The Dogon a Connection with Ancient Astronauts?



The Malian city of Bandiagara, in the Mopti region of Africa, has many fascinating indigenous societies. Among these are the Dogon people, located in the central plateau, just south of the Niger bend. Today, the area is a popular tourist attraction with many crafts and tribal customs to enjoy. The legends that come from this area are every bit as intriguing as the people themselves, and add another perspective to the feasibility of the “ancient astronaut” theory.

The Dogon

The Dogon

The Dogon villages were settled in the area of Bandiagara largely due to their refusal to convert to the Islamic faith. Fearing retribution, the Dogons built their homes in positions of defense along the slope of the plateau. Here, they could practice their own belief system free from religious oppression. There are many oral traditions of how the Dogons originated, and it is quite possible that the conflicting versions have to do with people from different areas coming to the Bandiagara Escarpment to make their home.

Dogon representation of Sirius

Fig. 1 The Dogon representation of Sirius

Among these oral histories that have been passed down through generations of time, one in particular is said to have caught the interest of two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germain Dieterlen. From 1931-1956, they studied the cultures and legends of the Dogon’s, with Griaule claiming to penetrate their deepest inner circle. This was chronicled in Griaule’s Conversations with Ogotemmeli, first published in 1948. According to these writings, Griaule was told of the legend of Nommos by Ogotemmeli, one of the elders of the Dogons. He spoke of a race of people that were said to come from the sky. Their descriptions very much resemble those attributed to Ancient Egyptian legends of gods and goddesses as well as the Ancient Sumerians.


Fig. 1 – The Dogon representation of Sirius according to Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen and drawn by Ogotemmêli. The oval shape represents Amma, the primordial egg:
A: Sirius
B: Pô tolo
C: Emma ya
D: The Nommo (A race of extraterrestrials came from Sirius)
E: The Yourougou (a mythical male, destined to pursue his female twin)
F: The star of women, a satellite of Emma Ya
G: The sign of women
H: Female reproductive organs


These descriptions and the studies conducted by Griaule and Dieterlen indicate that, along with these other ancient societies, the Dogon could have had beliefs in extraterrestrials and an understanding of star patterns. The belief that these legends are actually tales of communication with extraterrestrials is part of what we refer to as the ancient astronaut theory. This theory asserts that ancient civilizations were created by beings from another planet that are the true representations of their gods and goddesses. There is also a belief that these cultures were given insights into advanced technology which is thought to be evidenced by structures and carvings with obscured origins.

Dogon description of the Nommos

Dogon description of the Nommos

Griaule stated that the description given to him by the Dogons about Nommos indicated they were aquatic in appearance, very much looking like fearsome mermen and mermaids. In these revelations Griaule was supposed to have been privy to, he was told of the significance of sigu tolo, which he claimed to mean Sirius. He said the Dogon spoke of the two companion stars to Sirius (referred to as p? tolo and ?mm? ya tolo), something that had not been seen through a telescope at that modern time. However, in 1970, photographs were obtained by astronomers that indeed showed a companion star to Sirius (called Sirius B) that had previously not been spotted. This “white dwarf” star is extremely small and dense Those who subscribe to the ancient astronaut theory say that the Dogon had advance knowledge of this star, celebrating its orbit in a festival that is said to date back to the society’s origins. Another assertion by Griaule and Dieterlen was that the Dogons had knowledge of Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons, as well as claiming that ancient carvings and artwork dating back 400 years or more showed their understanding of the stars and planets long before their Western counterparts.

Griaule indicated in his writings that he had become privy to this knowledge because of his extensive work and living among the Dogon people for periods of time. After he had been established as someone to be trusted, he claimed that the elders of the villages, in particular Ogotemmeli, taught him secrets that were forbidden to leave the Dogon people. Another researcher, Robert K.G. Temple supports Griaule’s work, saying in his book, The Sirius Mystery, that the Dogon had advanced knowledge of astronomy. Did this knowledge come from a more modern source or were the Dogon secrets another part of the much-speculated ancient astronaut theory?

Studies of Sirius being part of a binary star system were not new, even when the first of Griaule’s writings had been published in 1948. As far back as the mid-19th century, a German astronomer named Friedrich Bessel had mathematically surmised the possible existence of Sirius having an invisible companion star, even calculating that it would take fifty years to complete its orbit. However, Griaule stated that he had seen carvings and listened to legends that went back centuries before Western planetary theories. He insisted that the deeper knowledge he received from the elders (in French, known as “la parole claire”) spoke not only of the star patterns of Sirius, but specifics about other planets as well. All of this was said to come from the Nommos, the race of extraterrestrials came from Sirius, giving the Dogon knowledge of things that were only speculation at that point in time. If true, could it be that this knowledge presents another possibility of ancient astronauts?

Again, it is presented that the legends of a culture are actually tales of contact with extraterrestrial beings. This is said to be evidenced by centuries-old carvings and ancient esoteric truths that were revealed to a Western anthropologist. However, for every theory there are retractors… and Griaule has had many. An article in a 1991 issue of the academic journal Current Anthropology, Walter Van Beek asserted that Griaule’s work was quite simply, a farce. A majority of the Dogon people that were interviewed showed no knowledge of Griaule’s theories as presented by Van Beek. The ones who did claimed that Griaule himself had told them about Sirius and binary star speculations when he learned of the Sigui ceremony practiced every sixty years. This is certainly feasible, considering the star patterns of Sirius were studied and even mathematically mapped out as early as 1844.

Did Griaule put his own spin on ancient Dogon legends? Van Beek, among others, certainly believed he did. This was refuted by Griaule’s daughter, who was continuing her father’s studies of the Dogon. Genevieve Calame-Griaule asserted that Van Beek’s methods of interviewing the Dogon were suspect, and he lacked the knowledge of the people and the culture to be able to communicate with them effectively. A non-biased third party named Andrew Apter wrote an objective piece on both theories presented, which concluded that in all probability, both Griaule and Van Beek had only grasped small pieces of the puzzle.

The mystery of what significance Sirius has to the Dogon people continues to fascinate people to this day. Those who believe in the ancient astronaut theory point to the festival of Sigui held every sixty years, which is a close proximity to the fifty year orbit of Sirius B. Griaule’s studies are heralded by his supporters, who take special note of the time he spent with the Dogon. His detractors take note of the fact that there are many disagreements amongst the Dogon themselves as to what sigu tolo (the Dogon word for Sirius, according to Griaule) signifies. There are also errors in the Dogon legends containing bits about the rings around Saturn (they believed it to be the only planet with rings) as well as being incorrect about the number of moons around Jupiter.

What we are left with is a lot of theories and very few answers. Were the Dogon truly visited long ago by a race of beings from another planet, making their culture another piece of the ancient astronaut puzzle? Was the knowledge they had of the star patterns and speculations of planetary placements inspired by legends passed from generation to generation? On the other side, were those very legends interpreted by someone who had his own ideas? The Dogons had been influenced by many different cultures considering it was, in essence, a melting pot of people who chose to follow their own path. They also had many interactions with Westerners including some of the Dogon serving in WWI in the French Army. It could be that by the time Griaule studied the Dogon, they had already developed their own ideas, and it was taken to mean that these ideas were part of those legends. And what of the third star that Griaule spoke of? It hasn’t been spotted yet, however, that is not to say it doesn’t exist.

The Dogon people, like the Sumerians and Egyptians, have been placed in the ancient astronaut circle by those who believe extraterrestrials created humankind, or at least gave hidden knowledge to them. Whatever the truth is, the theory continues to fascinate those who believe the answers on Earth quite possibly come from the stars and planets.

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2011 AlienUFOTruth.com

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One Comment

  • pat says:

    Had never heard of the Dogon people of Niger and why shouldn’t their ancient folk lore not encompass stories of visitors from the sky in years gone by, many others do. Whether, their belief system has been tainted by other lendary stories, the fact remains -- this particular aspect of Sky gods or visitors is uniform throughout.

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