The mysteries of ancient flying machines

The mystery of human flight has always attracted attention and aroused the interest of many. However, it is not only in our time that people dreamed of the possibility to take off into the sky. Already in ancient times there were legends and myths about flight, which make us think about what people did in the past centuries, when they wanted to fly as much as we do.

In the ancient Indian manuscript “Samaranga Sutradhara”, it talks about numerous human flights by means of apparatuses called vimanas. The word “vimana” comes from a Sanskrit concept meaning “celestial chariot”. Vimanas were made of metal and their sheets were carefully fitted together by welding. A “controlled fire from steel vessels” was used for propulsion. Interestingly, vimanas had a distinctive sound similar to the roar of a lion, and the traveler inside the vimana was described as a “pearl in the sky.” It appears that thirty-two “secrets” had to be known to operate such vehicles.

In an Indian manuscript, the Vimanika Shastra, which was found in an Indian temple in 1875 (a treatise written in the fourth century B.C.) which was a practical manual for building and operating vimanas. It described in more detail the flying machines and the instruments on them that served as camera, radar, searchlight and others.

Apparently, these devices used energy from the sun. There are also descriptions of various kinds of weapons, and with destructive power. Curiously, quite a lot of space in the treatise is given to the description of the pilots’ clothing and even their diet. Vimanas were also described in more famous Indian epics – in “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata”. The latter epic alone contains forty-one places where they are mentioned. By the way, the vimanas are not only mentioned in ancient texts, there is also their image in the caves of the temple of Elolor in India.

As for metal, a special chapter was devoted to it in the treatise. Three kinds of metals were mentioned: saundalika, maurthvika and somaka. There was also talk of alloys that could withstand very high temperatures. Another chapter was devoted to optics – mirrors and lenses that could be mounted aboard vimanas for visual observations. There were seven of these. One was called the “Pinjula Mirror” and was designed to protect pilots’ eyes from the blinding “devil rays” of the enemy.

There were also seven energy sources that propelled the vimanas, and they could be used as if in turn, switching the engine from one energy to another. The vimanas themselves were of four types: Rukma Vimana, Sundara Vimana, Tripura Vimana and Shakuna Vimana. The first two are conical in shape and have three “tiers”, with the second having room for passengers. Tripura Vimana is a larger “airplane”, which can also be used as an underwater vehicle. The Shakuna Vimana is the most technically and structurally complex.

All four types had vertical takeoff and could, among other things, hover in the air like airships and make a zigzag flight. Curiously, the treatise not only describes the “airplanes” but also safety rules – precautions for long flights, protection against lightning and storms, etc. The ancient Hindus flew their vimanas not only over India, but also all over Asia and, according to ancient texts, even over the ocean.

Similar texts have been found in Pakistan’s Mohenjo-Daro, on Easter Island, and in China. The Chinese documents are very interesting. They can even be seen as a sort of historical chronicle of experimental aviation. The “youngest” ones date back to 2000 BC. In one such document, I read that in 1766 B.C., Emperor Cheng Tang ordered the construction of a flying machine, and it was built. However, he later ordered it to be destroyed. Apparently, he was afraid that the secret of flight would fall into the hands of other nations. Very interesting are the descriptions of the poet Chu Yun, who lived in the 3rd century BC. He described a flying machine on which he personally flew over the Gobi desert. There are also descriptions of flying machines in the oral folklore of the peoples of Nepal. Nepalese epics say that the secrets of flight were known only to the so-called javanas – light-skinned people from the east of the Mediterranean. Apparently, we are talking, among others, about ancient Hellenes, in whose myths, except for the myth of Icarus, there are other mentions of human flights with the help of some aids. There are mentions of flying on flying machines in ancient Babylon as well.

The ancient Babylonian code of law “Halqata”, for example, states that “to fly a flying machine is a great privilege. Knowledge of flight is one of the most ancient, it is a gift of the gods of antiquity, intended to save lives”. There are mentions of flying machines in the ancient Babylonian “Epic of Ethan”, written two and a half thousand years BC. There, however, it is said that the Sumerian king flew on the back of a giant eagle. It is not known whether it was an eagle – now extinct giant tame bird or with the eagle the authors of the epic compared the airplane – but another thing is remarkable: the epic describes what the person flying on the “eagle” saw from above. And it is described in a way that would be impossible to describe even from the highest tree or rock: it mentions atmospheric haze, perspective distortions, colored mosaic of fields sown with different crops, thread rivers and many other things that I, a pilot, constantly saw from the cockpit of the plane. These descriptions are similar to the verbal portrait of the terrain that we used to make in the school, flying over different landscapes.

“Columbia airplane” is one of the most interesting finds, confirming that in ancient times people knew how to fly. “Colombian airplane” is a gold four-centimeter figurine. More precisely, it is not one, they are a whole squadron – such figures found thirty-three pieces! These finds were made in the XIX century, not only in Colombia, but also in Peru, Costa Rica and Venezuela, which indicates their wide distribution. They are usually dated between 500 and 800 B.C., but it is notoriously difficult to determine the exact age of gold pieces, and dating can be inaccurate. The figurines took their place in museums, and for a long time they were considered zoomorphic images.

They were considered so until the first third of the last century, because people simply had nothing to compare them with – airplanes had not been invented yet! But when they were invented, they saw that although the appearance of these figures is different, the common feature is the basic design of the airplane with horizontal and vertical keel plumage. The most interesting thing is that the first to draw attention to this similarity was not the pilot, but the jeweler Emmanuel Staub. Skeptics continue to argue that these “airplanes” are nothing but images of long extinct animals.

They think so because many of the “airplanes” depict eyes, toothy mouths. However, experts, including the famous American biologist, writer and naturalist, famous for works on cryptozoology and Bigfoot, Terence Sanderson, to whom Staub sent a copy of the “airplane”, say that they can in no way be identified with any of the known to science representatives of both fossil and modern fauna of the planet.

On the simple grounds that no bird has no vertical plumage on the tail! Scientists did not rest on this and decided to involve aviation experts in the case. They were sent copies of figurines, and all experts from different countries, not knowing each other, in one voice said that before them models of airplanes. The aviation experts identified the cockpit, fuselage, wings, stabilizers, and keel in the figures.

In 1956, the “Colombian airplane” and its “brethren” were exhibited at the exhibition “The Gold of Pre-Columbian America” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Aircraft designers of one American company immediately drew attention to the deltoid wing of this figure and the vertical plane of the tail feathering. That’s what Sanderson was talking about. They somehow agreed with the directorate of the exhibition and tested the “airplane” in a wind tunnel. Suddenly it turned out that the “airplane” behaves best at supersonic speeds, the study of which was in full swing. We began to think about why, and came to the conclusion that the “fault” deltoid wing and high vertical plane tailplane. Specialists from the company’s design bureau were involved, and as a result, the best supersonic airplane of that period was created. The firm was called Lockheed.

It seems to me that these planes, helicopters, Colombian, Indian, Egyptian and others are the legacy of an ancient, lost somewhere earthly civilization. By the way, historian William Deitch believed that Tutankhamun died as a result of an airplane crash. By the way, many Egyptian mummies had bone damage, which can only be obtained by falling from a great height. And the image of a helicopter in an ancient Egyptian temple! Until the helicopter was invented in our time, the images of these flying machines were considered meaningless icons, or rather, could not decipher. They were discovered as early as 1848 in the temple of Seti the First in Abydos. Images of “helicopters” were located directly above the entrance to the temple, almost under the very ceiling, at a height of about ten meters. In this temple in general, there were a lot of mysterious images that stumped Egyptologists. In the XIX century, they were considered ancient mechanisms, and only in our time, scientists have come to the conclusion that it is a picture of helicopters, and data in different angles.

Aviators clearly distinguish the fuselage, the propeller, the blades, and the tail plumage. Next to helicopters were found images of other aircraft, surprisingly similar to modern supersonic fighters and heavy strategic bombers. It turns out that the ancient Egyptians used combat aviation?

In Egypt, by the way, they found a “brother” of the Colombian airplane. It was found in the burial of Pa di Ilmen, in the tomb of Zadoiag in 1898. The age of the find is determined by two thousand years. “Airplane” is exhibited in the Cairo Museum of History. It is small, centimeters fifteen in length, made of very strong and hard wood. It is very similar to the Columbian figurines, with the same wings and vertical keel plumage. The scientist Khalil Messiha in 1969 equipped an exact replica of the wooden figurine with a motor and propeller. As a result, the model was able to reach a speed of 105 kilometers per hour. Then, after the test, Egyptologists began digging through the museum’s vaults and found fourteen more similar ancient Egyptian “airplanes”.

What conclusion can be drawn from all this?

It is difficult to assume that people who lived in different times and in different places, give the same descriptions, conspiring. The aviation of the ancients existed, and it was very desirable that its study was engaged not by lone researchers, and created special research institutes. It is time to face the truth and admit that we know nothing of our history. Or rather – we do not want to know….

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