Zecharia Sitchin (1920-2010) was born in Russia and grew up in Palestine where he studied ancient Semitic languages and became one of the few to master the reading of the cuneiform writing of the Sumerians. After studying at the London School of Economics he took up a career in journalism. There are some questions regarding his academic credentials that were briefly explored by Frank Dörnenburg(g).
Then Sitchin began to develop his theory of ancient astronauts visiting earth in the past from the planet Nibiru (Planet X) and their colonisation of territory in what is now part of Iraq and the genetic manipulation of humans there. He based his theories on his interpretation of Sumerian cuneiform tablets. He also claimed that Nibiru had an orbit that took it to the outer reaches of the solar system and would return soon.
The late Alan F. Alford was initially an enthusiastic supporter of Sitchin’s ancient astronaut ideas but later recanted(k).
Understandably, his ideas provoked a storm of controversy that lasted until his death and after. For my part, I cannot understand how a race capable of space travel did not teach the Sumerian ancestors a writing system better than cuneiform and a medium better than clay tablets. Furthermore, the idea that the climate of a planet with such an unusual orbit could support the development of an advanced race capable of surviving the consequent extremes of temperature, is something I also find hard to comprehend.
>In the late 1990s, the debate raged with many like Willard Van de Bogart who thought that “The work of Zechariah Sitchin is without question the most mind-stretching cosmology to date. Furthermore, it appears unchallengeable academically(t)“ On the other hand Rob Hafernik sums up Sitchin as being “just another nut making a living selling books that treat folks to a tale they want to believe in(u).”<
Ian Lawton, the British researcher, wrote a rebuttal of Sitchin’s theories ten years ago(a). Further refutation came from Dörnenburg as well as on the PaleoBabble website(b) of Michael S. Heiser(e), a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. Heiser has another website with the blunt title of sitchiniswrong.com, which includes an overview of what he perceives as Sitchin’s errors(l).
Peter James commenting on Sitchin wrote that “He uses the Epic of Creation Enuma Elish as the foundation for his cosmogony, identifying the young god Marduk, who overthrows the older regime of gods and creates the Earth, as the unknown ‘Twelfth Planet’. In order to do this he interprets the Babylonian theogony as a factual account of the birth of the other eleven planets. The Babylonian names for the planets are established beyond a shadow of a doubt—Ishtar was the deity of Venus, Nergal of Mars, and Marduk of Jupiter—and confirmed by hundreds of astronomical/astrological tables and treatises on clay tablets and papyri from the Hellenistic period. Sitchin merrily ignores all this and assigns unwarranted planetary identities to the gods mentioned in the theogony. For example, Apsu, attested as the god of the primeval waters, becomes, of all things, the Sun! Ea, as it suits Sitchin, is sometimes planet Neptune and sometimes a spaceman. And the identity of Ishtar as the planet Venus, a central feature of Mesopotamian religion, is nowhere mentioned in the book—instead Sitchin arbitrarily assigns to Venus another deity from Enuma Elish, and reserves Ishtar for a role as a female astronaut.“(r)
In late 2017 and early 2018, a two-part article(i)(j) by two young researchers, Jason Jarrell and Sarah Farmer added further criticism of Sitchin’s linguistic capabilities.>Later in 2018, Jarrell & Farmer published a third follow-up article(s).<On March 13th, 2018, Clyde Winters also published on the same website a further refutation of Sitchin’s ‘ancient astronaut’ interpretation of the Sumerian seals.
In 2021, Jarrell & Farmer had their two-part article about the Anunnaki recycled by Ancient Origins(m)(n), in which they again concluded “that rather than making the Anunnaki the equivalent of the “Elohim” who created man in the Book of Genesis; they should more properly be compared to the Nephilim and the fallen angels described in Genesis Chapter 6, 1 Enoch, and other extra-biblical texts.”
Additional scathing criticism came from a Christian website claiming that Sitchin had an agenda coloured by his association with the Masonic Order!
Jason Colavito has also drawn attention(c) to the probability that Sitchin drew on the work of the British Assyriologist, George Smith (1840-1876), but distorted Smith’s conclusions to bolster his own theories.
Sitchin did not address the question of Atlantis directly until 2004 when he devoted a chapter of The Earth Chronicles Expeditions +, where he considered the Minoan Hypothesis and found it wanting. He did not propose any specific location but suggested that there was a possible transatlantic connection. In the same chapter three, he discusses at some length the Phaistos Disk and a possible association with Atlantis! However, his broader views did find favour with a number of fringe Atlantis commentators such as the late Rob Solarion, Andrews and Zeitlmair.
Another follower of Sitchin, Thomas Ashmore, has suggested that some of the Annunaki ‘gods’ were exiled to Scandinavia where their deeds were preserved in Norse mythology(d). Further support came from William L. Saylor in a series of articles(o).
Some of Sitchin’s other books such as The Twelfth Planet + and Genesis Revisited + are available online. In 2015, Sitchin’s niece, Janet Sitchin included some previously unpublished material of her uncle in The Annunaki Chronicles. A rather negative review(h) was offered by essayist Noel Rooney.
J. Douglas Kenyon, the editor of Atlantis Rising magazine, wrote a review (Issue 5) of Sitchin’s work and its reception by both the public and professionals.
As of December 2022, Sitchin’s website was still live.(q)
(d) Nexus, Dec 2013/Jan 2014, (p.41)
(g) See Archive 2909
(h) Fortean Times FT342, July 2016 (p.59)
(k) https://www.eridu.co.uk (link broken July 2018)
(r) Fortean Times No. 27 (Nov. 1978) & SIS Workshop No. 7, vol. 2, no. 2 (Nov. 1979)