Atacama ‘alien’ mystery is no mystery


Recently there has been a storm of speculation about the identity of ‘humanoid’ remains found in the Chilean Atacama desert in 2003.

Atacama Humanoid © 2013 Sirius Disclosure

Atacama Humanoid © 2013 Sirius Disclosure

The specimen was acquired by the Disclosure Project and has been under investigation by researchers at Stanford University in an effort to categorically confirm or reject the possibility of it being the remains of an alien.

On 22nd April the preliminary results were released, concluding that the specimen is human, but that despite the tiny size (~6 inches) it was thought to be a child  aged between 6 and 8 years old with a variety of unknown medical conditions, rather than a foetus. This seems quite remarkable to me, since I’ve dealt with skeletal foetus specimens rather similar to this in museum collections.

Skeleton of foetus with estimated age of 18-20 weeks

Skeleton of foetus with estimated age of 18-20 weeks

The main differences I can discern by looking at the high quality photos, X-rays and CT scan on the Sirius Disclosure website are that the Atacama specimen is from a slightly earlier stage foetus (discussed below); it has mummified soft tissue that has shrunk tight (discussed below), pulling the ribcage into a more narrow configuration; and the head has been distorted, probably as a result of an illegal back-street abortion where a hook has been used to extract the foetus (discussed below), causing damage to the back of the skull and stretching the pliable head.

[Edit 07/05/2013: In the comments below, a contributor called Fred links to an image of this specimen where the large hole in the head is absent. Presumably the large hole was made while taking samples for testing.

There are other parts of the skull where a hook may have been inserted, causing the cranial deformation seen, such as through a fontanelle, but this is hard to confirm from the images available, so this makes the case for an abortion using a hook less likely. Abortions in the region are often carried out using an unknown mixture of herbs and it is possible that the deformation seen was caused by forceps used to facilitate extraction or as a result of post mortem tight wrapping of the specimen]

Atacama Humanoid © 2013 Sirius Disclosure

Atacama Humanoid © 2013 Sirius Disclosure

When undertaking an evaluation of something unusual like this, it is important to consider a range of factors, from the context of the specimen to how the evidence is balanced and what relative weighting should be applied to particular lines of evidence.

In this case the age estimate provided by Dr. Ralph Lachman has perhaps been overly influenced by the high density of the bone in the x-rays of the specimen (a pdf of his report can be seen here). In mummified specimens there is a well recognised increase in the density of both bone and cartilage to x-rays, to the point that age determination becomes unreliable (pdf of report on Egyptian child mummy detailing complications in age determination).

When this factor is taken into account, the specimen can be considered in a different light.

The length and degree of development is consistent with a 14-16 week old foetus, where the bones have mostly formed and are starting to harden, the skin is transparent and the external genitalia are formed, but the fingernails, eyelashes and eyebrows have not yet formed.

This would explain not only the very small size, but also why there are only 10 pairs of ribs, as the lower ‘floating ribs’ – the ones you can see partially developed in the skeleton of the older foetus below – wouldn’t have yet formed. It would also explain why there is no evidence in the x-rays of the deciduous or unerupted permanent dentition that you would expect to find in a 6-8 year old.

Skeleton of foetus with estimated age of 18-20 weeks

Skeleton of foetus with estimated age of 18-20 weeks

Looking at the wider context of the find, Chile has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. This means that illegal abortions are common in the country, with the third highest rates of maternal mortality in the country being as a direct result of complications arising from an illegal abortion. The ways in which these complications can arise are horrific, as must be the circumstances of any woman who decides to risk them in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This isn’t the kind of decision to be made on a whim.

Nonetheless, it appears that some unfortunate woman underwent the procedure and the aborted foetus was disposed of in a remote location in the Atacama desert, only to become dried out, discovered and made the focus of study.

This brings me to the media handling of the reportage of the specimen. The preliminary results of the study clearly identify the specimen as a young human being (even if I disagree about the age range reported). It is also clear that the specimen is relatively recent and not of great antiquity; so why have papers like the Sun and Daily Mail taken the decision to sensationalise the story, rather than treat it with the respect that it deserves?

This is utterly unlike their reporting of the human placenta found in Tooting in March (SunDaily Mail) or the Sun’s analysis of a television broadcast of an abortion, or the slew of articles from the Mail’s apparent obsession with abortion.

It almost seems as though the Atacama specimen was deemed undeserving of respect because it’s considered a “freak” or “mutant”, but I fail to see how the specimen deserves any less respect than any other innocent dead human being. I wonder if the more prosaic story of the dumped outcome of an illegal and unsafe abortion, carried out on a desperate woman who may not have survived the procedure, would have gained the same attention that the story of a purported “alien” or “freak” has garnered. It saddens me to say that I rather doubt it.

238 thoughts on “Atacama ‘alien’ mystery is no mystery

  1. Wonderful info and commentary Paolo. Many thanks for this.

    (On a ridiculously pedantic note, you might want to consider using an article before “slew” in the penultimate paragraph.)

  2. Your explanation makes a lot of sense, but how in the world did an expert come to the conclusion that the specimen was 6 to 8 years old child ? There lies the real mystery.

    • Mummified remains of children are notoriously difficult to get an accurate age for. A medical doctor unused to the problems posed when interpreting radiographic information for mummified material would have been working from their familiar knowledge of normal human radiographs. It’s a simple mistake to make when you know your own specialism intimately, but aren’t familiar with related fields that use similar techniques.

      • So what your saying is the baby was mummified in the womb? Since you are justifying your viewpoint on mummified remains and applying it to what you consider a fetus.

        • No dude, no clue where you got that. What he literally just said it’s hard to determine an age for a mummified child. He also said above it was dumped in the desert, and mummified. Which is easily believable seeing how the sand is so dry and could cake and stick to the thick wetness of “child”. In my personal opinion, it was dumped within twenty minutes after the operation, if it is just an old aborted child. Salt does what to water? Then combine the 0% climate and the dry sand, you have yourself an accidental mummification.

          • If it was an aborted fetus you can’t apply the same things as if it was born. I would be more convinced if the argument focused on how a fetus would have such details are the pictures clearly show. Instead the argument was “well mummified remains can look a lot older”. A fetus is not a human, you can’t apply the comparison to a child that was born and a fetus. I got that from the comparison he made to skeletal remains being overestimated in age because they were mummified. “accidental mummification” or not — that still doesn’t explain the bone developments. Fetuses that size don’t have that type of skeletal structure. It would look a lot different, hence the determination of the age.

            • As you can see from the foetus skeleton I showed, the skeletal structure is the same between the two specimens, except for the changes in shape caused by shrinkage of the soft tissue.

            • At one time in your development, you were a fetus too. Were you not human then? If so, what made you become one? And is what made you human present in a day-old newborn?

        • As Blade says, I am not saying that.

          The specimen was found in a bag near a ghost town in the desert (which may have been where the procedure took place). The incredibly dry climate would have rapidly dessicated the foetus given its small size and lack of a thick skin. It’s very simple.

          • I see, so basically the bones were still affected in a way that the density of them overestimated the age. It’s very telling also that it has the hole in the back of the skull so it does look like an abortion. I understand more where you’re coming from now and it does seem like the simplest explanation.

            • That’s it. Glad it makes sense – I do think that simpler explanations are more powerful in these circumstances, especially when they fit the observations and caveats associated with the data analysis.

            • I’d like to note that the hole in the back of the head was a result of a procedure done to gather some DNA, which does not affect the point of this article which was quite good. After watching the sirius disclosure documentary I wanted some facts from the other side and it shined some light on the topic. Thank you!

          • Paolo, it’s important to note that the foetus was found wrapped in a cloth. The compression of the cloth aided the elongation of the skull, the arms and legs being straightened, and the thorax compressed. This part always gets left out, much to my dismay!!

            • Thanks Cathy,

              I didn’t realise it was wrapped when it was found – that would certainly help explain the distortion seen in the specimen.

          • What about the fetus found in the ancient pre-Columbian Atacaman mine on Destination Truth? That fetus was never examined but it was found and looked the exact same as the onyou jave above.

  3. Great article, very informative and good to have as a reference the next time someone trots out the miniature human/alien story.

    • Not quite – they were able to get usable results for 91% of the DNA (which turned out to be human), which is remarkably good for a specimen preserved like this. The good recovery of DNA suggests that the specimen is probably no more than a couple of decades old at most. The Sirius researchers give an age of 6-8 years, I think 14-16 weeks. They think the damage to the back of the head is postmortem, I think it was the result of an abortion using crude techniques. I hope that clarifies things for you.

      • Concerning the DNA matching, let’s make some things clear. Quoting from Dr. Nolan’s whitepaper response, ” Over 560 million paired end sequence reads passed automated quality control filters and provided an estimate 19.6X coverage for the whole genome. Approximately 509 million (~91%) reads were mapped to the human reference genome hg19 (providing a 17.7 fold coverage of the genome).” He goes on to explain that, “The presence of ~9% “unmatched” DNA should not
        be interpreted to represent anything unusual about the specimen itself.” Note that this is not the same as saying THAT THE OTHER 9% WAS UNUSABLE or conversely that ONLY 91% was usable.

        In the next paragraph, Dr. Nolan indicates, “Reconstruction of the mitochondrial DNA sequence and analysis shows an allele frequency consistent with a B2 haplotype group found on the west coast of South America, supporting the claimed origination of the specimen from the Atacama Desert region of Chile.” Which definitely indicates human DNA.

        The mystery seems to be in terms of phenotypes not matching genotypes and these difference possibly being epigenetic. Not in whether or not this was human.

          • Sorry, but you misinterpret the meaning of the numbers. The sequencing was done with high-throughput sequencing technology (most likely on a Illumina Genome Analyzer). This technology has a relatively high error rate, which is compensated for by high coverage. Nine percent of the reads didn’t map because they contain sequencing errors or come from degraded/damaged DNA. I’ve worked with data like this a lot and you never expect all reads to map.
            The quote makes no statement at all about whether any parts of the human genome were not recovered by the sequencing data. It sounds like they actually got the complete genome with 17.7 fold coverage (Well, as complete as it gets, some regions are always difficult).

  4. ITS NOT A HUMAN NOR ALIEN (because we cant prove that it is), ITS A MYSTERY! I don’t see how hard it is to understand.

    • I’m just gonna break the trend here of not responding to this. Just because you can’t understand how to identify this, doesn’t mean everyone can’t. We can figure out anything, as long as we look with a fresh perspective every time.

  5. I watched the documentary “Sirius” and there is one aspect you did not mention, although the points you did make sound like convincing counter arguments to what the movie said. I’m talking about the DNA results, as in they found DNA of the mother, but there is no recognizable DNA of the father, yet it is male. Also they mentioned there is a lot of “junk” DNA, like a majority portion. I know this happens with a lot of DNA tests because we have barely touched the surface of DNA. But what is your take on it? If you respond try to message me on Facebook, I’m in all Seahawks attire. (Also I saw you said it had 100% DNA in a comment, that completely contradicts the film, I am going to check their website in the mean time, where the research is accessible to everyone) Love to hear from ya.

    • You only get the mother’s DNA in a mitochondrial DNA test as the sperm doesn’t contribute any mitochondria. The point of the 100% human DNA is that only 91% of the DNA was identifiable and all of that was human. The remainder is probably too degraded to sequence effectively, but further sampling and testing may address that.

  6. It would be nice to get other scientific studies on this specimen. I’m assuming this is only the second study on this?

    • I must say that my examination isn’t as thorough as I would like, as I’ve not seen the specimen. But the Sirius guys seem to be doing a pretty comprehensive job, I just think that they weren’t aware of the issues surrounding xradiography of mummified material, which misled their enquiries.

      • So why would think they were unaware of of mummified materials? Nice counter points made here but as you mentioned, you have never had a chance to analyze so everything you mention is speculation based on fetus data… Not atacama. Either way, 91% were human which leaves alot left to define. You cannot know if the remaining percent is degraded or not. One must have an open mind and just so everyone knows, more than likely the ONLY way atacama will be officially determined as not human is if there is another “atacama” found or nearly directly similiar dna. If this occurs, then without a doubt, the species found would be considered et or an unknown species. You want my theory, since we’ve read yours? I beleive its extra terrestrial but born on earth… The mother human… Fathrr et. 😉 just my thought.

        • I actually agree; i also think there’s a good chance that this creature had a human mother and ET father, and that’s why the mitochondrial DNA appears to be human (mitochondrial DNA is the only kind they have been able to sequence, as far as i know, and it is exclusive to the mother).

          As far as finding another specimen, I’m almost positive of at least 2 others– one bought and photographed often by the Ripley’s Believe it or Not guy and another that was video taped by a Russian police officer in the 1980’s (way before the Sirius documentary was even conceived of), just before it was sent off to be studied but was likely confiscated by the KGB. I think, however, they may have successfully sequenced some DNA from the blanket used by the Russian lady who found and cared for that particular creature for a few days before it ultimately died; and i don’t think that DNA matched with anything else (i got that from Discovery Science’s “The Unexplained Files”, but not that fake Russian video of a dead alien in the snow; the “Alenshanka” video is legit; they even spoke with a Russian female scientist who studied the specimen before it was sent to be studied further by other Russian scientists).

          I must say, it’s funny how scientists are now beginning to concede that this specimen may really have been 6 to 8 years old at the time of death. They completely dismissed it at first because of how disturbing it was. So when the mitochondrial DNA results came back as human (at least what they recognized to be human), they simply conclude that it HAD to be a human fetus and wiped their hands of it all and no longer wanted to hear about it (and that’s a truly odd position for ANY scientist to take). You would think that even just a 6″ human child of 6 to 8 years old (mummified shrinkage still can’t account for that size), alone, would be of great interest to the scientific community, but strangely enough, it’s not. Why? I believe it’s because this sort of stuff makes them really uncomfortable.

          Anyways, I really appreciate you responding to my post. I love talking and learning more about this subject; probably a little too much, though, because I’ve almost ran out of friends and family who are still willing to have these conversations with me (probably because they didn’t think it was possible until i hit them with the facts I’ve gathered over the years, which disturbed them enough to decide they no longer like talking about it).

        • Or what needs to be done is have Ata re-studied, this time by a qualified scientist who is familiar with mummified remains.

  7. I’m guessing that the first plausible explanation the experts looked into was that it is a foetus, and that they probably have very solid reasons and evidences that make them think this being is not one. I’m not saying it is impossible that all these experts that had direct access to the ‘specimen’ to study and analyze it  might not have a clearer picture of what ‘it’ is (or what it’s not) than you do..but. As of today, until further studies are conducted and anyone can prove with hard data what it is (or not), it remains a mystery (what you are expressing is an opinion).

    • Yes, I am expressing an opinion. An informed opinion. An opinion that is based on published data on interpreting xrays of mummies to get an age estimate that the Sirius experts probably weren’t aware of as they were not pubished in medical journal. It falls to them to test that alternate explanation by looking at the specimen again.

      • I just think that you are expressing this opinion (mystery solved etc) with a bit too much ‘certainty’. Why just not state your hypothesis (that’s what it is so far) with a bit more ‘humility’, as a possible explanation rather than claiming that you have solved the mystery. Have a good one.

        • Fair enough. I’m normally more cautious about identifications, but in this instance I think that case needs to be asserted more strongly, given the fact that whatever the outcome there is a dead human involved and although the Sirius guys are dealing with it in a respectful way, the media are not.

          As to my certainty, I suggest talking a step back and thinking about the context of the specimen. What evidence is there to suggest that it is anything other than an aborted foetus?

          The only evidence for it NOT being an aborted foetus is the ageing of the individual using x-radiography. However, the specimen is mummified and there is a well recognised issue with getting accurate ages of mummified infants using this technique.

          In short, there is no compelling evidence that this specimen is anything other than the mummified remains of an aborted foetus.

          As soon as there is some robust evidence to the contrary I will be less certain about my identification, but since my identification accounts for all of the observed physical features of the specimen and the expected complications of analysis due to mummification, without the need to invoke a suite of unknown medical conditions, I think it is by far the most robust hypothesis.

          I acknowledge that the specifics need to be tested for confirmation. An inspection of the inside of the skull in the area of peak deformation to look for scratch marks from a hook should provide adequate evidence in support.

          • Sorry that I am reading this article two years after publication but, I wonder why this mummified foetus is continuously referred to as being ‘aborted’? Couldn’t a miscarriaged foetus have mummified in this way as well? If it was wrapped in fabric. explaining the prone position in mummification, be a result of a careful and respectful placement?

        • I’m with you. And… one simple question for paoloV, if this is a human fetus, where are the images of the many similar fetus? where are the others similar fetus that those “desperate poor indigenous Chilean girls” have thrown away??? sorry for my english…

          • What, like the Ripley one?

            I’m sure there are plenty of other examples out there, but I expect it would mainly be local people who find them, who know what they are and don’t report them. The deformation in this specimen makes this one look unusual, which is why it got picked up in the first place. Note that even this specimen was not shown to the press for a decade, until Sirius Discovery started their study, so I wouldn’t expect there to be that many to make an international impact.

            I’m not sure why you use quotes for “desperate poor indigenous Chilean girls” since it isn’t a quote (at least not by me).

            If you are trying to insinuate that illegal abortions don’t happen (despite the published facts about the abortion situation in Chile), or that the many indigenous women in Chile who turn to illegal abortions aren’t doing so because they find themselves in a desperate situation, then I don’t think it’s your English you should be apologising for.

  8. its hard to believe that the experts will not consider the specimen to be nothing but just an aborted fetus, I think that explanation is number one on their list coz its the most obvious explanation, but no they ruled that one out and instead they said its between 6 to 8 yrs old. They must have a very good reason why they came up with that result, they are putting their professional career on the line. They can always say its a fetus and problem solve but they didn’t. And between you and the experts who actually examined the specimen i say I will put more weight on their findings.

    • You feel free to believe what you like. I’ve explained why the Sirius researchers have probably made a mistake and I’ve provided a reference (which itself references other examples) to illustrate how similar mistakes have been made by others in the past when dealing with mummified infants. To my mind the lack of acknowledgement of the problems associated with ageing mummified infants in the reports makes me dubious of the findings.

    • Scientists do not “put their professional career on the line” by publishing a hypothesis that is challenged by their peers, especially if it is they themselves who return to their original material and re-examine it in view of other informed opinions. Far from it – that is what scientists do. Experiment or observe – form hypothesis – write paper – get criticism from immediate circle – submit for publication – the paper is peer-reviewed – it’s published (hopefully) – then it’s subjected to scrutiny by far more peers – some of whom express their opinions – the original researchers will respond to criticisms. If it’s an experiment some will try to reproduce the experiment and they’ll publish … and so on. That’s how it works.

      The problem comes when the popular media gets involved. They do not – or will not – understand the process of scientific enquiry. Instead, initial findings are presented as entrenched positions and criticism in the genuine sense – people bringing their own knowledge to bear to help members of their learned community – is presented as some kind of war of words. It doesn’t help that both “criticism” and “argument” get degraded, because in their technical sense both are positive activities. No wonder non-scientists get confused.

  9. they said it had a different number of ribs from a human too im pretty sure they didnt just miscount also.

    • Did you read the article properly? He mentions the ribs. If the specimen is indeed a foetus, the two floating ribs that aren’t accounted for could easily have not formed yet. This is further backed up by the actual foetus shown to have its floating ribs beginning to develop after the other 10 have already formed. In this way, the missing ribs actually support that it is a foetus

  10. Absolute nonsense! Pablo you mustn’t lie! This was an alien from the H1N1 galaxy. He fed due to the influx of birds to his planet. Millions were wiped out. Poor guy came here seeking refuge but was killed by an Obama drone strike. I heard from my friend’s, brother’s, half-sister’s, hamster’s, buddy’s dad that they mistook him for Iran. They should really work on the GPS in those things…

  11. Sorry, your analysis doesn’t quite cut it. Notice how the ribs have well begun their angling downward so that the vertebral attachments are a bit higher than where they join the sternum. Quoting from the Osteology of Infants and Children by Brenda Baker, Tasha Dupras and Matthew Tocherio, (Texas A&M Anthropology series 12) in chapter 7 on the ribs, “Through childhood they gradually angle downward so that adult ribs, rather than being straight across, are much higher at the vertebral end than the sternal end in standard anatomical position.” Furthermore, the text states in the same paragraph cited that, “by 11 to 12 fetal weeks, all ribs have begun to ossify” and “In fetal and neonate remains the ribs are relatively horizontal.” The vertical angulation and structure of the ribs do not suggest a fetus and do little to shed light on the 10 rib set anomaly or the budding discussed, as well.

    In addition, If you carefully read the pdf of Dr Lachman’s analysis you will find that he makes no mention of knee epiphyseal densities instead the exact phrase used was knee epiphyseal standards. It was Dr. Nolan’s response that used the phrase epiphyseal “density” a common and possibly mistaken assumption made by someone who specialty does not involve x-ray analysis, wherein Dr Nolan may be assuming that it was sole density that was being analyzed.

    In conclusion, I am waiting for further study releases to shed more light on this mystery.

    • In all fairness, I forgot to mention that the only thing other than size that suggests this might be a fetus is the hypoplasia (underdevelopment or incomplete development of a tissue) in the mid part of the face. If you wish to make an argument that this is merely a fetus that would be a more fruitful approach.

    • But we are not dealing with just an infant, we are dealing with an infant who has undergone postmortem mummification. Did you read the reference I linked to on the analysis of the mummified infant? The rib cage in that specimen had narrowed (presumably by angling downward) as a result of mummification. This sort of thing is commonly seen in taphonomy, where postmortem processes impose a change on the anatomy of the specimen as tissues tighten due to dessication.

        • If the angling of the ribs in addition to the known ossification timeline of the ribs of a foetus are not enough for you to consider the possibility that this is not a fetal human, then what would count as a counterexample? These two pieces of information should be enough to make anyone agnostic about the provenance of this skeleton. Indeed, the Chilean doctor who first wrote a report (that you linked to above) pronounced his own skepticism in the end: “we don’t have conclusive proof that can determine the nature of the specimen.”

        • Paolo, first I would like to congratulate you for being very patient in explaining your position.I appreciate the time you have taken on explaining your ideas regarding this subject. I am typically swayed by good logic. I really would have preferred to see a different hypothesis from the information available however to support your opinion you bring up many good points of which I was not previously aware. Thank you!

          There are two other instances of hypothetical alien remains, one is the “Star Child” said to have come from a cave in Mexico of which only a skull is available. With your skills in analyzing bones and general knowledge in the field I wonder if you might jump into the discussion on this one? Much of their position in favor of an alien origin is that the bone has a different internal and much stronger structure than human bone besides being thicker. This might be right up your alley for analysis. There is also DNA testing which is at yet non conclusive.

          The second instance comes from Peru, specifically about purported non human but humanoid mummies found in Nazca. I believe the original news came out at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016 where some poorly made videos showing a three fingered hand were dismissed as a hoax. I first saw some more recent videos, still not well made, showing several entire bodies coated in diatomaceous earth that are easity mistaken for plaster along with testimonies on x-rays that had been taken. I mostly dismissed those as looking to unprofessional and outlandish. In the last month or so there has been a lot of new publicity with the Gaia website promoting some new analysis of radio-graphs that were taken more recently. There have been at least two radiologists that have taken the anomalies seriously, one from the University of Colorado Hospital with an MD and a second that I saw from the University of San Marcos in Lima who reported having 25 years experience in radiology. A French archaeologist is also backing the find as needing serious research along with a group from Mexico and a doctor from St. Petersberg. It is the testimony of the radiologists that has caught my attention.

          There’s a number of tabloids with photos and articles too.

          The investigators are appealing to the gov’t of Peru and others to conduct a serious investigation into the authenticity of the mummies. That’s a bit different from a hoax where someone is trying to control all of the story.

          I was looking for images of the Nazca mummies when I came across a link to your blog post after seeing photos of the Atacama being. Decided to see what was the gist of the discussion here.

          I’ll be very interested to hear what you might have to say about the other two instances.

          • Hi John, the Starchild skull is entirely consistent with a child suffering from hydrocephalus and the DNA analysis reported on should be taken with a pinch of salt, as it was carried out before the more recent advances in ancient DNA processing that have been developed. Also, the interpretation of results by Pye has been somewhat… let’s say imaginative.

            The Nazca specimens are more interesting, but I’ve yet to see detailed X-rays and CT scans, so I wouldn’t want to comment in any detail. However, from what I’ve seen in paused glimpses on the video and screen grabs elsewhere, they don’t look all that unusual for Peruvian mummies (regarding position, preservation and head shape). The odd thing is the digits and that may simply turn out to be body modification or a form of ectodermal dysplasia, which tend to be caused by mutations and therefore run in families, so the specimens may be related individuals with the same condition. One Nazca specimen I saw images of actually looked like a sloth with its claws removed. It will be easier to get a clear picture once more detailed information becomes available.

  12. Google earth’s car should have taken a lot of pics of tiny humans/aliens living among us. I want to believe that any medical doctor can identify a fetus and its age; otherwise I have fully lost faith for the field.

    • Why is it that people can’t understand that there is a difference between a living (or freshly dead) specimen and a mummified one? The techniques used to interpret a mummy are somewhat different to those used to interpret a live or freshly dead specimen. Postmortem processes are complex and specific to the environments in which they occur. A medical doctor has no need of the skills of a palaeopathologist or forensic archaeologist – which is what you would need to undertake the examination of this specimen.

      • You sounded like my boss, “people can’t understand”, instead of “maybe i wasn’t clear enough” – ok you were clear enough and I got it, I’m not a doctor nor a palaeopathologist and the first thought I have when I saw the skeleton was that it was a fetus, once I took the time to read about abortion procedures, your argument has more weight to me, cheers.

        • Apologies, yours was the last comment I replied to after having responded to several from people who clearly hadn’t read the research I linked to, which discusses an Egyptian infant mummy with lots of parallels to this specimen – my patience had worn thin and you bore the brunt of that for no good reason. My bad!

      • By the way, thanks for reply, you have won yourself a follower Sir, excuse my bad english I’m mexiCAN.

      • So you believe a whole proffesors team didn’t get into consideration that the specimen was mummiefied? you think you were the only one that didn’t step in that possibility of error? besides that the deformations are so many and never seen before. I don’t know what it is. but if it was a fetus they would have found out so far. many analysts insist that its not a fetus for more reasons than just the xrays.

        • The team make no mention of the bone density artefacts recognised as being associated with mummified remains in any of their reports. This means it is not a case of my believing that they have not considered the implications of mummification, it means that they either have not considered those implications or that they have considered them and have chosen to ignore them without providing any justification. I am assuming the former option, which is simple and entirely excusable human error, over the latter, which is dishonest and inexcusable.

          • Ok, it’s time to clarify your interpretation of the mummified child report to which you linked, as I believe you are misinterpreting the results. The report says clearly that the densities of the “non-ossified cartilage” has increased beyond what they would expect from a recently-dead child of a similar age. In their words: “a striking appearance is the marked increase in the attenuation value of all nonossified cartilage to around 200HU attenuation.” This is in contrast to bone itself, which always has a higher HU value than the softer catilaginous tissues within the same specimen.

            The increased density of the cartilage, they go on to say, is likely the result of the embalming process–something the Atacama skeleton certainly did not undergo. I fail to see how you can continue to cite the Golding report as evidence to support the notion that the Atacama skeleton is definitely fetal because it was never subjected to an embalming process, and was likely, as you recognize, an accidental mummification. In your words: “In mummified specimens there is a well recognised increase in the density of both bone and cartilage to x-rays, to the point that age determination becomes unreliable.” Your failure to recognize the embalming process as the likely reason for the age estimation of 6-8 years old underlies that Dr. Lachman did not “just miss” this in his evaluation.

            As that is the only reason you have for dismissing the 6-8 year-old age estimate by Dr. Lachman (you know, the guy who literally wrote the book on pediatric osteopathologies), you may want to reconsider your certainty about this specimen being a foetus. Given all the evidence, the skeleton is most likely 6-8 years of age at the time of death.

            As that is the most reasonable interpretation of the data to this point, how do you make sense of the Atacama skeleton?

            • Correction: Your failure to recognize the embalming process as the likely reason for the difficulty in age estimation of the Egyptian child does not bear on Dr. Lachman’s estimation on the Atacama skeleton’s as 6-8 years old at the time of death.

              (My apologies for the confusion.)

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  14. The fetus was actually found in a graveyard next to a church in an abandoned town, so it might have been a miscarriage.

    • It is possible, although that doesn’t explain the hole in the back of the head and the deformation of the skull. It also doesn’t explain why it was found in a “pouch” or why it wasn’t buried (unless it was dug up – a detail I’ve not seen expressed anywhere).

      Still pretty depressing.

        • Thanks for that – very useful.

          I think they sampled from the hole when taking samples, but there was reference to “postmortem” damage on the head, which suggests that the specimen came with the hole.

          I’ll see if I can find any references to funereal practices for miscarried foetuses in Chile. Even if it was an abortion the mother or the person conducting it may have wanted to give the foetus a burial on sanctified ground – it’s seen as important in some Catholic countries.

      • The hole in the back of the head is from the examination to remove internal tissue. There are a number of photos both of the remains and in x-ray prior to the hole being cut.

        If you are actually qualified to give an analysis on mummification, particularly of children, why not contact these people and offer your services so you can possibly see it in person.

        • PS here’s a vid on you tube that provides a very nice slideshow of the images up close, higher definition. Maybe that will help

        • The more I find out about it, the more I realise that the Sirius Discovery guys HAVE had other expert opinion saying that this is a foetus, but they have chosen to ignore it:

          This is not how scientists deal with evidence and it seriously compromises the research credibility of the Sirius Discovery project.

  15. Paolo V: Just want to say thank you for your contribution to civil dialogue and thoughtful conversation. Your replies are even-handed and sensible. Glad to have stumbled on your blog.

      • Paolo V, I found this article three and a half years after the dialogue but want to say you managed to maintain an even-tempered discourse through the internet-slam-salad and so I send you my deep admiration and empathy. I love that little Atacama person very much, fetus or not. You’ve brought balance and logic and I adore you for that. Thanks so much.

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  18. Paolo: I sent Dr. Nolan your article, and he acknowledged that the evidence seems to be pointing in this direction, so I would say science is taking it’s correct course.

    • Thanks Jordon,

      I’ve heard from Prof. Alice Roberts, who’s a medical doctor who specialises in osteoarchaelogy and she agrees with the foetus interpretation, as does an earlier identification of the specimen being a foetus by a Dr. Etxeberria:

      It does seem to be the best interpretation of the evidence.

  19. It does for sure. And I’m happy to see Dr. Nolan accepting that direction, rather than digging in his heels.

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  22. Why anyone would get a foetus and dump it in the desert is beyond my comprehension. Moreover, this is no ordinary desert but the driest on earth. So, if they were trying to get rid of the evidence why leave it in a white cloth near an abandoned church??

    Your statement about it being a foetus is ludicrous. This creature was examined by the leading expert in skeletal dyplasias Dr Lanchman who categorically stated ON RECORD that it was NOT a foetus. Who the are you to disagree otherwise?

    To suggest that a hook-abortion procedure could have deformed that skull proves that you know nothing about the development of the human skull. Why anyone would believe that is again beyond my understanding. This creatures skull is highly unusual. It had a coronal synostosis and one fully formed tooth in the mandible. I wonder why you did not mention that? The skull received a fracture to the right parieto-occipital bones. I don’t know what that hole is in the back of the skull but it would highly unlikely be the result of an abortion tool.

    • 1) Something being beyond your comprehension says little about the real world and more about your ability to comprehend it. I don’t know why someone would bury a placenta in an ice-cream tub in Tooting, but someone did it. I would think that disposing of an illegally aborted foetus in an abandoned graveyard would be eminently understandable – a graveyard is where you dispose of human remains in a Catholic country and you couldn’t leave an illegally aborted foetus in a graveyard that is in regular use because you’d expect someone to find it, so leaving it in an abandoned one makes sense.

      2) Expertise is knowledge within a field. Dr Lanchman is an expert in skeletal dyplasias but is not an osteoarchaeologist or palaeopathologist, So Dr Lanchman is no more qualified to make a statement about this specimen than I am. Besides which, arguments from authority don’t hold any water when they are not supported by good evidence and in this case the evidence supports the identification of it being a foetus (which is also the opinion of at least two osteoarchaeologists: Prof. Alice Roberts and Dr. Etxeberria:

      3) I know a bit about the development of the human skull. I’ve dealt with hundreds of them at every age range from foetuses to elderly adults. The plasticity of a foetal skull could easily lead to it being deformed by internal pressure on the parietal from a hook and the forces exerted during transit through the female reproductive tract. This deformation would negate the diagnosis of a coronal synostosis, since it would not be caused by fusion, but by an external force.

      4) In my study of the x-rays I failed to see any fully formed tooth. At best there may be a single tooth bud, which is consistent with a foetus at 14-16 weeks of development.

      • Lachman is a paediatric radiologist and world expert in skeletal dysplasias. To say he is no more qualified than you is laughable. Nolan recalls Lachman saying on seeing the specimen quote: ‘Wow, this is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.’ After reading previous posts on this blog the hole in the occipital bone is certainly postmortem induced. It was excavated by researchers for sampling brain tissue. Moreover, what is YOUR explanation for the estimated age of the humanoid given that Lachman says it’s between 6 – 8 years of age based on measured epiphyseal bone plates of the femur? How are the epiphyseal plates affected in mummified foetuses? How many mummified foetuses has you seen? No one is suggesting it’s an alien but you are stating here that it is a normal foetus that has undergone changes due to trauma associated with an abortion. Where is your evidence that this is indeed the case? Given that the hole in the parietal bone is not due to a hook used to extract the foetus, how do you explain the shape of the skull? To suggest that trauma could be responsible for the coronal synostosis is to be kind fanciful. I guess that the facial bone hypoplasia was caused by trauma too no doubt?

        • I agree that Dr Lachman is eminently more qualified than me to comment on paediatrics and dysplasia, but not on mummified remains. I’ve almost certainly seen more mummified remains (human and animal) than Dr Lachman, given that I deal with them on a daily basis. The fact that my suggestions are corroborated by two different osteoarchaeologists adds sufficient support to make your repeated appeals to authority irrelevant. In case you don’t know what I mean by ‘appeal to authority’ check out this link:

          Believe what you like, your opinion is irrelevant to the truth of the situation – whatever that might be. If you want to continue repeating your assertions without engaging with my responses you can do it elsewhere.

          • I have one question you ignored from last reply that i think YOU might be able to asnwer, given you are a supposed expert in muummified remains fetus or not… How are the epiphyseal plates affected in mummified foetuses?

  23. Pingback: Bizarre: The Atacama Humanoid : DS2030

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  28. Yes, Paolo V you are completely out of your league in you evaluation. I cannot believe how unscientific you are coming to a conclusion without doing the science. All of the medical experts that have examined the X-rays and CAT scans have concluded because of calcification and joint platelets the child is between 6 to 8 years old. Seems you rely more on your ego centric conservative belief system that clouds you ability to have an open mind to the facts and the science. Indeed, you ignore Dr. Nolan’s work showing only a 91% DNA match with humans. A chimpanzee has a better match. You are indeed in the right place a museum. Keep on quacking with egg on your face. And let the real scientist do the science.

    • Hi there Mr. Troll!

      I’m not going to bother replying to your comment seriously, because all of the points you raise have been discussed elsewhere.

      You keep on trolling away – I’m sure someone, somewhere will find you entertaining.

    • Well said Rick.

      The other Paolo cronies can give this a thumbs down like the childish ignoramuses that they are. I just noticed that what I said above were questions that went unanswered.
      I did a major in Zoology in my undergraduate days and later studied numerous premedical subjects then later completed my doctoral thesis in Neuropathology, so I guess I am also not qualified to speak on the subject either??
      Please explain how the epiphyseal plates are affected as a result of exposure to the elements as you seem to suggest. You are an expert in mummified foetuses so you should know.

      • “I guess I am also not qualified to speak on the subject either??”
        Since when did I say that anyone was not qualified to speak on the subject? All I suggested was that Dr. Lachman’s expertise is in a different field, so his opinion should not be given greater weight than it merits.

        As far as I’m concerned anyone can speak on the subject, but their opinions don’t have to be taken as gospel (mine included).

        “Please explain how the epiphyseal plates are affected as a result of exposure to the elements as you seem to suggest.”

        First of all you should read the paper I cite in the article. It, and others if refers to, note that mummified infant remains have uncharacteristically high bone densities that make them difficult to age using radiographic techniques. It is also mentions that mummified human remains have unusual levels of calcification, even in adults. These are recorded facts.

        What I think may be happening is that early-stage autolysis starts breaking down the cells, releasing electrolyte rich fluid. As the dry conditions dessicate the specimen, the cartilage of the developing bone acts as a precipitation matrix for the salts, increasing the opacity of the cartilage to X-rays. This is not a fact, it is a hypothesis, which I hope to test as soon as I can organise access to an X-ray machine or CT scanner.

        “The other Paolo cronies can give this a thumbs down like the childish ignoramuses that they are.”

        There is no need for this, it’s just petty and I will block you if you can’t be civil.

        • PaoloV: “First of all you should read the paper I cite in the article. It, and others if refers to, note that mummified infant remains have uncharacteristically high bone densities that make them difficult to age using radiographic techniques.”

          I don’t know where you read this, but it certainly was not in the Golding paper you linked about the Egyptian child mummy. In that, the authors clearly state that the ” striking appearance is the marked increase in the attenuation value of all nonossified
          cartilage to around 200HU attenuation.” They go on to say “This appearance has been previously reported as probably induced by the embalming process (Braunstein et al, 1988; Gray, 1967) and should not be regarded as evidence of bone disease or poisoning.”

          As the Atacama skeleton was, without controversy, not embalmed, the comparison is moot.

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  30. Have you seen this?

    Some photos from 1933 were found by a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum that show a similar small human mummy that supposedly came from the same general area as the recent mummy. Back then they considered t to be a “shrunken” human which would be impossible since bones don’t shrink.

    It’s interesting that both of these mummies come from the same area. I have read that they estimate that the Atacama specimen died approximately 100 years ago (although that is just a guess). If true though it would place both specimens from roughly the same time period as well.

    Kind of makes me curious just what exactly was going on down there back then.

    • I have indeed seen it, but thanks for sharing!

      I think the dating for the more recent specimen is probably much less than 100 years, since so much of the DNA was able to be sequenced (as a specimen ages the DNA breaks down, so it can’t be sequenced as completely – it’s a problem we have with museum specimens). One age estimate I saw was ‘a few decades’ (

      I also saw a report saying that the specimen was in a pouch tied with a violet ribbon, which (assuming this information is accurate) means it’s almost certainly from after the 1880’s since this is when violet dyes were becoming widely available.

      I have also heard of another specimen that was apparently found even more recently in the Atacama desert area. These findings are quite widely separated geographically, but all share the same preservational environment, they are also share a Catholic approach to abortion ( so there are a huge number of abortions (80,000 in Bolivia every year) being carried out, mostly illegally – I doubt the situation was much different in the 1930’s or earlier.

      This doesn’t necessarily support the abortion hypothesis, but it certainly doesn’t detract from it.

      Thanks again for the link!

      • Wow! This is great!! Looks like all the evidence is lining up. It makes sense that in a catholic country where abortion is illegal an indigenous woman having either a self/other performed abortion or a miscarriage would try to inter the body somehow out of respect. Putting it out there in the ruins makes sense. It’s remote, easier to leave it out in the open than digging a hole, and is anonymous. The woman can leave her respects in private, knowing the body will just dry out in the heat and dryness of the desert. This has probably been going on for many years. I expect more mummified fetuses to be found, only in the future identification will be quick, and I hope the ‘alien’ hoopla will be avoided. I’m tired of this tabloid shit.

        • Indeed! The tabloid nonsense is my main issue here. The artificial inflation of importance of one story, aimed at generating sales / traffic, while ignoring a substantially more important aspect of the wider story, because it wouldn’t be popular.

    • I’m sorry, but this video does nothing to address my observation that the density of the bone and the fusion of the epiphyseal plates that contributed to the estimate of 6-8 years for the specimen can be explained by the reported fact that mummified specimens exhibit unexpectedly high bone density and ossification characteristics due to post-mortem processes. They need to get someone with experience of interpreting mummified infant remains to analyse the specimen, not a doctor familiar with living patients. Take away the unexpectedly advanced age of the specimen and all of the characters observed can be explained very easily.

      • What about the significance of the specimen only having 10 ribs with no other correlated DNA mutations, and only 91% human matching DNA?

        • 10 ribs is what you’d expect from a 16 week foetus – the others are still developing. The 9% unmatched DNA is a normal issue with the analysis – Greer mentions that himself in the video. The 9% only becomes an issue in light of the other oddities, but those oddities are only an issue if you ignore the fact that mummified infants have high bone density – and it is a fact that has been noted independently before, check this reference:

          In fact, here’s what it says about the specimen examined in that paper:

          Independent dental examinations (not documented here) have suggested an age
          between 14 months and 2 years. The overall length of 74cm is concordant with this
          when measured against modern growth curves (Black and Krishnakumar, 1999; WHO,
          2006). The date of the mummy is believed to be around AD200 and it is unclear
          whether it would be reasonable to expect a child of that period to be of smaller
          stature, or whether the documented smaller height of individuals of that time
          represents reduced growth in later childhood.
          An examination of the epiphysis is to be undertaken for further evidence on the age.
          However this is complicated by the appearances of the skeleton (see below) and will
          require a specialist paleo-orthopaedic opinion.
          Current orthopaedic and neuroradiology opinions of the overall skeletal appearance
          have suggested ages between 7 – 10 years. This appears unlikely in view of the height of the child and further consultation will be made, based on the appearance
          of the epiphyses.

      • Yes, I’m going to correct this every time I see it:

        PaoloV: “the density of the bone and the fusion of the epiphyseal plates that contributed to the estimate of 6-8 years for the specimen can be explained by the reported fact that mummified specimens exhibit unexpectedly high bone density and ossification characteristics due to post-mortem processes.”

        That’s not what the Golding paper says at all, at all. From the Golding paper:

        “A striking appearance is the marked increase in the attenuation value of all non- ossified cartilage to around 200HU attenuation. This also affects the intervertebral discs. This appearance has been previously reported as probably induced by the embalming process (Braunstein et al, 1988; Gray, 1967) and should not be regarded as evidence of bone disease or poisoning.”

        Are you suggesting that the Atacama skeleton was embalmed? That would be quite a claim with zero evidence to suggest it. It is much more simplistic an explanation to accept Dr. Lachman’s estimation of 6-8 years old based on known epiphyseal standards. Although that age estimation makes further identification of the specimen more puzzling, it is the most supported interpretation of the data–unless you’re assuming a group of Chileans practiced mummification within the last 100 years.

        Is that your suggestion?

        • You’re really out of touch with reality aren’t you? Do you know what embalming is? Eh? it’s a method to increase preservation of human remains.

          What did Paolo say earlier?

          “The specimen was found in a bag near a ghost town in the desert (which may have been where the procedure took place). The incredibly dry climate would have rapidly dessicated the foetus given its small size and lack of a thick skin. It’s very simple.”

          What does that sound like to you? Ah, a method of preservation.

  31. Your patience is amazing Paolo. Thanks for not only the initial post and details + references but the repeated posts with the same information for people that have poor reading comprehension. The other professionals weighing in with how the scientific process actually works and “I don’t understand how/why” of something doesn’t mean its not normal. Currently we are seeing what happens when the general population doesn’t understand how things work or how due process is important and it leads to a massive waste of time amplified by our ratings fueled media. Such a shame.

    • Thanks Joshio, my patience isn’t as good as I wish, since there have been times I’ve been snippy with people unnecessarily – for which I apologise. You’ve really hit the nail on the head in your penultimate sentence – the media have absolutely no incentive to desist from misrepresenting and sensationalising situations like this, anything for clickthroughs. Of course, this means that the sensational stories get headline publicity and the reasoned refutations are appended to the bottom paragraph in a “but it’s probably just this” comment – despite the fact that refuting sensational stories is harder work than creating them.

  32. Excellent article. Your article provides a link to Dr Lachman’s PDF report. It clearly states the presence of a ‘at least one’ mandibular tooth. How does this correlate with your theory that the humanoid is a fetus? Additionally, the humanoid has cervical and lumbosacral spine lordoses that one would not expect in a fetus or infant. Your reposponse is appreciated.

    • Thanks Victor. Looking at the x-rays and CT scan I struggled to discern the mandibular tooth in question, which suggests it isn’t of very high density. I think that Dr Lachman is considering the tooth buds that start developing around 14 weeks as full teeth in light of his diagnosis of the bone density. To put that in context, a 6-8 year old should have a set of milk teeth, plus developing adult teeth in the mandible and maxilla that would show up in an x-ray. That means there should be up to 38 teeth visible in total. For an example, here’s an x-ray of a 7 year old’s jaws:

      As to the lordoses (and indeed the non-foetal pose), that may be a postmortem feature, caused by immersion in water immediately after death (presumably the placenta and amniotic fluid was washed off before the foetus was tied in the bag if this was the result of an abortion), followed by natural dessication that set the tissues in place. This sort of post mortem posture change is commonly seen in dinosaurs, although they start out with a straight back which arches backwards, rather than a bent back that straightens up, but both changes involve a similar net change of back position in the same direction – there is some information about this here:

  33. Dear Mr. Viscardi!

    After reading Your article and comments I thought at first that the enigma of Ata’s age really is solved. Especially, because i myself am inclined to think that it’s a foetus.

    Nevertheless, after checking the link You provided about child’s mummy with problematical age definition I am not so sure at all. In fact the article doesn’t specify what testing had been done:

    “Current orthopaedic and neuroradiology opinions of the overall skeletal appearance
    have suggested ages between 7 – 10 years.”

    Here i find only “current opinions” what can mean anything, even looking to blure photos for a 5 seconds…

    More to that, authors say that “An examination of the epiphysis is to be undertaken for further evidence on the age”. And that’s all. We have no information about those tests if such are done ever.

    But, as we know, Lachmans age results are derived exactly from “knee epiphyseal standards”.

    Thus, while being sceptical about Lachmans results (especially because he didn’t performed another age tests to prove “epiphyseal” results, I am becoming sceptical also about Your idea that mummycifation induces post mortem ossification. Especially i think so after reading this report about king Tut’s daughters’ foetus age:

    From this report it’s clear that so called epiphyseal standards regarding formation of ossification centres corresponded well with other used age estimations for those fetal mummies.

    May be we need to search for other explanations for Lachmans age definition results?

    I am an Latvian science writer and i am actually writting an article about Ata. Will be very glad to hear from You and discuss this problem further. Please, if possible, write me: valters.grivins at

    Valters Grivins

    • Thanks for your thoughts Valter, the problem with mummification is that the terminology is determined by the outcome (a mummy) rather than by a single process – a mummy can be made through a variety of mechanisms and so you can’t expect the same process to yield exactly the same changes in the specimen. Some of the other references cited in the paper I link to also note a change in density of bone and cartilage, so it is something that occurs, but it may not ALWAYS occur. This means it should be considered when a wildly unexpected age is reported using that technique – as in this case.

      • Yes, I was thinking the same that greater density of Ata’s epiphyses could depend from some unknown conditions of dead body+ in situ environment. Would be great to do experiments with bodies of some animals putting those in various environments and see afterwards what happens with cartilage.

        If You have any article in digital form where unnatural calcification of cartilage tissue in mummies is described, my be You can send me corresponding text? I checked, but none from articles given in references in report You linked to is available in internet free of charge. Only had got the abstract of “Paleoradiologic evaluation of the Egyptian royal mummies”:
        “We examined radiographs of 12 Egyptian royal mummies obtained by two of the authors (W.R. and J.E.H.) and never before published. These radiographs demonstrate findings not previously described in Egyptian mummies, including congenital lunate-triquetral fusion and destructive skeletal lesions not explainable on the basis of vandalism by tomb robbers. Antemortem fractures, degenerative joint disease, and arterial vascular calcification were also seen. In 11 of the 12 cases, there was chondrocalcinosis of intervertebral discs or menisci, probably an artifact of embalming. Visceral packing and skeletal deformity due to wrapping were observed, as well. Radiology provides important paleopathologic and archeologic information for the accurate, comprehensive study of Egyptian mummies.”

        Most interesting point for our case here is chondrocalcinosis of intervertebral discs and menisci, of course.

        And yes, You are right – we must speak here about mineralization not ossification. The later is not possible in deadmen’s bone.

        • It seems quite odd to me that any such mineralization could occur if the body was not burried but left in a cloth in the sense that there is no direct contact of the body with ground water. Since it rarely rains in the Atacama desert even if the body was burried this would seem highly unlikely. The most abundant mineral in the desert is silcon in sand. How could silicon get into cartilage from the air? For that matter how can any mineral get into cartilage in mummified remains other than from the embalming ingredients?

          How and why would minerals deposit in cartilage in a mummy?

          • Read the comments above, I don’t suggest that the mineralisation is due to diagenesis, but that it may be due to preferential precipitation of the body salts released by autolysis in the matrix of
            the cartilage during the process of desiccation. It’s not really mineralisation, but partial or pseudo mineralisation.

            • In that case would these “body salts” have the same density and imaging properties as bone in a CT scan?

            • Why the quotes? Body salts exist (electrolytes for example) and play an important role in our physiology. The interpretation of x-rays is based on relative densities in the scan, so precipitated salts wouldn’t need to have the the same properties as bone, they would just need to increase the x-ray opacity of cartilage to make it closer to that of the rest of the foetal bone (which itself would only just be starting to ossify at the 14 week stage). Different materials can often look the same in a scan because they have a similar density, so it’s easy to mistake them.

            • It was your terminology (body salts), it seemed quite non specific therefore the quotes.

            • Fair enough. I was typing on my phone, so I was not inclined to type out a list or get into detail. I though that body salts was a common enough term to adequately describe the cocktail of phosphates, sulphates, chlorides etc. that play a role in homoeostasis.

  34. Excellent. The plot thickens. I also have a few questions for Paolo: 1. I am still unclear about the presence of ‘at least one mandibular tooth’ noted on Dr Lachman’s report. Paolo mentioned that he thought this was a tooth bud. But from investigating embryology texts, the tooth buds in the fetus are not protruding from the maxilla (especially in a 14 week old fetus where only the incisor buds would be present). As the buds are fairly level with the surrounding contour of the maxillary and mandibular bone, I find it hard to believe that tooth buds (even artificially ossified ones) could be mistaken for a ‘tooth’, especially by an expert pediatric radiologist. Paolo, do you have any radiographic and/or anatomic skeletal examples of human fetuses at 14-20 weeks old for comparison? The ones I have seen do not show any ‘protruding buds’ as you suggest are what Dr Lachman is referring to in his analysis. 2. Another question I have relates to the other cartilaginous structures that are absent on ATA. ie the nasal cartillage, pinna, etc. Wouldn’t your hypothesis of epiphyseal cartilage ossification also apply to these areas? ie why did those structures disintegrate while the epiphyseal cartilage ossified?

  35. 1. I too am unclear about this tooth, since I’ve not seen any good evidence for it in the photos ( and only seen a possible hint in an x-ray (, which looked unerupted to me and consistent with a tooth bud.
    2. Internal and external chemistry is different. External cartilage wouldn’t be exposed to the same electrolytes resulting from autolysis as the internal cartilage, so I wouldn’t expect it to be as likely to become partially mineralised (and that’s what I think it is – mineralisation rather than ossification).

    • The thing is it doesn’t have any non-human DNA. It just has a small portion of DNA that hasn’t been able to be adequately mapped. It has genetic markers indicating native South American parentage and there is nothing to suggest that it’s not human.

    • Thanks for the link – very useful!

      I will see if I can find an electronic copy of some of the other papers on mummies with odd ‘ossification’ characteristics.

      So far no experiments have been done on this – there are only observations recorded. My explanation is therefore only hypothetical, but at least it has a reported observational basis and it makes fewer assumptions than Dr Lachman’s diagnosis, which requires a set of previously unobserved phenomena to have occurred (e.g. extreme small size & unrecorded developmental conditions). I would like to get hold of some foetal pigs, a dessicator and an x-ray machine to test the hypothesis.

      • just working on my article and thinking continuously about possible mineralization of Ata’s cartilge tissue. Probably fetus was buried together with placenta what could give more liquid for electrolyte (Osario report says that Ata’s founder said that he cleared some “bad smelling” substance off from mummy – however i am not sure about true meaning of that sentence because of poor quality of automatic translation from Spanish) and the other thing is that La Noria was a “nitrate” city, what means that soil can be very rich there not only with silicon as commentator Roger S above thinks, but sodium salts as well, which in fact can be deposited almost on surface in Atacama:
        “Although nitrate
        is found throughout the alluvium it is concentrated
        into a more easily extractable form in the caliche.
        The depth of the caliche layer ranges from just a few
        inches below the surface to several feet, and while
        averaging just a foot in thickness, can reach up to 12
        feet thick (Whitbeck, 1931).”

  36. Thatnk you Mr. or Dr. PaoloV. It’s nice to read a critique-synopis by someone who has a learned, smarts–common sense. I would bet my life you are right on the mark. Only “curious” thing about Atacama mummy it was found in Atacama Desert with landscape denoting apparent Mars similarity, and also situated within its boundaries Valle de la Luna or Valley of the Moon for obvious none need be stated. Thanks, again.

  37. I am undecided at this point, but one thing that does bother me though PaoloV is that you are not addressing the fact that the hole (which is fundamental to your theory) appears to have been added later. Please comment specifically on this…

    • But I do address the hole and I did so as soon as I found evidence to suggest it was added after the specimen was found. I added the following edit:

      [Edit 07/05/2013: In the comments below, a contributor called Fred links to an image of this specimen where the large hole in the head is absent. Presumably the large hole was made while taking samples for testing.

      There are other parts of the skull where a hook may have been inserted, causing the cranial deformation seen, such as through a fontanelle, but this is hard to confirm from the images available, so this makes the case for an abortion using a hook less likely. Abortions in the region are often carried out using an unknown mixture of herbs and it is possible that the deformation seen was caused by forceps used to facilitate extraction or as a result of post mortem tight wrapping of the specimen]

  38. For either side to claim “victory” here is nonsense. There is too much unidentifiable DNA to make a positive orientation one way or the other. The photos that Fred linked to show no hole. PaoloV your heels seem to be dug in a bit too deeply here.

  39. I can only claim a certain knowledge of human remains from the classical forensic medicine. The post-mortem changes in a full-term fetus quite often lead to mummification, even in the cool, humid conditions in Denmark. Quite a number of full-term children have been found found mummified under thatched roofs in the bad, old days. A fetus is practically sterile, except from the surface — and there are no bacteria in the intestines to start putrefaction.
    The surface to volume ratio is very high, speeding up desiccation.
    The skin is very thin, offering no heavy barrier to evaporation.
    An early fetus will be even more wet and soft, drying down to almost nothing but parchment and immature bones. The collagen of the skin will shrink and might very well change the posture of the fetus.
    I wonder whether one should rule out a spontaneous abortion with some attempt at´befitting burial? The use of a hook for extracting the fetus might very well have pulled the head clean off.
    A fetus, dead in utero, can be end up as a “stone child”: lithopedion, by accumulation of calcium in the otherwise rather soft bones —
    Finally: a very high proportion of spontaneous abortions (especially the early abortions)are due to anomalies in the fetus.
    The cranium does look odd — but a rapid passage through a narrow female pelvis ( a very young mother or a rachitic pelvis)might have squeezed the soft cranium out of shape.
    Especially if it did not wear the helmet normally used by aliens.
    Finally: I never thought so few people knew so much about about so many strange bones!
    Thank you for a very good read.

  40. I have read up the lithopedion on PubMed. The calcification seems to be mainly external and not adding substance to the bones. And it is calcification, not ossification. So I will back down on the lithopedical changes in bones.
    My Spanish does not permit reading of the forensic report — but I note that the author also stress the sterility of the foetus as important in mummification.
    The hole in the cranium seems “old” to me, with nibbled edges, not the result of present attack with sharp instruments in investigation.
    I can of course not discuss abortion practices in rural Chile ( I know nothing), but in Denmark illegal abortions were almost always performed without proper dilatation of the cervix. The soft cranium will probably be damaged by passing the narrow cervical canal.
    Intrauterine dismembering is happily a thing of the past. But the procedure involved emptying the cranium for neural tissue (with a catheter and suction) to permit crushing of the cranium prior to removal.
    I wonder whether the hole and the collapsed cranium could be due to such perforation/suction?

    • Thanks for your comments Jakob, they are both interesting and useful. The hole in the cranium is definitely where they sampled from as I have since seen images of the specimen from before the sampling for DNA testing and the hole is absent. The limited literature about abortion among native Chileans indicates that use of a herbal mixture that induces miscarriage is common and that a ceremony may take place for the aborted foetus. It may therefore be impossible to distinguish between abortion and natural miscarriage as a cause.

  41. Hard facts on a soft subject:

    We have been discussing the soft and moist nature of a fetus. Documenta Geigy: Wissenschaftliche Tabellen (1968)p.513 gives a water content of 90-88% for a fetus around 14-16 week.
    In an extreme case of drying you will thus end with a papyrus fetus of 1/10 of the original weight (close to 100 g?). The extremities can not shorten up, but the thickness of the limbs will be reduced to approx. 1/3.
    If the drying up takes place under conditions where no soluble substances are leached from the body, the concentrations of
    solutes will increase to about 10 times of starting values. That holds for calcium too. So the ~2 millimoles/liter of the fetus will be increased to 20 millimoles/kg of mummy material.
    I do not know if this is enough to influence the radiographic density of bones?
    If it was a 6-8 year child it seems to have made without knee-caps?
    I remember the magician and sceptic James Randi telling Benveniste (in the case of the homeopathic dilutions in 1988):
    “If you write a paper on having two Shetland ponies in your backgarden, no one requires much in the matter of proof. But if you write about unicorns, most editors would like a picture or two”
    Benveniste was not amused — I am.

    • Excellent reasoning on the concentration of solutes – I’d love to check the affect of the increasing concentration on radiographic results… Time to plan an experiment perhaps?

    • There is no tooth – check the X-ray / CT scan. The specimen seems to be showing a part of the mandible through the tissue, which looks a bit like a tooth. In an 8 year old you’d expect to find most of the milk teeth AND the adult teeth developing in the jaw in the X-ray. There’s nothing there.

      The 91% match of the DNA is almost certainly an artefact of degradation and experimental noise – a common source of error/cause of incomplete matching when sequencing.

  42. This was an excellent read, I have been following this story and until I stumbled upon this, I had not heard any scientific discussion about what this specimen might be… other than from the Disclosure Group. Thank you Paolo, for providing so much information to back your hypothesis, a true credit to reasonable application of knowledge. I may have to change my position on this situation, as I was nearly convinced of the authenticity of Disclosure’s claims. I again thank you for providing a reasonable disagreement, as objectivity is necesary to discovering truth. Keep up the good work.

  43. Pingback: 11 questions to a museum blogger for #museumweek | Zygoma

  44. Pingback: Atta boy, sepupu alien mini 6 inci dari Gurun Atacama | Artikel Misteri

  45. Very well written!.
    AND….above all you brought up the tragedy that as you mentioned ended up in some”peoples”dark perverted fantasys about allmost everything from aliens to”freaks of nature”or mutants.
    Probably the poor girl(something tells me that she was young VERY young)got eighter raped..or sold herself in the streets for a few pesos and if she was lucky…some amphetamine,cocaine or some other illegal substance(which indeed also would play a not so unimportant role for the child).We’ll never know…because SHE will never tell.As I tryed to say..A HUMAN LIFE IS cheap…dirtcheap…
    And to be honest…I really hope that all of them who raving on about aliens and shit..would have been there with her as she gave birth to her stillborn child.

  46. Great article! However, you didn’t address the issue of the DNA testing done by Stanford. DNA sequencing was done 3 times, and concluded that there was a 91% match to human DNA. I think it’s important to note that the great apes share 98.5% of our DNA. Something to consider…

    • Well technically the 91% of DNA that was able to be matched was 100% human. That doesn’t mean the other 9% is not human, it means it wasn’t able to be matched. This is usually because it is degraded and it’s a common problem – the same thing happens with museum specimens that are tested.

      • In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.

        • you my friend work for a paycheck at a museum and you can say that sample is degraded so you don’t have to work hard. these highly trained professionals never mention that 9% non human DNA is due degraded sample.

  47. Dr. Greer stated: “There is a paradox between initial DNA tests, which are largely computerized data bases, and the clinical findings in X Rays and CAT scans, and Dr. Lachman’s conclusion that the specimen is 6 years of age and only 6 inches in length. To date, the DNA data cannot explain these perplexing findings. While human-like, it continues to represent an undefined specimen and a least a year of further genetic analysis will be needed by DNA experts. The un-matched DNA (approximately 2 million base pairs of DNA that are un-matched) will need to be carefully explored, and to date this has not been accomplished.”
    Although your explanation on the surface sounds convincing, you are not really explaining everything about Dr. Greer’s report. Leaving 9% of the fetus’ DNA in the “trash can” (2 million base pairs long), calling it “degraded garbage”, and calling the specialist’s opinion that this person was 6-8 years old at the time of death, simply a mistake, severely weakens your case that we are simply dealing with a human fetus. If a 91% genomic match is “technically” sufficient in your opinion to call this specimen a human, what can we say then about chimpanzees, Neanderthals and other hominids who share between 94% and 99% base pairs with humans? When we know for a fact we are analyzing a human specimen, then I must agree 91% base pairs may be sufficient. When you are trying to identify a new species all together though, you cannot call any particular species which happens to share 91% base pairs with a human, a human being. As Dr. Greer clearly called the initial testing “insufficient to produce definitive conclusions,” I think you should allow for more tests to take place and wait along with the rest of us for those final results.

    • Dr Lachman may be a good paediatrician, but he’s not a palaeopathologist and is therefore not the right person to be analysing mummified remains. The disparity between the DNA and the clinical investigation can be entirely accounted for by that simple fact.

      • It’s starting to look more and more like you have a non-falsifiable theory, i.e.: that no conditions could satisfy the proposition that this is not a foetus.

        The epiphyseal standards demonstrate an individual of 6 to 8 years old–standards which are widely documented, corroborated and accepted in the field of paediatrics. You don’t buy it because you assert mineralization of the non-osseous tissues, as seen in mummies who have been embalmed, despite the lack of embalming, based on your “hunch” about what might happen to electrolytic fluids in a super-arid climate without the least bit of evidence. Ok. It’s not impossible, but it’s yet to be shown in other mummies without embalming. But you deny the estimated age by a professional in the field of paediatric osteopathologies based on an untested, undocumented guess. If that’s not an unscientific and motivated conclusion, I don’t know what is.

        The DNA evidence is strange, on that we can agree. What we can say for sure about the unknown 9% is that we don’t know how to interpret it. Your interpretation is certain, however: it’s junk, or useless or degraded or otherwise not important to the fact that the other 91% is human. But this is an argument from ignorance, as I’m sure you know. You can’t use an absence of knowledge to make a knowledge claim–other than we don’t know. That’s the only true thing we can say about that 9%. Because if, in some possible world, it was another non-human primate, it might indeed only match 91% to the human genome. The people who did the sequencing were clear that this 9% was not junk, nor was it degraded–it simply didn’t fit into their current data sets. But you know it’s junk.

        You’ve since recanted your “hook in the back of the head/back yard abortion” interpretation of the hole in the skull, but the fact that you tried to use that false interpretation to account for the skull abnormality betrays your motivation to make the Atacama specimen seem like nothing but a sad example of humanity’s inhumanity. In fact, your warning at the top seems more of an appeal to emotions than any kind of real assessment of this very unusual mummy. I can’t blame you for setting out click bait, but the evidence at hand makes this interpretation highly unlikely, as no one is “aborted” at 6 years old.

        A lot of people don’t know how to evaluate a theory for shit, but the fact is, if you don’t have any conditions by which your theory may be wrong, you can bet it’s not a very fruitful theory.

        • Sorry buddy, I’m offering a refutation to a theory here, not proposing a new one.

          Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence. The claim that this individual is an alien or evidence of a hitherto undescribed medical condition is remarkable, but the evidence can be readily refuted and a far more mundane explanation provided.

          No matter how much you flame the comments of this blog, it doesn’t change the fact that this specimen offers no reliable evidence for Greer’s remarkable claims and they can be discounted.

          • For clarity, I’m not solely trying to be provocative, however, you are indeed proposing a theory. Your theory says this specimen is a human foetus. You need not be the first ever to conceive it in order to propose it (or defend it, or however you want to frame it). This is not a pedantic point. It bears on the structure of your (and our) thoughts on the subject. And by the way, I appreciate your engagement in this conversation. I was a bit trollish above, but my motivation is to have a conversation, not to be a dick. So thanks for your time in advance.

            From all the points you’ve made above, and I’ve read most if not all of them, for every strand of evidence indicating that the specimen is either not a foetus or not a deformed human, your counterarguments do not appear to hold as much weight. Let’s take a look, and correct my misrepresentations. Let’s look at this first one that much of your fetal argument seems to rest.

            Tissue density disparities as an argument for dismissing the Lachman age estimate:

            Non-osseous tissue density in mummies that were embalmed is increased beyond what the age expectations would predict, according to Golding. Age determination is buoyed by dentition–which is not expected to change from the mummification and embalming processes, thus confirming that the age determination based on bone epiphyses is not entirely reliable in embalmed mummies.

            Ok, that’s all reasonable. But, again, Ata was not embalmed. You agree, but assert that absorption of eletrolytic fluids in the cartilage could produce this effect–an effect that has not been demonstrated anywhere else–thus Dr. Lachman’s assessment of age is wrong by orders of magnitude.

            That seems to me a bridge too far from an empirical standard. At the same time, you dismiss the “epiphyseal standard” by which Dr. Lachman made his assessment without any other reason. These standards are used by doctors, forensic scientists, anthropologists, paleoanthropologists, etc. the world over, yet you dismiss the evaluation from a highly qualified person based on nothing more than a hunch. I find that distressing from a scientific standpoint.

            Can you say that your dismissal of Dr. Lachman’s evaluation is based on any scientific evidence relevant to a mummified corpse that has not be embalmed?

            • The issue here is that standards can only be applied to a constrained set of circumstances. As soon as you violate those constraints, the standards no longer apply. Epiphyseal standards are not formulated to apply to mummified remains – they are based on information derived from live, freshly dead or other non-desiccated human remains. This is why they weren’t useful when Golding tried to apply them to Egyptian mummies and this is why they should be treated with reservation in this situation.

              I’ve worked with human remains for the last decade and if I came across this specimen without a label I would immediately include it in a sequence of human foetal development (like this, because there is no aspect of the specimen that doesn’t look like a 14-16 week old foetus (if you’re interested in the skull deformation take a look at the bone clones set – you’ll notice that the ones in the 13-17 week range are ‘weird’ because there’s no fusion and the plates are easily deformed: It may have subnumary ribs, but that’s not particularly unusual, and is associated with some foetal conditions that can trigger miscarriage. I’ve seen the CT scans and X-rays of the specimen and the purported tooth is not visible in them, the only evidence for the single tooth cited is a photo of the mouth which appears to show a section of exposed mandible through dried out gum tissue.

              Without direct access to the specimen I can’t definitively make an identification, so I can’t be 100% certain, but I have not seen any evidence to make me think this is anything unusual.

            • ” Epiphyseal standards are not formulated to apply to mummified remains – they are based on information derived from live, freshly dead or other non-desiccated human remains. This is why they weren’t useful when Golding tried to apply them to Egyptian mummies and this is why they should be treated with reservation in this situation.”

              But Paolo, you don’t address that the primary reason the epiphyseal standards didn’t work on these Egyptian mummies was because they were embalmed. Golding is very clear on this. You keep appealing to some theoretical increase in density of the cartilage as a reason to dismiss Lachman’s age assessment, but without any real science behind it. It’s an armchair suggestion for throwing out a considered, professional evaluation.

              From a scientific perspective, wouldn’t it make more sense to appeal to the best evidence available–even if that evidence puts us in a difficult position? The best evidence we have says this corpse was 6-8 years old at the time of death. The best evidence shows that there are only 10 ribs which are angled lower anteriorly, indicating post-fetal development. The skull doesn’t seem to be deformed more than it appears to be unusually formed. The 9% unmatched DNA is not “degraded” or “useless” but simply didn’t match the data sets. That’s a lot of reasons to suggest we cannot simply write this off as aborted, deformed foetus.

            • Mummification can be natural or artificial, When artificial it is called embalming, which is what Golding refers to. This does not make the process or the results significantly different, it’s simply a term of reference. Golding does not suggest any specific factors in the embalming process that exclude natural mummification from displaying the same effect. Increase in cartilage density happens when cartilage dries out. This is demonstrable by getting cartilage and drying it out – it shrinks by a considerable amount and increases in density.

              Check out cranial deformation in neonates and prenates – it happens all the time because the plates of the skull are unfused. The head shape is literally meaningless as a diagnostic characteristic. Then check out any studies that use DNA from museum specimens, it’s usual for DNA to not be fully ‘matched’ and that’s because the unmatched sections are degraded and therefore can’t match. This is not remarkable and it doesn’t suggest anything unusual about those section of DNA. In fact, 100% ‘matching’ of DNA is almost unheard of from specimens that haven’t been freshly taken from a living or recently dead animal (unless the samples have been stored in appropriate conditions). I’m surprised they were even able to match 91%

              Again – Greer is the one making extraordinary claims and I reject them. If you choose to accept them that’s up to you.

            • “Mummification can be natural or artificial, When artificial it is called embalming, which is what Golding refers to. This does not make the process or the results significantly different, it’s simply a term of reference. Golding does not suggest any specific factors in the embalming process that exclude natural mummification from displaying the same effect.”

              This is either a gross misunderstanding of Golding or an attempt at misdirection. Golding clearly indicates that the increased density is likely due to the embalming process, and with a little reading, there’s good reason to think so.

              Golding: “A striking appearance is the marked increase in the attenuation value of all non- ossified cartilage to around 200HU attenuation. This also affects the intervertebral discs. This appearance has been previously reported as probably induced by the embalming process (Braunstein et al, 1988; Gray, 1967) and should not be regarded as evidence of bone disease or poisoning.”

              Egyptian embalming almost always involved soaking in natron, a salt compound–for somewhere around 40 to 70 weeks. It’s safe to say this does indeed make artificial mummification significantly different than natural desiccation. Your statement is completely unsupported by the research, and the kindest interpretation of your words is a poor understanding of the Egyptian embalming process.

              In addition to natron, the Egyptian mummification process involved the use of resin, oils, and (in later dynasties), pitch. To say that the addition of these compounds had no distinguishable effect on the tissues of the corpse compared to natural desiccation and that embalming is “simply a term of reference” borders on mendacious. I dare say an Egyptologist would defecate a small Chinese man if he heard anyone say that.

              In regard to the picture of fetal skeletons, we can see the orientation of the ribs in the axial plane is relatively horizontal–that is, they extend to the same level anteriorly as their posterior origin. This is unarguably not the case with Ata’s ribs. Ata shows the anterior descent of the ribs relative to their posterior origin indicating post-fetal development.

              You said earlier that this is because the drying and stretching of the skin probably pulled them into that position, but you have zero examples of this. This is yet another ad hoc theory you made up for the specific purposes of calling this a “fetus” and dismissing Dr. Lachman’s age assessment.

              What evidence would you need to see in order to consider Ata not a fetus? Would a driver’s license do? Because there is abundant evidence Ata is not a fetus, however, for every reason given, you give a weakly-argued reason why is cannot be. This is exactly what a non-falsifiable theory looks like.

              When you show a “Young Earth Creationist” a fossil, they say “that’s God testing our faith.” When you ask how starlight from billions of lightyears away could be reaching us, they respond “light traveled faster in the past.” That’s a non-falsifiable theory. Welcome to the club.

              Or, Paolo, what conditions would satisfy you that Ata is not a fetus? If you have none, you are not making a scientific argument, you’re making a sales pitch.

            • Golding: “A striking appearance is the marked increase in the attenuation value of all non- ossified cartilage to around 200HU attenuation. This also affects the intervertebral discs. This appearance has been previously reported as probably induced by the embalming process (Braunstein et al, 1988; Gray, 1967) and should not be regarded as evidence of bone disease or poisoning.”

              Golding doesn’t have a mechanism, he’s merely positing a likely cause. I am doing the same. You can do a simple experiment yourself by getting a piece of cartilage (a pig’s ear works) and drying it out. It shrinks and the density increases, as can be determined by weighing and measuring the volume with standard displacement. If you want to test the hypothesis then I suggest getting a foetal pig, wrapping it up and burying in the sand of the Atacama desert – I predict you will see deformation of the ribs, increased opacity of cartilage to X-rays, etc.

            • It’s somewhat of a shock that an employee of a museum refuses to recognize a difference between a naturally desiccated mummy and an embalmed mummy. If there were nothing of consequence riding on this distinction, there would likely be no problem accepting this important difference, but as you’ve mounted the entire “Ata is a fetus” theory on there being no such difference, this approch a sales technique and essentially an irrational appeal. You’re pushing a theory beyond the limits of its logical envelope.

              But the research has already been done in this regard. It’s just a matter of accepting the literature or remaining agnostic toward it, i.e. “Golding doesn’t have a mechanism, he’s merely positing a likely cause. I am doing the same.”

              You make it sound like your theory is on par with Golding’s and therefore, as justifiable. But this is far from the case. I’ve asked for some documentation backing up your hypothesis (that natural desiccation would produce the same increased HU values of non-osseous structures as embalmed mummies) which you have yet to produce. Golding cites a couple of sources. Not only is Golding’s proposition backed by other researchers, but the armchair suggestion you give (that electrolytes in the body do not evaporate, but concentrate in these cartilaginous tissues, thus increasing density) would only be amplified by the embalming process. That is, if you believe your own suggestion, you shouldn’t have any problem accepting that soaking in salts would cause a greater increase in density of these tissues.

              Where do you stand on this?

              As for the fetal pig experiment, I’m not in a position to defend your theory: there are many more reasons to believe Ata is a 6-8 year old child than there are to believe the desiccation process pulled the ribs into just the right position to look nothing like a fetus. Again, a theory with no evidence to support it which seems designed to save the “Ata is a fetus” theory in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

            • To be honest this is getting boring. The Atacama desert is a massive salt pan, so the specimen would have been exposed to salts during mummification. Not the same as embalming, but more similar than fresh tissue. The main issue that you seem unable to grasp is that mummified tissues differ from fresh tissues, making the epiphyseal standards applied inapplicable in this case.

            • That’s fine if you’re getting bored, but you’ve yet to defend your points beyond mere speculation. You take a stance of certainty when it is not anywhere near certain what this specimen represents. It’s a non-scientific stance parading as if it were supported by the facts. It isn’t.

              I understand that facts are not going to affect your perspective; my inquiry at this point is to try to discern the reasons for your non-falsifiable position. Why are you selling this idea that Ata is a fetus? Are you emotionally invested in this idea? Because the facts do not corroborate such a hard-lined stance.

              You have no grounds whatsoever to claim the ribs were pulled into a post-fetal position by the stretching of the skin, yet you claim it as fact. Nor do you have any grounds at all to claim that since 91% of the DNA matched to the human reference genome, it must be human. That would make chimps and Neanderthals human as well, which, without controversy, they are not.

              Also worth noting is there is no known abnormality that produces 10 ribs in humans. Nor do any known congenital bone dysplasias exist that could explain the size and age, and dwarfism was ruled out by the DNA analysis.

              Your repeated claims that there’s no distinction between natural mummification and embalming still amazes me in its sheer denial of the material facts. Heck, if someone didn’t point out a photo of Ata with it’s skull in tact, you’d still be pushing that weak tea theory of “hook-in-the-head” abortion. And all of this in service to the notion that Ata was a fetus.

              It’s all transparently weak, but why? What do you get out of denying the facts and trying to shut down the debate?

            • This is now circular. I have addressed all of these points before and frankly I don’t have the time or patience to go through it all again. This isn’t a debate, it’s a disagreement about interpretation of the available evidence. I have the given reasons for my interpretation, you disagree with my conclusion. There is only an onus on me to persuade you that my interpretation is correct if I think it’s worthwhile. After so much circular discussion I don’t think it’s worthwhile. So yes, I’m shutting down this particular discussion as we both appear to be entrenched.

        • By the way, I tend to associate click bait with sites that generate revenue from visits. That doesn’t happen here. I generate no money from this blog and this post was a response to very demonstrable click bait by the Sirius Discovery crew, who are generating thousands of dollars in donations off the back of something that has no obvious attributes that make it remarkable…

  48. I for one recognized the specimen as a mummified fetus (and probably the victim of an abortion or miscarriage) the moment I first saw a photo of it. I can not even fathom why DNA tests and CT scans were ever done on it. With the transparent skin, a simple skeletal comparison (as done here using photos) would have sufficed and should have been done from the beginning.

  49. It was initially thought that it might have been a miscarriage or abortion, HOWEVER, the scientists have found that the skeleton was that of a child 6-8 years old. An aborted fetus would not be 6-8 years old.

  50. I cannot believe in this day and age this specimen has completely perplexed the scientific and medical communities. Have no other scientists besides Dr. Lachman, who apparently isn’t qualified to examine a mummy, studied it? Has there never been any mummified fetal specimens found with which to compare this one to? Have no experiments ever in the history of science been done on the mummifying process? Is there anything greatly amiss about ATA that completely throws the scientists off as to positively determine that this is a human fetus, or not? I, for one, believe that this was an unfortunate unborn child at one time. But I would think there would be no shortage of data, specimens, and research to settle this so called mystery.

    • The fact that these remains are still doing the rounds with people STILL arguing over the ‘missing’ ribs and the ‘deformed’ skull and the ‘non-human DNA as though these were established facts is a sad testament to how the vast majority of people in th western world think Googling a thing is the same process as a Scientific Study.
      All this focus on ‘aliens’ is diverting attention away from what the real issue is; a Chilean girl forced to have an illegal abortion, possibly dying as a result. But let’s keep talking about little green men as that’s more entertaining …. Smh.
      An excellent article and clear explanations backed up with evidence. I’m only sorry half the people commenting on it clearly skimmed it, so frustrating!

      • I was surprised when I looked at my blog stats and saw that I’ve had about 20,000 views in the last couple of days, then I realised that someone somewhere must have started the ball rolling again on this old news. It’s depressing that people are more concerned about the nonsense ‘alien’ or ‘freak’ angle than the fact that real people are having to deal with miscarriage or abortion without appropriate support.

      • Amen, Natalie. People are so hungry for that alien smoking gun they put aside rational thought in favor of having a hope come true. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve linked this blog in comment sections. The sheer number of commenters who haven’t researched this before reading a salacious and misleading tabloid article is high. Some even get upset and argumentive that I dare present any dissenting evidence.

    • Epiphyseal growth plates are still present in a foetus, they’re just cartilaginous. The mummification process appears to lead to increased cartilage density (something seen in other mummified infants, it is this process that has confused the pediatrician who studied the specimen, since he’s used to dealing with live foetuses and children, not mummified ones.

      • Once again, you repeat this misappropriation of the Golding paper which clearly states that the higher densities of the non-osseous tissues is likely the result of the embalming process–something which the Atacama skeleton unarguably did NOT undergo.

        Unless you’re claiming Ata was embalmed. Is that what you’re saying?

        • What I am saying is pretty clear – Ata is mummified due to desiccation given the arid environment.

          Embalming is the name given to the process of preserving a corpse by artificial means and that process can be conducted in a wide variety of ways, most of which focus on dehydrating the soft tissues using chemical or physical processes (such as introduction of formaldehyde or freeze-drying). Golding was working on deliberately preserved mummies, hence the use of the term – it’s not a reference to a specific process. The Egyptian examples were still desiccated and it’s the drying of the tissue that increases the density.

          Fresh cartilage is around 70% water, 20% collagen and 10% other proteins and some minerals – that means it has a density only slightly higher than that of water at around 1.1g/cm3 and it will show up on X-rays and CT scans as lightly cloudy compared to bone, which in adults is between 1.6 and 1.85 g/cm3. Basic physics tells us that by removing the majority of the water from the cartilage the density must increase (the density of water being 1gm/cm3), making the cartilage more opaque to X-rays. Bone has a much lower water content (10-20%) so you wouldn’t get such a marked increase in density with desiccation, making it harder to distinguish between cartilage and bone in an X-ray.

          • It’s not a bad theory, but it’s just a theory. Golding was very clear in the paper on the Egyptian child mummy that the increased density was “probably” due to the embalming process–not simply desiccation. If it was just desiccation that would cause the increased HU in the non-osseous tissues, then why not show a link to a study of an un-embalmed mummy with a similar age disparity due to this phenomenon?

  51. Any abduction cases where the abductee reports a 6 inch gray alien walking around? Every case I’ve ever read of CE3s or abduction events, no alien being is seen walking or floating that is under 3 feet tall much less 6 inches. I agree that the Sirius mummy is an aborted foetus.

  52. @PaoloV I don’t know how you have the patience to deal with these people and keep answering the same questions over and over. I thought your article made things perfectly clear. I really couldn’t understand how all these other people had such a hard time accepting what you wrote. It is rare that I hear someone who is so logical and calm as you are. People will believe anything but the truth.

  53. What about the fact that this specimen lacks the sagittal suture of the skull, not to mention only 10 sets of ribs, which if I’m not mistaken, has never before been found in human remains?  Then there are the results of the normally reliable femur tests that indicated an age of 6 to 8 years at the time of death.  Should we just completely dismiss that evidence because it’s bothersome to the status quo—that UFOs and aliens are figments of the imagination of people like former test pilot and astronaut Gordon Cooper?  And like the others who noted the 9% difference in DNA, and considering there’s only a 10% difference between humans and mice, 9% appears to be quite significant.  Until the nuclear DNA is sequenced, or until the paternal DNA is identified as human, I don’t think mainstream science can so easily dismiss this specimen as merely a human fetus, though I’m sure that won’t stop them from doing so.

    The truth is, the scientific community in general has motive to ensure that things remain as they are.  Sure, if aliens landed on the white house lawn tomorrow, scientists wouldn’t try to dispute their existence… but only if the aliens didn’t look like the alleged “grays” or make claims of being here before (since at least 1947).  That way they wouldn’t look like the a-holes who completely ignored, and laughed at, thousands of honest, credible, and intelligent people who time and time again, desperately pleaded for them to take their claims seriously.  Personally, I no longer have any doubts as to their existence; I’ve seen far too much solid evidence, heard too many “coincidences”, and listened to too many personal accounts to say it’s all made up.  From the coincidences of the ancient world (pyramid/megalithic building; advanced knowledge of astronomy, the earth, and construction techniques; similarities of mythologies; bizarre evolution of human intelligence and the need of fur to survive their environment; strong evidence of much older human civilizations; etc.) to the conclusions of brave scientists (like initial skeptic turned true believer, J. Allen Hynek) willing to follow the evidence of their own investigations, maybe most people are just more willing to consider the possibilities because they don’t have the egos of scientists.

    Believe me when I say, the clues are EVERYWHERE.  Despite most evidence being circumstantial in nature, it’s the shear volume that demands REAL consideration.  Remember, it wasn’t long ago that scientists were pretty confident that the planets and sun revolved around the earth.

    • I agree thoroughly with your second and third paragraphs. The clues ARE everywhere and it’s time we opened our eyes and minds to accept the likely possibility that there have been civilizations here in the past. The earth is billions of years old, which leaves plenty of room for civilizations, alien or otherwise, to come and go. The idea that there is no other life in the universe is an absurdity. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that ATA was an alien if the anomalies have plausible explanations. ATA being human doesn’t mean aliens don’t exist. But I do think there are too many unusual events and reported sightings to be ignored.

  54. Amazing still, it is. But this a world of ten-year old ‘hoaxes & rumors’ being forwarded around the planet via email as if gospel. PaoloV, sir, you truly are a patient & apparently compassionate person as you repeatedly redirect these, ah, folks back to truth and reality. Evidence I fear that so many rely on magical thinking to allay life’s sometimes hardness. Regards.

  55. Pingback: This Tiny Skeleton Was Found In Chile And It Could Prove The Existence Of Alien Life | Dread Mansion

  56. Thank you. This is the most sound article about the Atacama specimen that I have been able to find, and while deeply saddened by the societal picture it paints, I am most grateful for your excellent overview of the findings and science involved.

  57. Typical head up your sphincter opinion, oh no, we are the only living beings in the uncountable numbers of universes that hold uncountable numbers of stars that have even more planets than grains of sand on earth, the moon and the rest of the planets revolving our sun! How narrow minded and ignorant a position is that? To believe this is to say God is narrow minded as well.

    • Interesting, at no point is it said that life cannot exist in other parts of the universe, so I think you may be responding to an argument with a straw man of your own construction. I’m all for having an open mind, but it shouldn’t be so open that ones’ brain falls out.

  58. I just learned about this thing and don’t if anyone else had come to my conclusion which is this. Indigenous people often make dolls out of various materials either for religious rites or burial ceremonies. This looks like a “doll” constructed from pieces of human bone – maybe the person that died, which would explain its fresh and consistent DNA profile. If so, can’t believe everything thinking it is an actual skeleton.

  59. Pingback: A che punto è la notte 29 – Draghi, sirene e altri criptidi

  60. The hypothesis that the Ata skeleton is that of a child 6 to 8 years old is mainly based on the the presence of growth plates in the leg bones and the presence of mature teeth. Hard evidence beats theory every time.

  61. And after some thought on the matter and watching the film. I feel kinda bad for being part of the exploitation of what ever sad happenstance led to this little fellow winding up in the dry desert.
    Later I will raise a glass to the unknown ghost of a fellow human.
    Paolo thanks for thinking this through. And in the future please refrain from smashing my entertainments.
    “To the unknown ghost!”

  62. Have you ever taken a look at some of the conspiracies with that discerning eye? Something ain’t right about Sandy Hook. Not to add to any workload. But is that something you have done?

  63. couldn’t agree more with this sentiment; I’ve been saying for years now that the whole “fetus” hypothesis was just another attempt at an explanation, and a weak one at that. This “explanation” was thrown out quickly but accepted even quicker, in order to avoid any serious debate that might turn the scientific community’s widely held beliefs on human civilization– not to mention the public’s trust of them– on its head! To completely ignore the lack of Sagittal sutures, a missing pair of ribs, highly unusual genetic code, and the 6 – 8 year old age range determined by Dr. Ralph Lachman– one of the world’s foremost Pediatric Radiologists– out of hand so easily because it might prove some “conspiracy theorists” correct (and most of the scientific community wrong) is no excuse! It’s not like I don’t realize how ridiculous I sound talking about a 6″ humanoid body that might be partly extraterrestrial; but when I research cases like this, and I review all the solid evidence surrounding the possibility of ancient aliens, as well as the hundreds of highly credible reports of UFOs that come in everyday, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this subject deserves SERIOUS scientific consideration– but gets NONE. Thanks for continuing the debate when everybody else says there’s no debate to be had!

  64. else that’s usually ignored is the fact that only mitochondrial DNA has been recovered. Therefore, no one can truly claim with any certainty that this thing is 100% human because mitochondrial DNA only comes from the mother; so even if we knew for sure that this thing was an alien/human hybrid, we still wouldn’t be able to confirm or deny it based on the mitochondrial DNA alone.

      • that doesn’t mean it’s not true; if i remember correctly, though, they did say they weren’t successful in sequencing the nuclear DNA; so it is possible that i simply inferred that the DNA must have been mitochondrial; however, follow-up stories have confirmed that it was mitochondrial DNA only (unless i missed the story). nevertheless, what i do know is that the implications that were made suggesting that the DNA data alone was conclusive proof that this creature was 100% human was intentionally misleading and in no way accurate.

          • i’d appreciate it if you could point me to that data specifically because i haven’t heard anything about any successful nuclear DNA sequencing. thanks.

            • You know what, this is one of the things that really annoys me about the Sirius bunch. They have a webpage where they list papers relating to their activity ( but they provide no link to the methodology of the Ata research, only to their interpretation of the results. I can’t find any research paper defining the methods, just articles (clearly written from press-releases) where the results of genetic analysis are discussed, followed by discussion of the mitochondrial data (e.g. from “To the chagrin of UFO hunters, Ata is decidedly of this world. After mapping more than 500 million reads to a reference human genome, equating to 17.7-fold coverage of the genome, Nolan concluded that Ata “is human, there’s no doubt about it.” Moreover, the specimen’s B2 haplotype—a category of mitochondrial DNA—reveals that its mother was from the west coast of South America: Chile, that is.”)

              The results tend to follow that pattern – first a mention of the reference human genome (which is a standard based on nuclear DNA) then they discuss the mitochondrial data, which links the specimen to Chile.

              Poor reporting of methodology is utterly unscientific and would immediately result in rejection from any serious publication, because without the methods you can’t replicate the research and confirm the findings.

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