is why images that stand for things often don’t look a whole lot like the things they supposedly represent. African masks and art of American Indians are two prime examples. Mimbres bowls have images of rabbits, bugs and people that are relatively identifiable, but highly abstract… And Apache basket images are hardly recognizable, even when we are told what they symbolize.
    So Mesoamerican images of trees, particularly ceibas, are highly stylized, and one can see the resemblance between the Tree of Pakal’s Sarcophagus and those in Postclassic books such as the Dresden Trees and the Vienna Codex example (all in my book’s Fig. 86, p. 82). These look a little more like the real ceibas shown in Fig 84 (p. 80),which both have the right-angle branches we mentioned. (Donny, the lovely moss-encrusted example you show (probably that great one in Tikal just as you enter the park) does not. These are better arguments for the Pakal Sarcophagus being a ceiba…) But none are really realistic, especially in the roots, whose symbolism (a human or crocodile head sucking at the earth) trumps the Mayas’ usual semi-realism.
    The whole question of why anyone should represent anything in nature abstractly or symbolically is one for the psycho-historians. I am not certain Pakal’s Tree is a ceiba (I wonder about its flowers, too, which some people say look like Ceiba flowers… I don’t agree), but when you see its context –compared to the stylized Dresden trees, especially the one with Chaak chopping his way out– perhaps you’ll admit that there is a resemblance.


    Mark Van Stone, Ph.D.
    “2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya”

  6. I must say the rocket theory seems more plausible. Not taking anything away from your perpective , a lot of people are inclined to the astronaut theory. It doesnt have the slightest semblance, not even vaguely, to the Ceiba Tree. The likes of Tsoukalos make you more open minded through logical re-interpretation. Every thing is based on proper research, dedication & a quest for answers as opposed to light entertainment. Rgds

  7. Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your perspective and for sharing it with others.

  8. I agree with the other posts that it looks less like a tree than just about anything else. And given the information we now possess I don’t think the “old versions” of the story really stand up, the examples I have heard for why everything is as we have always suspected (no alien encounters) employ counter-examples that do not seem to fit. To this end I point out the “Obama as a pilot” analogy provided above; the analogy is not apropo. The ancient astronouts theory (as my neophyte mind understands it) is not that they brought an entire government along with them and thus would have staff at his (King Pakal’s) disposal to fly his spaceship, but that they were more like a science expedition venturing far from home. So, just because Pakal was named king HERE does that mean he was an Obama on his own planet, fitted out with many underlings to handle the mundane tasks that even the smartest of humans at that time would have been no help for? What if he were merely the lowly alien researcher assigned to that part of South America? Then it would make perfect sense that he would be flying his own transport. Remember, many of the feats that earned these ancient astronauts the title of “God” would be replicable today by anyone sent back to that time with a modern cell phone (just think of what they would make of the star-gazing app!) or even Nikola Tesla’s first AC motor and that was invented over 130 years ago. The person would not need to be an Obama or have the staff of a president to have been revered.

  9. add this to your thought, what other Mayan knew how to fly a space craft? i know if i were a Mayan i sure as hell would not be flying that, especially since i would not know what the fuck that is. the Bird represents flight, snake represents something happening. Whats hooked up to his nose? something to transfer oxygen maybe? ?What other Mayan would carve something going up their kings nose it it was not important? They were genius! I think if they were trying to depict a tree they would have done a better job, i mean look at their temples. His foot is pointed down… representing that he’s pressing down on some kind of pulley or maybe a pedal. But what do i know. You’re right, that carving looks exactly like a tree…

  10. “Here at The Wonders Expedition, over the next few years, we are going to investigate hundreds of sites around the world and help the public by showing them nonsense like that depicted on Ancient Aliens is ridiculous and shameful.”

    I hope your future revelations contain logical arguments and facts to back up your opinions and theories. Although much of the what we see on television could easily be a bunch of crap, calling it hogwash and ridiculing it isn’t much of a position.

    Is it true? How the hell do I know! But I do know one thing – just saying it is ridiculous or shameful and is misrepresenting the truth is not proof it is false. If you plan to show me that this is nonsense then proceed to show me because so far you have shown nothing.

    Even your argument about Obama piloting Air Force 1 is not a good comparison. King Pakal was a warrior king of a warrior society and it would be much more realistic to think it would be considered brave to be the pilot of such a vehicle if such a thing was even possible. I doubt he would allow that honor to go to some one beneath his stature. (A realistic argument? Maybe not. Logical? I think so.)

  11. You have to admit despite it all, the idea of a king in a ship is a pretty interesting theory. But it is just that!
    If we look at what we do know then maybe there could be some plausible truth to the “spaceship theory”. That is to say that it could be very possible if you take into account the ideas of some of the worlds greatest theoretical physicists.
    We first have to agree that there are other forms of life in other parts of our universe (or Multiverse, what ever u believe as there is no real proof that either is wrong) and because our galaxy is only 4.5 million years old and the universe/multiverse is 13.5 million years old, there could be other forms of life far more advanced then ours. I mean this is not only truly possible but highly plausible.
    We all know that great theoretical physicist Albert Einstein who proposed that with enough energy space travel over vast distances is possible with the creation of a wormhole. So if an advanced race was able to travel through space creating a wormhole then it is very possible that we could very well have been visited by ET!! Hence King Pakal could very well have been in a space ship.
    To say that this theory is ridiculous and shameful is not fair. I too am skeptical despite it all, but would never call a theory shameful and ridiculous without proper proof. I myself believe that we have not be visited by any advanced civilization but I surely dont doubt that they exist. This does not mean I am right and maybe, just maybe we have been under surveillance since we have been here!!!

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