The Dogon Sirius Mystery

The Dogon are a tribe of about 100,000 who live in west Africa. According to Robert Temple in his book The Sirius Mystery, they were visited by aliens about 5,000 years ago. These aliens were called the Nommos and came from a planet that orbits the star, Sirius (sometimes called The Dog Star). The only thing the Nommos seem to have done to the Dogon was to pass on some rather esoteric astronomical data. For example, the Nommos supposedly told the Dogon that Sirius is orbited by a white dwarf companion star (Sirius B) and that a complete orbit of Sirius B takes fifty years. Sirius B is, of course, not visible from earth without telescopes. Further Temple goes on to state that the Dogon seemed to have other advanced astronomical knowledge as well; for example they believed in a sun center solar system, and knew about the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter. The Dogon did not have telescopes.

Temple’s source for the Sirius story was anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. The two French scientists described a renewal ceremony held every sixty years by the Dogon and was associated with the brightest star in the sky; Sirius. Further the Dogon described ‘po tolo’ or Sirius B. Of course why the Dogon would celebrate a ritual every sixty years for a star that orbits every fifty years is not explained.

However the Frenchmen’s report may have been in error or overblown. According to Thomas Bullard, Griaule either told the Dogon about Sirius B or “he misinterpreted their references to other visible stars near Sirius as recognition of the invisible companion” .

Further, Walter Van Beek a Belgian anthropologist that lived with some eleven years with the Dogon reported on the Sirius “mystery” thusly:

“The Dogon of course, know Sirius as a star [it is after all the brightest star in the sky]… Knowledge of the stars is not important either in daily life or in ritual. The position of the sun and the phases of the moon are more pertinent for Dogon reckoning. No Dogon outside of the circle of Griaule’s informants had ever heard of sigu tolo or po tolo… Most important, no one, even within the circle of Griaule informants, had ever heard or understood that Sirius was a double star.”

The real mystery behind this question is how anyone could take the idea of aliens arriving on earth and just telling people about an invisible star and then flying away again Sirius-ly!


Bullard, Thomas. E. “Ancient Astronauts,” in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, ed. G. Stein (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996).

Griaule, Marcel. Conversations With Ogotemmeli: An Introduction to Dogon Religious Ideas (Oxford University Press 1948/1997).

Temple, Robert G. The Sirius Mystery. (London: Sidwick and Jackson, 1976).

van Beek, Walter E. A. “Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule,” Current Anthropology 32, 1992, pp. 139-167.

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