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The Sirius Mystery  
Author Robert K. G. Temple
Country United States
Language English
Publication date 1976
ISBN ISBN 0-09-925744-0
OCLC Number 60154574

The Sirius Mystery is a book by Robert K. G. Temple first published in 1976. It presents the hypothesis that the Dogon people of Mali, west Africa, preserve a tradition of contact with intelligent extraterrestrial beings from the Sirius star-system.[1]

These beings, who are hypothesized to have taught the arts of civilization to humans, are claimed in the book to have originated the systems of the Pharaohs of Egypt, the mythology of Greek civilization, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and so on. Temple's theory was heavily based on his interpretation of the work of ethnographers Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. A substantial bulk of The Sirius Mystery consists of comparative linguistic and mythological scholarship, pointing out resemblances among Dogon, Egyptian and Sumerian beliefs and symbols. Greek and Arab myths and words are considered to a lesser extent.

The “mystery” that is central to the book is how the Dogon allegedly acquired knowledge of Sirius B, the invisible companion star of Sirius A. Temple did not argue that the only way that the Dogon could have obtained what he understood to be accurate information on Sirius B was by contact with an advanced civilization; he considered alternative possibilities, such as a very ancient, advanced, and lost civilization that was behind the sudden appearance of advanced civilization in both Egypt and Sumeria. He personally found the theory of alien contact more convincing, but he did not claim certainty about it.

However, serious doubts have been raised about the reliability of Griaule and Dieterlein's work on which The Sirius Mystery is based[2][3], and alternative explanations have been proposed. The basis claims about Dogon astronomical challenge have been challenged. For instance, the anthropologist Walter Van Beek who studied the Dogon after Griaule and Dieterlen found no evidence that the Dogon considered Sirius to be a double star and or that astronomy was particularly important in their belief system.[4]


Reviews of claims


Carl Sagan

Astronomer Carl Sagan touched upon the issue in his book Broca's Brain (1979), seeing problems in Temple's hypothesis. As an example, Sagan believes that because the Dogon seem to have no knowledge of another planet beyond Saturn which has rings, that their knowledge is therefore more likely to have come from European, and not extraterrestrial, sources. This conjecture, however, has never been proven.

Ian Ridpath

In 1978, Astronomer Ian Ridpath observed, in an article in the Skeptical Inquirer, "The whole Dogon legend of Sirius and its companions is riddled with ambiguities, contradictions, and downright errors, at least if we try to interpret it literally".[5] Ridpath stated that while the information that the Dogon probably gained from Europeans to some extent resembles the facts about Sirius, the presumed original Dogon knowledge on the star is very far from the facts. Ridpath concluded that the information that resembles the facts about Sirius was probably ascertained by way of cultural contamination. More recent research suggests that the contaminator was Griaule himself.[3]

James Oberg

Journalist and skeptic James Oberg collected claims that have appeared concerning Dogon mythology in his 1982 book.[6] According to Oberg, the Dogon's astronomical information resembles the knowledge and speculations of European astronomical knowledge of the late 1920s. The Dogon could have gotten their astronomical knowledge, including the information on Sirius, from European visitors before their mythology was recorded in the 1930s. Oberg also points out that the Dogons were not an isolated tribe, and thus it was not even necessary for outsiders to inform the Dogon about Sirius B. They could very well have acquired such knowledge abroad, passing it on to their tribe later. (Sirius B was first observed in 1862, and had been predicted in 1844 on dynamic grounds. However, Oberg does concede that such assumptions of recent acquisition is "entirely circumstantial" and has no foundation in documented evidence. In this way, by the time Griaule visited the Dogon they had had a great deal of contact with the western world and had time to incorporate Sirius B into their religion.

Unproven claims

One unproven aspect of the reported Dogon knowledge of the Sirius system is the assertion that the Dogon knew of another star in the Sirius system, Emme Ya, or "larger than Sirius B but lighter and dim in magnitude". A dynamical study published in 1995 concluded that the presence of a third star orbiting Sirius could not be ruled out.[7] However, recent searches have failed to find either a third star or a planet in orbit around Sirius. An apparent "third star" observed in the 1920s is now confirmed as a background object.[8]

Temple's book and the debates that followed its release publicized the existence of the Dogon tribe among many New Age followers and proponents of ancient astronaut theories. Speculation about the Dogon on numerous websites is now mingled with fact, leading to wide misunderstanding among the public about Dogon mythology. Temple, however, has stated in the reprint of The Sirius Mystery (1999) that he in no way supports cults that have been inspired by his book.

See also


  1. ^ Sheppard, R.Z. (August 2, 1976), "Worlds in Collusion", Time (magazine),,9171,914468,00.html  
  2. ^ Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano. "The Dogon Revisited" (HTML). Retrieved 2007-10-13.  
  3. ^ a b Philip Coppens. "Dogon Shame" (HTML). Retrieved 2007-10-13.  
  4. ^ Holberg, Jay B. Sirius Springer 2007 ISBN 978-0387489414 p176 [1]
  5. ^ Ian Ridpath, Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1978
  6. ^ James Oberg, "Chapter 6, The Sirius Mystery", in UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries, (1982) Donning Press
  7. ^ Benest, D., & Duvent, J. L. (1995) "Is Sirius a triple star?". Astronomy and Astrophysics 299: 621-628
  8. ^ Bonnet-Bidaud, J. M.; Pantin, E. (October 2008). "ADONIS high contrast infrared imaging of Sirius-B". Astronomy and Astrophysics 489: 651–655. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078937. Retrieved 2009-02-16.  

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