Along the Niger River in the country of Mali, in West Africa, live a people known as the Dogon. They trace their lineage in part to ancient Egypt. For the first one thousand years of our common era (C.E.), the Dogon were part of the great sub-Saharan African empire that was centered in the city of Timbuktu, which is on the northeast edge of Dogon lands. Timbuktu was a center of learning and its libraries hold over 700,000 manuscripts to this day. The Dogon are star watchers, and have an astronomical tradition that extends back 5,000 years.
The star Sirius is the brightest star in the winter Northern Hemisphere sky. It has been seen by humans for many centuries. Sirius is only 8.6 light years away (almost in our neighborhood). You can easily find Sirius by locating the belt of Orion (appearing as a straight line of three stars) and extending that line with your eyes down toward the horizon.
According to Dogon traditions, Sirius also has a companion star that orbits around it every 50 years, and it is extremely dense. This ancient legend was told to two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germain Dieterlen, by Dogon holy men in 1931 during the scientist’s field research in Mali. One Dogon religious sect has been conducting a celebration of the two Sirius stars since the 13th Century, and have four hundred year-old artifacts representing the position of these stars.
What makes this story remarkable is that the second Sirius star is invisible to the naked eye and wasn’t seen by telescope until 1865. How could the Dogon people, who lacked any kind of astronomical equipment, know so much about an invisible star? Western astronomers named the first bright star “Sirius A” and the small white dwarf companion star “Sirius B.” Sirius B was first photographed in 1970, and by the way, it orbits around Sirius A every 50 years.
The oral traditions of the Dogon tell the story of a race of beings from the Sirius star system who visited Earth thousands of years ago. They were called the Nommos, and were amphibious beings (resembling mermaids). They were drawn here by the abundance of water. Creatures similar to this also exist in Babylonian and Sumerian myths. As mentioned earlier, the Dogon had ties with ancient Egypt where The Goddess Isis is closely linked to the star Sirius. The Nommos gave knowledge about the Sirius system to the Dogon as well as other information about our solar system which wasn’t learned scientifically until thousands of years later. This included the facts that Jupiter had four major moons and Saturn had rings (not learned until 1610 by Galileo). More importantly, they learned that our system’s planets orbit the sun.
The stories told by the Dogon did not go unchallenged. Some anthropologists believed that information was inadvertently passed on to the Dogon just prior to the many French research expeditions and was simply incorporated into their older traditions. Other Dogon beliefs have been proven wrong. Their tradition says that Sirius B (that they call Digitaria) was once located where our sun is now, which is not possible. Other critics say that the Dogon celebrations that observe the orbit of one Sirius star around the other are 60 years apart, not 50 (the actual time required). But their criticism is not factual as the celebrations themselves last for several years. There are actually 50 years between the end of one and the beginning of the next. Their next celebration begins in 2027.
There are four basic explanations for the Dogon revelations. First, ancient extraterrestrials did visit Earth and give them the knowledge. Second, Dogon culture was cross-contaminated by western science. Third, the Dogon had ancient human-based technical knowledge to discover the Sirius system configuration, but that it has been lost over time. And last, it’s all just a big coincidence.
But that may not be the end of the story. Dogon legend says that there is a third star in the Sirius system (a “Sirius C”?). There was no proof at the time the Dogon controversy first became public, but in 1995 an academic paper was published by two French researchers, Benest and Duvent, that suggests that, based on observations of the movements in the Sirius system, there may be a third star. It could be a “red dwarf” star of very small size. The Dogon believe the home planet of the Nommos orbits around this star.
Could this be just another coincidence, or will the story continue on?