The news hit me yesterday like an atom bomb: Zecharia Sitchin is Dead. Everyone, including myself, was shocked, but the guy was ninety years old. Sitchin seemed timeless, ageless, exempt from death, more of a force or a fixture than a mere mortal. As it turns out, he passed away earlier this month but few knew about it until it was finally announced on the official Sitchin site:
The family asks that you respect its privacy during this difficult time and refrain from contacting family members directly. Instead, to offer tributes to Mr. Sitchin or to contact those handling his affairs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to P.O. Box 577, New York, NY 10185.
Far from simply succumbing to senescence, "old age", or so-called "natural causes", Sitchin was still extremely active at 90 and published a new book just a few months ago. It was apparently lingering complications from an "acute abdominal problem" in July that did his physical shell in.
It's rather difficult for me to enunciate a general summary of Sitchin's work, since its tentacles extend to virtually all aspects of life, and since I disagree vehemently with portions of it even as I champion other portions. And those conflicting portions are so intermixed, that even discussing and debating it can be, as Russell Long once said of the JFK assassination mess, "like pickin' gnat shit out of pepper."
Unlike many armchair researchers (like, say, Erich Von Daniken), Sitchin actually travelled extensively and was out there in the field, mixing the map and the message. On one of his "Earth Chronicles Expeditions", he actually visited Phaestos, the city where the Phaestos Disc was unearthed, and made some fascinating discoveries of his own. No, far from being the charlatan that internet negativists sometimes accused him of being, Sitchin was the real deal, and did more hands-on archaeology than some archaeologists I know.
On the other hand, Sitchin did promote a convoluted mythology involving the Anunnaki, a race of extra-terrestrials from a planet beyond Neptune called Nibiru. According to Sitchin, the planet Nibiru (or "Planet X") has a severely elliptical orbit in our own Solar System, and makes return visits to us with a long periodicity. Sitchin insisted that the ancient Sumerian culture - which in turn could be said to be the cradle of all subsequent civilization - was created by the Anunnaki, who were also supposedly the same entities as the Biblical Nephilim and the Islamic Jinn.
Wikipedia says: "Sitchin's speculations have been ridiculed by professional scientists, historians, and archaeologists, who note many problems with his translations of ancient texts and categorize his work as pseudohistory and pseudoscience." And that's true enough, but you know and I know that some of the greatest achievements of our lifetime have been labeled "pseudoscience" by the ignoble intelligentsia. The halls of the non-existent museum of pseudoscience are littered with inventions and ideas that really worked, independently of the skeptics who seek to supress puzzle pieces that don't fit their idea of what the big jigsaw puzzle is supposed to be depicting.
Me, I applaud Sitchin's research on its own merits and for its own sake; the puzzling evidence is patently obvious, but Sitchin and I simply differed on how to interpret that evidence. This in no way invalidates the subject itself - I simply prefer to leave most of the blanks unfilled-in and unknown for now, while Sitchin tended to abhor a vacuum every bit as much as the rationalist-skeptics who attacked him, and would fill in the blanks of any unknowns he encountered with a theory to explain them away. Sitchin was rarely heard to say "I just don't know" or "I have no idea what this might mean."
Of course, the Sumerians aren't here to contradict us. They didn't even call themselves Sumerians - they called themselves ùĝ saĝ gíg-ga ("ung sang giga"), which roughly translates as "men with black heads". The terms "Sumer" and "Sumerian" didn't come about, to be retroactively applied, until thousands of years later!
For better or for worse, Sitchin's work has influenced or inspired a whole raft of other para-cosmologies, from The Raelians to The Nuwaubians to David Icke to Nancy Lieder and the Zetas. To his credit, Sitchin took great pains to distance himself from the most rabid of the internet's doom-hungry legions who constantly claim that Nibiru will destroy Earth either in 2012 or any day now. As is so often the case, the problem is not with the originator of an idea or a philosophy, but with demented individuals who appropriate that material and misuse it. The best thing you can do is not to read about Sitchin (this blog post included), but go read what Sitchin himself wrote.
Sitchin's most important work ever was in progress at the time of his passing. In his new book, he proposes that the ancient Sumerian Puabi was an alien goddess whose 4500-year-old skeletal remains may still contain DNA from her alien race. And he was in the process of mounting the "Goddess of Ur Genome Project", an effort to test that DNA and prove that aliens seeded humanity. Perhaps his death will spur his devotees to spearhead this testing through - and posthumously prove him right.
"And of His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the living creatures that He has spread out in them. He has the power to bring them together when He so wills." (Ash-Shura 42:29)