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KRONOS Vol IV, No. 4
THE TWELFTH PLANET by ZECHARIA SITCHIN
(Stein and Day, New York, 1976; 384 pages, $12.95)
ROGER W. WESCOTT
Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics
Sitchin writes well. His book has good graphic illustrations. His scholarly sources - including the works of such orientalists as Henri Frankfort, Thorkild Jacobsen, and Samuel Kramer - are of high quality. And his contention that our solar system has undergone drastic changes in its planetary composition is refreshing to any reader willing to view natural history from a standpoint other than one of rigid uniformitarianism.
Once these acknowledgements have been made, however, it is difficult to find much to commend in The Twelfth Planet. Sitchin is a dogmatist. His favorite expressions are such phrases as "without question" and "there can be no doubt," which, regrettably, he applies to the most questionable assertions and the most doubtful interpretations.
I do not fault Sitchin either for maintaining that the solar system contains one more planet than those that are generally recognized or for claiming that human civilization was brought to Earth by ancient astronauts. What I do object to is his disingenuous failure to acknowledge the fact that he has forerunners on both scores. In the 1840's, Urbain Leverrier observed a small planet between Mercury and the sun which he named Vulcan. Although 20th century astronomers believe that Vulcan was an illusion, the legend of a forgotten or imperceptible planet has been kept alive by science fiction writers and survives in countless television scripts. And, in the 1960's, a series of writers - beginning with Robert Charroux and ranging through Louis Pauwels, Jacques Bergier, and Ronald Willis to Erich von Däniken - developed the theory that the Sumerians had been telling the simple truth when they said that their way of life was not their invention but a gift from sophisticated aliens in strange vehicles.
Briefly, Sitchin's thesis is that the twelfth planet in our stellar system is a body of Jovian size which orbits the sun clockwise (in a direction opposite to that of the other solar satellites) and has a distendedly elliptical path, with its perihelion in the asteroid belt and its aphelion about twelve times as far away as Pluto. The reason why we do not observe this planet, which the Babylonians called Marduk, is that its period of revolution is 3,600 years - a fact which combines with its planetary number to explain the traditional tenacity of sexagesimal counting. About the time when the solar system developed, Marduk struck the fourth planet, Tiamat (known to ancient Mesopotamians as the dragon of the deep and the mother of the gods), which then orbited between Mars and Jupiter. Half of Tiamat was then shattered to form the asteroids, while the surviving half, which became Earth, was deflected into a new orbit between Venus and Mars. Tiamat's satellite, Kingu (known to the Mesopotamians as the dragon goddess' son and consort), remained gravitationally tied to Earth and is known to us as the Moon. About 450,000 years ago, during our Middle Pleistocene Ice Age, Mesopotamia was settled by the Nefilim (which Bible translators have glossed as "giants"), the space-traveling inhabitants of Marduk. About 300,000 years ago, the Nefilim created human beings by genetically manipulating the ape-men which had evolved here. And, about 100,000 years ago, the Nefilim interbred with our species, leading, within 25,000 years, to the institution of divine kingship by god-men in Mesopotamia.
This interplanetary scenario fairly cries out for explication: If Marduk was as gaseous as Jupiter, how could organisms floating in it have become bony and bipedal enough to resemble us? If, on the other hand, Marduk combined Jovian volume with Earth-like solidity, how could it have produced large but gracile creatures capable of withstanding its crushing gravitational force? To such crucial questions Sitchin does not even hint at answers.
Nor is his terrestrial history much more satisfactory. The Americas do not figure at all in Sitchin's narrative, despite the fact that some of the best evidence for ancient astronautics comes from aerial surveys of the desert near Pisco, Peru. Africa figures solely as a source of metals for Mesopotamians and Europe only to the extent that the Greeks and Romans absorbed Levantine ideas. Even the northern and eastern parts of Asia are slighted. Virtually all of the author's attention is focused on the Fertile Crescent and the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hebraic cultures that developed in and around it. Anthropologists would call his purview ethnocentric in the extreme; geographers might equally well call it topocentric. And, while historians may accept Sitchin's contention (on p. 16) that terrestrial civilization began in the Near East, prehistorians are unlikely to accept his broader claim (on p. 332) that "human culture began in the mountainous areas bordering the Mesopotamian plain." For culture, being - unlike civilization - a human universal, has an antiquity of millions of years and an uncertain birthplace. If we postulate Australopithecus as the earliest hominid genus, culture probably began in Africa; but if we accept Ramapithecus as his confamilial predecessor, culture probably began in India.
Sitchin's linguistics seems at least as amateurish as his anthropology, biology, and astronomy. On p. 370, for example, he maintains that "all the ancient languages . . . including early Chinese . . . stemmed from one primeval source - Sumerian". Sumerian, of course, is the virtual archetype of what linguistic taxonomists call a language-isolate, meaning a language that does not fall into any of the well-known language-families or exhibit clear cognation with any known language. Even if Sitchin is referring to written rather than to spoken language, it is unlikely that his contention can be persuasively defended, since Sumerian ideograms were preceded by the Azilian and Tartarian signaries of Europe as well as by a variety of script-like notational systems between the Nile and Indus rivers.
Sitchin's "pan-Sumerianism" gets him into etymological difficulties on p. 43, where he derives Latin toga from Sumerian tug, "garment". Actually, Latin toga is derived from the base of tego, "I cover," by the same process of apophonic nominalization that produced procus, "suitor," from precor, "I entreat," or socius, "companion," from sequor, "I follow". And sometimes his eagerness to find linguistic evidence for his historical theses leads him not only to give false translations but to base these on erroneous segmentation of words. An example (from p. 63) is Sanskrit Prth ivi, "Earth," which he writes Prit - Hivi and glosses as "heavenly mother". Here the h is actually part of the base, which means "broad" or "flat," while -iv- is a formative suffix and -i an inflectional ending.
In sum, the best that can be said for The Twelfth Planet is that it is one of a series of recent books which, collectively, make a strong case for the extensive revision of our history and prehistory as these are conventionally presented in college texts. Sitchin himself, however, seems to be one of the least reliable of the revisers.
THE TWELFTH PLANET: AN ASTRONOMICAL PERSPECTIVE
C. LEROY ELLENBERGER
In The Twelfth Planet, Zecharia Sitchin posits that homo sapiens was created on Earth by genetic engineering performed by the Nefilim, the advanced inhabitants of the Twelfth Planet. In Babylonian myth this planet was known as Marduk. Sitchin's description is based on his interpretations of the Enuma Elish, the Mesopotamian creation epic, and the Epic of Gilgamesh in light of the perspective of the Space Age. The title comes from Sitchin's contention that the Sumerians conceived the solar system as consisting of twelve bodies, the Sun and eleven planets, counting the Moon. However, the cylinder seal he relies upon shows what would be Pluto between what are identified as Saturn and Uranus. The Twelfth Planet is shown between Mars and Jupiter [p. 189].
The cosmic scenario proceeds as follows. "An unstable solar system, made up of the Sun and nine planets, was invaded by a large, comet like planet from outer space" [p.204] between 3.0 and 4.5 billion years ago [p. 231] . The orbit of the planet Tiamat was in the present asteroid belt which was also the perihelion of Marduk. On Marduk's first perihelion passage, his moons careened into Tiamat leaving "her fissured and lifeless" [p.204] . On the second passage, Marduk himself split Tiamat in two; one half fragmented, the other half remained intact, with Marduk surviving apparently substantially unscathed. Then one of Marduk's moons collided with the large fragment of Tiamat, thrusting her and her largest moon into an orbit at Earth's distance from the Sun. Thus was the Earth-Moon system formed. The fragments became comets and asteroids.
Marduk assumed a cometary orbit with a 3600 year period. This is inferred by Sitchin from two lines of thought. That number was very important to Sumerians and the same large circle was used to represent the three concepts: planet/orbit/3600 [p. 224]. Also, Sitchin represents that 3600 years marked stages of cultural development at 11,000 B.C., 7,400 B.C. and 3,800 B.C. stimulated by successive visitations of the Nefilim [p.227] .
The collisions between Marduk and Tiamat "seeded" Earth with "life-bearing soil and air of the Twelfth Planet . . . giving it the biological and complex early forms of life whose early appearance there is no other explanation" [p. 231]. Despite the "seeding", which presumably would have put Earth on par with Marduk, evolution on Marduk proceeded ahead of Earth, hypothetically 45 million years ahead. Thus, the Nefilim were "capable of space travel a mere 500,000 years ago" when they first visited Earth [p. 232] .
Sitchin's thesis obviously conflicts with Worlds in Collision on a number of points, for instance, the identity of Marduk and Tiamat. There Velikovsky conjectured "When a ball of fire tore the pillar of cloud and pelted the pillar with thunderbolts, the imagination of the people saw in this the planet-god Jupiter-Marduk rushing to save the earth by killing the serpent-monster Typhon-Tiamat" [p. 174]. Another conflict concerns the exhortations of the biblical prophets. Sitchin uses the biblical prophecies of Amos, Joel, Isaiah and Zechariah, which refer to destruction, earthquakes, melted mountains, the Sun going down at noon, etc., as support for their knowledge of the coming of Marduk: The Day of the Lord [pp. 220-221, 362]. According to Velikovsky, these prophets lived at the time of the Mars-Earth events. Their words were inspired by the tradition of past cosmic catastrophes and the imminent close passages of Mars. If Worlds in Collision and The Twelfth Planet are mutually exclusive, the prophets' allusions, by their nature, are incapable of distinguishing between them. However, as shown below, we do not need the prophets to tell us whether or not Marduk came on The Day of the Lord.
As fascinating and seemingly fertile as Sitchin's scenario is, his presentation possesses, in addition to the biological problems alluded to above, significant astronomical and logical problems. The first one this reviewer identified is that, assuming with Sitchin a passage at 3,800 B.C. [p. 367], the presumed 200 B.C. passage is neither attested by tradition nor mentioned by Sitchin. In a letter, Sitchin deigned to ignore this query. Furthermore, how did the Nefilim, who evolved long after Marduk fought Tiamat, know what happened on Marduk's first two passages? These points might be sufficient to dissuade some; but considering the voluminous presentation of purported evidence and the novel interpretation, additional astronomical and logical ramifications deserve discussion to indicate the scope of the book's deficiencies in just this limited area.
Although the author is not an astronomer, he did consult with a doctor of aeronautics and engineering [p. 253] who presumably should have caught some of the simple errors. Perigee and apogee [applying to Earth-focused orbits] are used consistently instead of the proper perihelion and aphelion [applying to Sun-focused orbits].
Correct generic terms, if this is the source of the confusion, would be periapsis and apoapsis or pericenter and apocenter, although correct astronomical usage would dictate the -helion usage for planetary orbits. In one place, apogee is erroneously used when perihelion is clearly intended [p. 223]. Sitchin indicates that Earth's seasons derive from its distance from the Sun instead of the Earth's axial tilt [p. 209].
The size of Marduk's orbit is intimately related to the plausibility of Sitchin's thesis regarding life on it. Yet Sitchin appears ignorant of the true extent of Marduk's orbit. By Kepler's Third Law, the inferred 3600 year period determines the size of the orbit. Using the accepted approximation a³ = p² where "a" is the semi-major axis in Astronomical Units [an AU is the Earth-Sun distance] and "p" is the period in Earth years and assuming a perihelion at 3 AU, Marduk's aphelion would be 467 AU or almost twelve times the mean distance of Pluto from the Sun. While Sitchin never states the aphelion distance for Marduk, he does say: "The fact is that even an orbit half as long as the lower figure for Kohoutek [7,500 years] would take the Twelfth Planet about six times farther away from us than Pluto . . ." [p. 224]. From the above procedure for 3,750 years, the correct multiple is 12.5. Adding to the confusion, the two relevant diagrams, Figures 111 on p. 217 and 125 on p. 253, imply an aphelion for Marduk at 30 AU, inside the true orbit of Pluto. Figure 111 shows Marduk's aphelion only four times farther from Earth's orbit than Pluto's indicated orbit. At the least, the size of Marduk's orbit should be presented accurately, or the distortion noted.
Sitchin posits life evolving on a planet orbiting the Sun between 3 AU and 467 AU sooner than on Earth whose environment appears much more favorable at first glance. Acknowledging this situation, Sitchin informs us that Marduk is kept warm by heat from radioactive decay retained by an insulating atmosphere. The lack of light at remote distances for photosynthesis is not addressed. Perhaps advanced life proceeded from mushroom-like stock? Marduk is a massive planet, but just how massive is never specified. The cylinder seal mentioned above implies Jovian size. An article in the February 1979 Eastwest Journal approvingly mentions three to five Earth masses. This is based upon unrelated work on a hypothetical Planet X done at the U. S. Naval Observatory which is, nonetheless, cited as supporting Sitchin's thesis. Having reviewed Sitchin's book in June 1977, the follow-up article and Sitchin's lecture to the East West Foundation last fall are indicative of serious consideration by some segments of our culture who would better dedicate their energies investigating the ramifications of Velikovsky's polymathic lifework.
Marduk allegedly entered the solar system on a retrograde orbit. This is supposedly supported by the statement "The order of passage - first by Neptune, then by Uranus - indicates that Marduk was coming into the solar system not in the system's orbital direction . . ." [p. 200]. However, the conclusion in no way follows necessarily from the statement. Perhaps it is forced by the desire to have a head on collision between Marduk and Tiamat instead of a less energetic over-taking collision. The retrograde orbit supposedly explains the retrograde orbits of some comets [p. 205]. The quotation above illustrates another problem, namely, that whenever Marduk crosses another planet's orbit, the text usually implies that Marduk meets that planet. This would be an extremely improbable recurring chain of events. With so many perturbations by close encounters, Marduk's period would hardly remain constant at 3,600 years.
Gravitation is called upon to do Herculean tasks, such as pulling moons out of Marduk as he passes Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter and out of Tiamat during Marduk's first passage [pp. 200-203]. Since distances and masses are never specified, and the bodies were presumably in a plastic state, this is difficult to challenge on grounds other than plausibility. However, gravity was supposedly responsible for the Noachian Flood dated at 13,000 B.P. The Nefilim decided to destroy mankind by withholding their knowledge that the next passage of Marduk would dislodge the increasingly unstable Antarctic icecap [a warming trend had begun], triggering immense tidal waves and violent storms [pp. 357 & 359]. This is very implausible because, under the most favorable conditions of Marduk's passing Earth at a distance of 2 AU, the tidal effect of Marduk [assumed 5 Earth masses] on the Earth would be about one millionth the mean tidal effect of the Moon on the Earth. Also, Marduk's effect on the Earth would have been about one hundred thousandth of the difference between the mean and maximum lunar effect.
Marduk's passage would have had insignificant tidal effect on Earth unless Sitchin can show that Marduk passed much closer, the distance being more effective than mass for tide raising; and this explanation for the Flood directly conflicts with Velikovsky's hypothesis that it was associated with a disturbance in Saturn. Sitchin's scenario also contains a gravitational anomaly in that, according to his interpretation of his sources, the Nefilim were fearful only of the passage by Saturn and relieved by the sight of Jupiter which is now 3.3 times as massive. Although this would possibly fit the pre-Deluge situation in the Velikovskian scenario, such comparisons are futile because Sitchin's model contains Venus from the primordial beginning.
In conclusion, although The Twelfth Planet is fascinating reading for the imagination it displays, the events it describes are beset by many physical problems militating against its validity.