In 1973, Erich von Däniken, at the height of his fame, claimed in his book “The Gold of the Gods” that he had found a gigantic subterranean tunnel system in Southern America. It was a major claim--and one that seriously would tarnish his profile, for his source would soon deny he had said no such thing. For many, the incident proved that von Däniken was a fabricator of lies.
The story that brought von Däniken to South America partly began in the Brazilian town of Manaus. There, on March 3, 1972, a German journalist Karl Brugger met a local Amazonian Indian, Tatunca Nara, in the backstreet tavern Gracas a Deus. The meeting would result in Brugger’s book “The Chronicle of Akakor,” published in 1976, which saw a number of foreign editions and created the legend of Akakor, a mythical town somewhere deep within the Amazonian jungle, still left to be discovered.
The title of the book was supposedly the same title as the chronicle that the Amazonian Ugha Mogulala tribe (which also makes an appearance in the Indiana Jones movie) held sacred--or at least central--to their mythology and philosophy. Indeed, Tatunca Nara claimed to be a member of this unknown Amazonian tribe, the son of a native and the daughter of a German missionary--which was supposed to account for his impeccable German.
The mere notion that an Amazonian tribe had a written chronicle itself was remarkable, as the Amazon population is largely believed not to have a written language. A second bombshell was that Tatunca claimed that the Year Zero of the Chronicle was 10,481 BC--very much outside accepted archaeological dates for human occupation of the Amazon, but perfectly fitting in the “Atlantis and Deluge” theory that many alternative researchers favoured as the anti-thesis to the science-wrought framework and which was, at the time, already made popular due to Edgar Cayce. The third bombshell was that the Gods came from a solar system known as “Schwerta,” and built an underground tunnel system in South America. Each element on its own and all together even more so made for a stunning “revelation”--or lie.
To reiterate what I've said before, no one claims that Western civilization isn't the source of its own greatness. That Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein didn't come up with their own innovations. That they channeled space aliens instead.
But in the minds of Spielberg and his ilk--i.e., most Westerners--Indians are different. Only Indians were so savage and uncivilized that they couldn't have accomplished anything on their own. Only they needed extraterrestrial help.
For more on the subject, see Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom.