Feb 02, 2022 I Brent Swancer

A Mysterious Papyrus Manuscript and a UFO Encounter in Ancient Egypt

There have long been stories of visitors from other worlds showing themselves to the ancients. Such tales are often long lost to history, ancient events lost to the mists of time and only known through hints and clues left in the past. The idea that UFOs and aliens were seen and experienced back through history is nothing new, and there are various stories such as these, very often leaving us frustrated in the absence of any real answers. One such case is that of an ancient Egyptian papyrus that allegedly contained perhaps one of the oldest accounts of alien contact there is, but which has gone on to remain lost and much debated.

In 1953 there appeared a very curious article in a newsletter published by the Fortean Society and dedicated to strange phenomena, called Doubt, also known as Fortean Society Magazine. The article was published by Tiffany Thayer, who co-founded the Fortean Society in New York City in 1931, and was for a time one of its most prolific researchers and writers. The article in question was in relation to a manuscript that Thayer claimed to have received from an Italian-Russian Egyptologist and writer on Africa and the ancient world by the name of Boris de Rachewiltz, who had supposedly retrieved some old papyrus papers left by an Alberto Tulli, a deceased museum director with the Vatican Egyptian Museum. Ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscripts were nothing new or even necessarily particularly bizarre at the time, but these were different in that they would weave a tale of what would appear to be an ancient encounter with UFOs.

Apparently, Rachewiltz had managed to piece together and translate the text on the tattered, fragmented old manuscripts with the help of Egyptologist Étienne Drioton, and had determined them to be from the Annals of Thutmose III, dated to during the 18th dynasty, around 1480 BC, and they had quite the tale to tell. According to the text, numerous witnesses, including an entire Egyptian army, bore witness to a very strange and spectacular sequence of events in the sky, of which it was written:

In the year 22, in the third month of winter, in the sixth hour of the day, the scribes of the House of Life noticed a circle of fire that was coming from the sky. From the mouth it emitted a foul breath. It had no head. Its body was one rod long and one rod wide. It had no voice. And from that the hearts of the scribes became confused and they threw themselves down on their bellies then they reported the thing to the Pharaoh. His Majesty ordered that the scrolls [located] in the House of Life be consulted. His Majesty meditated on all these events which were now going on. Now after some days had passed, these things became more and more numerous in the skies. Their splendor exceeded that of the sun and extended to the limits of the four angles of the sky. High and wide in the sky was the position from which these fire circles came and went. The army of the Pharaoh looked on with him in their midst. It was after supper. Then these fire circles ascended higher into the sky and they headed toward the south. Fish and birds then fell from the sky. A marvel never before known since the foundation of their land. And the Pharaoh caused incense to be brought to appease the heart of Amun-Re, the god of the Two Lands, and what happened was ordered to be written in the Annals of the House of Life so that it be remembered for all time forward.

The scroll itself had apparently been found by Tulli during a trip to Cairo in 1933, during which he had stumbled across it gathering dust at an old antiques and curio shop. Since it had been too expensive for him to purchase, he had gone about making a copy of it, which was then re-copied, replacing the original hieratic script with hieroglyphic. Boris de Rachewiltz then claimed to have found the original papyrus, “untranslated and unpublished,” among Tulli’s belongings after his death and had gone about deciphering the text to come to the shocking conclusion that it seemed to be a description of beings from another world. When word of the papyrus got out with the publication of the article in Doubt, there were some efforts made by researcher and author Samuel Rosenberg, who wrote the book UFOs in History, but he would only become frustrated when a letter to the Vatican asking for confirmation of the story would be met with the mysterious reply, "Papyrus Tulli not proprietary of Vatican Museum. Now it is dispersed and no more traceable.” Rosenberg would continue to try and track the manuscript down, sending an enquiry to a Dr. Walter Ramberg, Scientific Attaché at the US embassy in Rome, who would send a reply reading:

The current Director of the Egyptian Section of the Vatican Museum, Dr. Nolli, said that Prof. Tulli had left all his belongings to a brother of his who was a priest in the Lateran Palace. Presumably the famous papyrus went to this priest. Unfortunately the priest died also in the meantime and his belongings were dispersed among heirs, who may have disposed of the papyrus as something of little value.

And that seems to be where the trail ends, the original papyrus apparently lost, that is, if it ever even existed at all. Although the supposed text has generated much excitement in some corners of the UFO field, and especially among ancient astronaut theorists, there are a few red flags with this particular story. One of the main problems is that it is a translation of a modern transcription of an alleged Egyptian document, so the alleged text likely contained transcription errors, and on top of this, the only real source for the alleged document can be said to be Boris de Rachewiltz. No one else can be truly proven to have ever seen it, and no proper analysis has ever been done on it, nor can it be done because the document seems to have been lost. For these reasons, it is very difficult to ascertain just how legitimate the story is, and it has been regarded as having been a possible forgery or even a hoax conjured up by Tulli or de Rachewiltz himself. It also might have been a hoax put out there by someone else, which was then swallowed hook, line, and sinker by Tulli and de Rachewiltz. Even such eminent ufologists as Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck have accused it of being a hoax or forgery, and in the 1968 Condon Report, Samuel Rosenberg would go on record to say that “the papyrus is probably a forgery, made up by a kind of collage of fragments taken from nine different papyruses.” Unfortunately, since none of it can be verified, we will probably never know. 

There is also the point to be made that the one who put out the original article on the matter, Thayer, was known as a bit of a loose cannon in Fortean circles. He was known for using his newsletter and organization to expound on all sorts of bizarre ideas, some of which went even against the ideas of Charles Fort, including calling UFOs nonsense and spreading misinformation that the atomic bomb was a hoax, as well as becoming a huge proponent of the Flat Earth theory. Even within his own realm he was by the end of his life being seen as more and more unhinged, further raising some eyebrows about it all, so it could have all been made up by Thayer. In the end, it is just a curious oddity hinting at a possible bizarre historic encounter that may or may no be real, and it is frustrating to think that we will never know for sure, and that this scroll, if it ever existed at all, has been lost to time, just another ancient mystery among many others we will probably never understand.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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