Prometheus – Conclusions Part I

As promised, I would now like to talk about many open questions, some of them obvious, some of them not so obvious. By discussing these questions in the next two sections, my belief is that we could tie up the loose ends that would give us a complete picture and aid us in determining the movie’s progression in its second part. In the previous eleven sections I have attempted to talk about every scene in detail and have spent considerable amount of time talking about how modern day science could help us with the analysis. Right now though, we have to ponder over things that could be hypothetical at best. Nevertheless, the movie provides us a lot of clues to help us arrive at such a hypothesis. So, without further ado, let us start.

What we know for sure is that the engineers engineered life on earth. The key word here is engineered, and not intervened with already evolving life. Throughout the development of modern humans, they have visited us frequently, the oldest evidence of their visit dating back to 35,000 years. Almost every description, symbolized by cave paintings and other visuals of their visit shows them pointing towards a particular star system, interpreted by many archaeologists and anthropologists as an invitation for us to come there. Years into the future, a star system exactly similar to the map is found and we learn that the object that they are pointing toward in every painting is the moon, LV 223. But, what Prometheus finds on LV 223 in 2093 is pure hell, to put it in the lightest term. The entire crew is dead, except for one human survivor and an android.

Engineers’ Transition – From Sacrifice to Batshit Crazy

Teed off engineer - Copyright 20th Century Fox

Teed off engineer – Copyright 20th Century Fox

During my analysis earlier, I wrote that when the engineers had invited us years ago to LV 223, their intentions could have been very different, perhaps even benevolent. I also theorized that they could have wanted to show us how life could be engineered. Our visit to LV 223 would have proved that we are almost at the apex of evolution and that time has come to learn the truth – about our own existence, our creators, and how to engineer life. But, we screwed up something big time that eventually led the engineers to take another look at us and go, “Let’s smoke these morons out until kingdom come!”. The developments in the movie suggests that they were gunning for total annihilation of the human race to create another sophisticated being and so, such a huge emotional outburst tells us that they were more than offended by what we did!

The Event!

To analyze the shift in the engineers’ mentality, one has to look closely at human history on earth. But first, based on the star maps (7 in total) we know that the engineers had visited many ancient civilizations – Egyptian, Mayan, Sumerian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, etc., and showed them all the same star map (One of the things though is the fact that Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations are different eras of Mesopotamian cultures). As Holloway put it, these civilizations couldn’t have had contact with each other and were separated by centuries and hence, the discovery of the same star map during different time periods is an indication of engineers’ communication. In addition, they were looked upon as Gods.

The fact that the engineers were fine with the ancient civilizations tells us that they were absolutely fine with their belief systems. It also helped that humans saw them as gods. Nevertheless, it would be alright to assume that they were fine with our other religious beliefs. Their hate for us began much much later. That’s why I think it makes sense to talk a bit about Mesopotamian religions. I have already talked about one of the creation myths of ancient Egypt while discussing the mural and hence, we don’t have to talk about Egyptian religions in detail again.

Since Mesopotamia covers both Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, I would like to talk about both of them together. Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) as you know is considered the cradle of civilization and was the first culture to develop cities with elaborate streets and street grid designs, water distribution, sewage systems and other engineering tasks. (It is a pity that a region like Mesopotamia with such a history is in such a bad shape today. The same holds true for Egypt. I think my good friend Caroline Seawright said right – “Very sad. One dictator swapped for another when all the people want is freedom”. Something tells me that the pharaohs must be rolling over in their graves). In addition, the Sumerians are credited with developing the art of writing, for their contributions to early mathematics amongst many other things that served as the foundation for the further development of human race.

In my opinion, their religious beliefs also show a level of sophistication. Let us do a brief review of religion in Mesopotamia. It is said that no specific records detailing Mesopotamian creation myth have been found yet. But, modern scholars have examined clues from other documents and have arrived at a partially accurate description of Mesopotamian creation mythology. In the Epic of Creation, dated to 1200 BCE, it explains that the god Marduk killed the mother goddess Tiamat and used half her body to create the earth. He used the other half to create both paradise and the netherworld, known as šamû and isrsitu, respectively.

Marduk slaying Tiamat - From Wikipedia

Marduk slaying Tiamat – From Wikipedia

A common element in both ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian religion was polytheism. This is a key factor because it leads to to the acceptance of the existence of other deities. In ancient Mesopotamia, I can believe in a god who is different than say, your god. We would not be arguing about it. Both of us would acknowledge the fact that there are many gods and you believe what you want to. In addition, there were both male and female deities. They also subscribed to a henotheistic philosophy, with certain gods considered more powerful than the others by the specific group that prays to that god. I don’t think there is any record from that time that would suggest a religious discord amongst the people of ancient Mesopotamia. In ancient Egypt, I know that Akhenaten’s beliefs were found to be extreme and many priests in his time were pissed off with him. Just to be sure, I consulted Caroline Seawright for details. She gave me the following answer:

The major clash in religious belief that I can think of off the top of my head was Akhenaten vs the cult of Amen. It wasn’t really a war, per se, but he did eventually shut them (and the related Theban cults) all down. His own henotheistic religion was quite abnormal, as the royal family was suddenly at the centre stage of the religion – the Aten was inaccessible. He was generally fine with other cosmologies, though – he equated himself with Shu, and Nefertiti with Tefnut. I guess he equated (or replaced) Ra with the Aten, but not sure on that point.

In addition, there were patron deities, which means that some gods were city-state specific and they were worshipped by devotees from a particular city. There are many examples of such gods in ancient Mesopotamia, but I don’t think I have to mention them all here. The wiki article on Mesopotamian religion is pretty exhaustive in this regard. It is estimated that there were nearly 2400 gods, with most of them bearing Sumerian names. The gods were anthropomorphic, thereby possessing a humanoid form. Just like us, they required food and drink. There was occasional drunkenness on display as well. In most cases, the deities were related to each other and hence, were part of a big family. This is another common trait in polytheistic religions.

One of the most important of these early deities was the god Enlil, viewed as  the king of gods and controlled everything in the world. Another was the Sumerian god Ea, who was very similar to Enlil and became known as Anu. Much later, in 18th century BCE, the king Hammurabi, declared Marduk was another one of the all supreme gods, elevating him to the same status as Enlil and Anu. Apart from the aforementioned gods, there are many more who fit into a hierarchical structure and I am not gonna talk about all of them. But, I will talk a bit about a group of gods called Anunnaki. In the hierarchy of gods, the Anunnaki are what you would call as great gods. They were worshipped during different eras of ancient Mesopotamian civilization, including the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian eras. It is said that the name, Anunnaki refers to those of royal blood and descended of the kings. They enjoyed enormous stature during those eras. And thanks to people like Zecharia Sitchin, the Anunnaki are still part of pop culture. Now, I have my reasons for not believing in any of Sitchin’s ideas. But, he was relentless in his belief and he has a strong legion of fans. But, when you hold his interpretations against scientific facts, you would realize that there are many problems. Sitchin’s main idea was that Anunnaki are a race of giant beings who created us as a slave race to primarily mine gold on earth. There are many more aspects to this idea, but I am not gonna go through all of them.

Zecharia Sitchin

Zecharia Sitchin

If you look at Sitchin’s idea closely, you would see parallels between the engineers and the Anunnaki. It is no doubt in my mind that the writers used his work in developing the main story of Prometheus. The material that we have from ancient Mesopotamian eras is not as exhaustive as discoveries from ancient Egyptian civilizations. This obviously presents a problem. Nevertheless, to believe that the Anunnaki were extraterrestrial visitors is a bit far fetched and flies in the face of current factual knowledge. If some of you are interested to learn more about Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Mesopotamian text, you could buy one of his books. Personally, I would classify his work speculative fiction.

Anyway, I think I will stop with the Anunnaki right here and talk about something else. The French historian J. Bottéro has written extensively on ancient Mesopotamian religion and one of his books titled, Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia is a must read for anyone interested in Mesopotamian belief systems. What differentiates this great book from the rest of the pack is that he just presents his findings and never speculates. This is the problem that I mentioned earlier with Sitchin’s work. His work is all driven by his own interpretations and selective quotation to further his own ideas. The paperback edition of Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia costs just over 15 dollars and trust me, it’s worth the dime. One of the things that Bottéro points out in his thesis is that the ancient Mesopotamians never viewed their gods mystically. The gods were looked upon as higher up in command and were meant to be obeyed and feared, and as he put it, as opposed to be loved and adored. The lack of overt mysticism meant that they were not considered to be magical and having control over every aspect of people’s lives.

I believe, I have arrived at a critical point in talking about belief systems in many cultures. There are two important things that become evident in their beliefs – Polytheism and lack of overt mysticism. Polytheism meant that there were many gods and you could believe what you want to. Acceptance of different faiths was absolutely fine. Lack of mysticism and anthropomorphism meant that gods were just considered to be like us humans and were simply looked upon similarly like the kings and queens. Such a religious system existed not only in the Mesopotamian cultures, but also in Egyptian civilization and the Mayan cultures. If we talk about contemporary religions, then, I can think of Hinduism that is polytheistic and is still one of the most widely followed religions in the world. I was raised in the Hindu faith, and although agnostic, the religion itself is more tolerant of other faiths. Some people who practise the religion though, are not. But, there is nowhere in ancient Hindu texts where it says that either Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma is the all supreme god and anyone who doesn’t believe in it would not go to heaven.

It should be clear now as to where I am going with this. I am talking of course about the birth of Christianity and how it spread all over the world in the last couple of thousand years. The major tenet of Christianity is that it is monotheistic and most Christians would tell you that the belief in Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. A few Christian friends of mine even tell me that I would go to hell for not believing in Christ. I don’t think I would have to talk more about Christianity in general. But, in the context of the developments in Prometheus, it is clear that the christian belief system is what pissed off the engineers that they thought they had to destroy us all. Imagine we had the tendency to engineer life and we did exactly that in a far distant planet and hence, we are the creators as far as life in that planet is concerned. Now, if the people on that planet resorted to constructing a fable around which they wrapped around a religious belief that their planet was created in six days and all that crap and made sure that this organized religion spread all over the planet, I am sure we would be incredibly pissed. Based on Christianity’s development on Earth, it is totally understandable that the engineers went batshit insane. Their role in engineering not just humans, but entire life on the planet was overlooked by us. Instead, we ended up constructing a solitary imaginary god and a detailed fictional story to explain our existence. The engineers were rightfully offended by these actions and decided to destroy us for this blasphemy!

In Part II of my Conclusions post, I would like to analyze in detail the role Christianity played in the engineering of the Alien creature and how Part II of Prometheus film might look like.

Prometheus Analysis Part VII A – The Mural

The scene inside the “tomb” is probably one of the most important scenes in the whole film, because it is the first time we get to see signs of the creature link between Prometheus and Alien. Although it is not that direct, it reveals itself in the fascinating mural inside the tomb. I am sure you folks would agree that the whole scene is reminiscent of being inside an ancient Egyptian tomb –  the hieroglyphics, murals etc. But, given the plot of the film, it wouldn’t be illogical to assume that the ancient Egyptians had been influenced by the Engineers and hence, the architectural ideas of the Engineers is the original. In fact, the lead in to the discovery of the tomb in itself is a treasure chest of information – starting from the discovery of the hologram to the scene when they escape the tomb we are bombarded with important symbolism and imagery that provide a key to connect the storyline of Prometheus with Alien. Let us explore them one by one.

Let us revisit the hologram activation scene. David discovers hieroglyphic inscriptions on the wall of the corridor, which look like in the image below. In total, he performs five actions to activate the hologram. Two downward swipes, left to right, press one, fourth action is unclear and finally, another press. Now, the above information is not that important, but, the glyphs reminded me of something else. In Alien, in the very beginning, as the credits were rolling, the title played out on top of the screen with a series of vertical and slanted bars organizing into the word, Alien. Of course, I am not claiming that it means something. It’s just that I thought it was interesting to look at both the scenes from that context.

Hologram Hieroglyphs – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Titles – Alien 1979 (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

The next interesting imagery is when they follow the hologram eventually finding the door to the tomb. Again, a fairly detailed hieroglyphic inscription greets them. You can observe them in the next couple of images. If you recall, Holloway asked David with an almost exasperated expression whether he could read them, to which David responded perhaps.

Hieroglyphs outside the tomb I – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Hieroglyphs outside the tomb II – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

If you compare these glyphs with the one that activated the hologram, you could see that there are similarities. I have marked them in the following picture. Note that the ||| glyph is oft repeated in two styles – a bar on top and a bar on bottom. Although, the one encountered earlier had no bars either on top or bottom. Given the intersection between the two glyphs, I am positive David could have at least gotten an idea about what it says.

Similar characters shared with hologram activator – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

OK, now let us discuss the imagery inside the tomb. The pictures below show four different shots of one such image. There is no big mystery in the fact that it depicts an engineer enveloped in some kind of misty layer. But, what is not so clear is that his right hand leads to something unknown. I could not make out any details from the structure. It could be a headless body in a similar position like the engineer and happens to depict a right limb or it could be something more complex. Whatever it could be, would it be possible that this image projects the idea that this thing is envisioned to be something that”evolved” from the engineer? I am not really sure. May be I am just imagining or seeing things. But, the image is nevertheless interesting. I think I will watch this scene in super slow motion tonight again and try to see if there’s more to it.

Engineer Mural inside the tomb I – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb II – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb III – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Engineer Mural inside the tomb IV – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Defining Moment – The Mural

It is time now to pay attention to the all important mural inside the tomb. I think it is fairly evident that the mural depicts the classic Alien creature that we all love to death. Of course, it is not completely detailed, but the important features are all there –  the head, the exoskeleton like structure, stretched out hands, bipedalism.

Alien Mural inside the tomb – Copyright 20th Century Fox

In addition, the wavy, viscous nature of the mural texture looks very similar to the way the black goo reacted and moved before it started overflowing. You could see the details of the mural texture and the black goo motion in the following pictures. Such a parallel between the two opens up the possibility that the black goo is sentient (If this assumption is right, then it is another win for The X Files as it relates to Prometheus).

“Alien” Mural – Detailed (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Wavy motion of the viscous black goo – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Ancient Egypt inspiration?

I had mentioned earlier that the symbolism and images have ancient Egyptian style written all over it, but, that the engineers could have influenced the Egyptians during their frequent visitations during that time. I would like to advance this idea of reverse logic further and am gonna talk about another interesting aspect of the mural. Please remember, this is another one of those not in the ballpark ideas my sick mind conjured up. It could be entirely wrong, but nevertheless, I hope it provides an interesting twist.

The following personal story segment has no bearing with the analysis, so, feel free to ignore it.

*START – Personal Story*

When I was roughly around 15-16 years old I saw a documentary on TV about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb. It made quite an impact on me that I started visiting the British Library in Madras almost every evening after school just to learn more about ancient Egypt. To have had a civilization like that in our evolution history is certainly a very proud thing for us as a race. But, as you know a lifetime is not sufficient to learn everything about ancient Egypt. Hence, I focused my interest mostly on aspects of the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom until the Greek invasion. Those evenings spent at the Library did not go in vain though. Six years later, a friend of mine cleared his Common Admission Test (CAT), organized by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in India. IIM is a premier management institute in India and is famous all over the world for their programs. It is also probably one of the most difficult schools to get into. If you clear the test, you have to take part in a Group Discussion, followed by an in-depth interview, where anything goes. Anyway, my friend got an interview invite from IIM-Ahmedabad, the best IIM in the country and he asked me advice about strengthening his hobby areas, just in case it comes up in the interview. He thought Egyptology could help him, since, it is something very different and that might interest the interview panel. We had a month before the interview and we spent almost 4-5 hours everyday and we would discuss about ancient Egypt. Since time was short, I advised him that we could just look into the New Kingdom, especially the burial rituals, Gods and two pharaohs, Ramses and Akhenaten. I am a huge fan of Akhenaten and he was the first and probably the only one to go against stereotype of that time and was way ahead of the curve both in his thinking and ideology. I hoped our efforts would turn out useful for my friend. As luck would have it, he was asked about his hobbies in the interview and upon hearing Egyptology, the panel was surprised. One professor in the panel had dabbled in Egyptology himself and he was very excited to meet a prospective student with a similar interest. It made the environment a bit friendlier, my friend said. They ended up talking about Akhenaten in particular. My friend got admitted into IIM-Ahmedabad. I am not saying that he got the seat solely because of his discussion about Egyptology, but it did come in handy. Self high five.

*END – Personal Story*

Atum – Heliopolistic Creation Mythology

The idea is connected with creation myths of ancient Egypt. Although there are many theologies based on the prominence of a certain God in one of the major cities in Egypt, they all contribute in one form or the other to the creation mythology. I am not going to focus on all of them, since there is a wealth of information available on the net, starting from Wikipedia. But, what I would like to do is talk about one of the important deities during that period – Atum or Atem or simply, Tem. It is suggested that his name is derived from the word, tem, which means to complete or finish. He is regarded as a complete one and he is credited with both creation and ultimately destruction of life. Atum was the central God in the ancient city of Heliopolis. Hence, the creation myth involving Atum originated in Heliopolis. According to this creation theory, Atum created Himself by sitting on a mound that arose from the primordial waters of the abyss, called Nu. Sometimes, He Himself is considered as the mound. Why do I have to talk about Atum, you ask? Here’s why – He is also credited with the creation of god Shu and goddess Tefnut. He created them by spitting them out of his mouth. It is believed that he was masturbating and upon orgasm he took the semen in his mouth and spit it out thereby creating the gods. The texts from that time suggest various mechanisms for the creation, but they all involve masturbation, semen and spitting. So, the underlying thing here is that he created the twin gods by spitting them out. Shu and Tefnut eventually married each other!

The reason why I find Atum’s story in the context of the mural fascinating is because the Prometheus mural not only reveals the classic alien, but also a head type of thing right above it. It is animal-like (bull?) and I could see distinctive features like, eyes, mouth and nostrils (Atum, for instance, is thought of taking the form of a snake, mongoose or a bull sometimes). Considering the Atum-centric mythology and the relative proximity of the Alien to the mouth of the head above it in the mural together, I cannot ignore thinking about a connection between the two. At the risk of sounding like a broken ancient record, I would again like to emphasize that it is just a hypothesis and I might be dead wrong and the film makers never really cared about any Egyptian influence.

Coming back to Atum, He is a self-engendered god and He chooses when to create and when to destroy. He exercises authority over all life and has complete control over everything. So, the engineers are like Atum and they consider themselves as omnipotent beings and they have the authority and power to engineer and destroy life. That is reflective of a massive God complex! In that context, the unknown head like thing on top of the mural could be a reference to the engineers themselves and that the Alien is their “spat out” creation.

Sexual Connotations

The original Alien was pretty unsettling for a lot of people at that time because it turned the concept of sex on its head.  Dan O’Bannon (Bless him), the writer of Alien even mentioned in one of his interviews that his idea was to unsettle the average male viewer with the whole facehugger sequence. If you look at it, it is basically oral rape, the wrapping of its legs tightly around the host, insertion of its proboscis down the throat simultaneously implanting the embryo, all of it presents a violent image of sex. Not to mention the culmination of the entire process with birth of the chestburster, which is one of those biggest “Holy Shit!” moments in movie history. So, the mouth of the host is integral to the whole cycle.

Facehugger Rape – Alien 1979 (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Masturbating Atum on the left

Now, let us look at the Atum-centric creation myth again. Of course, many would say that the image of a god masturbating and taking his own semen inside his mouth (see pictures to the right and the one below) before spitting it out creating other gods is sick. Some would even say that it is somewhat amoral and all that crap. Also, the spat out gods, who are siblings, married and gave birth to other gods. So, you see there are a lot of things here that would make people uncomfortable. But, ancient Egyptians believed it and were fine with the idea (If you thought Atum masturbation myth was odd, you should read about the infamous lettuce incident between Horus and his evil uncle Set. Horus’s father Osiris was killed by Set and Horus wanted to exact revenge. My point is, sexual aspects are fairly common not just in ancient Egypt, but in many other ancient religions, like Hinduism as well). It just shows how morality was perceived earlier and how it changed over the years, thanks to a certain religion. I will come back to the issue of morality later on in my thesis, because I think it is going to be the key in answering some of our pressing questions about the engineers’ intent.

Same picture as before – Semen consumption

Due to all this I think it is not that far fetched to compare the Atum-centric creation myth with the mural and the deeper meaning that such a comparison unravels.

Now, getting back to Prometheus, we saw that the murals started changing after a while inside the tomb. The group then rushes out of the place. One of the shots of another mural that showed this change or “evolution” is given below. If you paid attention to the scene, you would see something like the classic alien head and its famous bony appendage with which it would attack. I have marked it for easy viewing. I might be seeing things, but I just thought of mentioning.

Mural Evolution inside the tomb – Copyright 20th Century Fox

Finally we come to the last scene related to the mural. When you see the following picture, it should become clear. I am sure everyone would agree that on the bottom right corner, what we see is a classic facehugger! Holloway’s light even emphasizes this part of the mural, which is a clever way on part of the filmmakers to give us further clues. The fact that the alien and the facehugger is heavily represented in the mural shows that the engineers knew what they exactly wanted to create. I would elaborate on these aspects in my next post, which will be the final part of the mural analysis.

Facehugger – Prometheus (Copyright 20th Century Fox)

Review

So, there is a heavy reliance on Egyptian style hieroglyphs and symbolism to not just further the movie, but, also give us hardcore fans some subtle hints helping us connect the dots. There is a stylistic resemblance between some of the glyphs and the way the title, “Alien” played out in the original film. The scene inside the tomb depicts a variety of murals that show engineers, the original alien creature and the facehugger. Looking at some of the aspects of the whole scene through an ancient Egyptian eye lens provides us with a few other fascinating ideas that cover issues like creation and sexuality.

Whoa! That took some time. Anyway, I still need to talk a bit about how the mural might tell us about the engineers’ intent in engineering this creature. I will do it in my next post.