Mystery of ‘Atacama Alien’ Solved after Genetic Analysis

The enigmatic mummified body found in Chile’s Atacama desert in 2003, known as ‘Ata’, has long been the subject of intense speculation and intrigue. Theories about its extraterrestrial origins proliferated due to its unusual appearance, reminiscent of an alien being as depicted in popular science fiction. The body’s diminutive size, measuring just six inches tall, led some to believe it might be a fetus, while others speculated it to be an ancient mummy. However, recent tests have definitively concluded that the body is human, not alien.

The comprehensive research conducted in 2018 by Garry Nolan, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford, and Atul Butte, director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at the University of California-San Francisco, has shed light on the true nature of Ata. Nolan, intrigued by the specimen’s dramatic appearance, committed to analyzing its DNA to uncover its secrets.

The findings revealed that Ata was the skeleton of a human female, with bone composition akin to that of a six-year-old child. Further genetic analysis indicated her South American descent, closely matching the DNA of other Chileans. The researchers also discovered strong evidence suggesting that Ata was a pre-term or stillborn birth, suffering from a form of skeletal dysplasia, a condition characterized by abnormal bone shape or size. Nolan noted that Ata’s severe malformations would have necessitated neonatal intensive care, a luxury unavailable during her time.

The cause of Ata’s distinctive abnormalities remains uncertain, but Nolan proposed a hypothesis linking the mutations in Ata’s genome to prenatal nitrate exposure, possibly due to the specimen’s discovery in La Noria, an abandoned nitrate mining town in the Atacama Desert. This exposure could have led to the DNA damage observed in Ata.

The resolution of the ‘Atacama alien’ mystery underscores the power of scientific inquiry and genetic analysis in demystifying phenomena that captivate public imagination. As the truth behind Ata’s origins comes to light, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of human biology and the environmental factors that can profoundly affect it.