DNA Tests on Mummy Receive Backlash from Chilean Scientific Community
In 2003, a mummified “alien” was discovered by amatuer collector Oscar Munoz in the abandoned nitrate mining town of La Noria, Chile. Despite its small size, the six inch skeleton was completely intact. According to the New York Times, “It even had hardened teeth. And yet there were striking anomalies: it had 10 ribs instead of the usual 12, giant eye sockets, and a long skull that ended in a point.”
The remains were given the name “Ata” after the Atacama region in which they were first discovered. The unusual discovery was used by alien conspiracy theorist as a confirmation for the existence of aliens. The remains were even featured in a 2013 documentary on UFOs.
In March 2018, researchers finally furnished an explanation for the skeleton. An analysis of the skeleton’s genome determined that the remains were from a newborn female. Ata’s DNA revealed that she was a member of the local population. Researchers hypothesize that Ata was either stillborn or died shortly after conception.
The DNA samples possessed multiple mutations in genes associated with dwarfism, scoliosis, and dysplasia. These findings can help explain why Ata was born with 10 pairs of ribs rather than 12, which is a feature never before been seen in humans.
"What was striking and caused us to speculate early on that there was something strange about the bones was the apparent maturity of the bones (density and shape)," said Garry Nolan, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Dr. Nolan told BBC news that “there was proportionate maturation of the bones, making the body look more mature despite the fact that the specimen was itself small. This discrepancy drove much of the research. So, we believe that one or more of the mutated genes was responsible for this."
Dr. Nolan believes that Ata should “be returned to Chile for proper treatment as human remains.” Currently the remains are in the possession of Ramon Navia-Osorio, a Spanish collector.
The Chilean government and Chilean scientific community have condemned Dr. Nolan’s team for its testing on human remains, calling it “unethical.”
The Chilean National Monuments Committee announced they had initiated an inquiry into whether the girls remains were illegally smuggled out of Chile in 2003. The inquiry is a response to the growing number of Chilean researchers who argue that the grave site of Ata was “plundered, and the mummified skeleton was stolen.”
In a telephone interview with the New York Times, Dr. Nolan and Dr. Butte, another researcher who participated in the study, stated, “We had no involvement or knowledge of how the skeleton was originally obtained nor how it was sold or exported to Spain.”
Dr. Butte questions why it’s only now that the Chilean government is interested in pursuing the case since the government stayed silent for over 15 years despite the mass coverage from Chilean media outlets.