Is This a Tiny Alien Skeleton? Scientists Say “No”, But Not Everyone is Convinced
A tiny skeleton with a conical skull made international headlines as evidence for aliens on earth. But scientists say the genes are terrestrial – many of them are even shared with modern-day Chileans. They are ready now to tell you the tragic story of Ata, who they say is a baby girl that became an international sensation as a supposed alien skeleton.
Ata is the name given to a 6-inch (15-cm) long skeleton which was found in 2003 in La Noria, a ghost town in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Stories say her remains were laid to rest in a white cloth tied with a violet ribbon or placed lovingly inside a leather pouch.
The tiny skeleton of Ata. ( Dr Emery Smith )
From the moment Ata became known to the media, hypotheses abounded on what caused her tiny statue, missing ribs (10 pairs instead of 12), elongated skull, and hard bones. It didn’t take long for the extraterrestrial idea to emerge alongside claims of a premature birth or a miscarried fetus. Shouts of “Hoax!” were also heard.
But National Geographic reports the person currently in possession of Ata’s remains, a Spanish businessman named Ramón Navia-Osorio who purchased her mummy in 2012, decided it would be worthwhile to look further into the story behind the little creature.
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He gave permission to Dr. Steven Greer , founder of The Disclosure Project (to expose information on “UFOs, extra-terrestrial intelligence and classified projects on advanced energy”), to do some x-ray and CT scans on the skeleton. Greer took things a step further and provided microbiologist and immunologist Garry Nolan with samples of Ata’s bone marrow.
The Stanford University scientist declared Ata’s genes as human in 2013 . However, Nolan didn’t have an explanation for her unusual physical features and that is the main reason several scientists were not satisfied with this final conclusion – they argued that there was a need to further explore the unexplained characteristics of the hominid.
The mummified skeleton of a baby girl found in the Chilean desert in 2003. ( Dr Emery Smith )
The Guardian reports that Nolan and his colleagues are now ready to share their reasoning for Ata’s strange features with the world. The one-word answer? Mutations. As the researchers wrote in their paper published in Genome Research :
“Ata is a female of human origin, likely of Chilean descent, and its genome harbors mutations in genes […] previously linked with diseases of small stature, rib anomalies, cranial malformations, premature joint fusion, and osteochondrodysplasia (also known as skeletal dysplasia).”
Ata is said to have mutations in at least seven genes which cause skeletal malformations or accelerate growth. Combined, the scientists believe that the mutations can explain away all of Ata’s unusual physical characteristics – from her size to the advanced age of her bones, they say this even explains her skull shape. Nolan also asserts that Ata is a human fetus which was stillborn or died following her birth.
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However, not everyone is convinced. Fowzan Alkuraya, geneticist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, told National Geographic that it’s “virtually unheard of” for a person to have that many mutations; he believes that only one or two mutations should be able to explain the physical abnormalities. Nolan disagrees , saying “That poor child unfortunately rolled the dice seven times snake eyes.”
For his part, Greer responded to the current research by saying , “We don’t know what it is, but it most certainly is not a deformed human.”
Mummified specimen from the Atacama region of Chile. Frontal view of the skull of the Ata specimen. E. Smith
Debate will most likely continue, however upsetting it may be to Nolan, who wishes that people will finally let go of the ‘alien story’ related to Ata. He told The Guardian,
“While this started as a story about aliens, and went international, it’s really a story of a human tragedy. A woman had a malformed baby, it was preserved in a manner and then ‘hocked’ or sold as a strange artefact. It turns out to be human, with a fascinating genetic story from which we might learn something important to help others. May she rest in peace.”
Top Image: Mummified specimen from the Atacama region of Chile. Scientists say the remains are of a baby girl with numerous mutations – not a tiny alien. Source: E. Smith