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Tiny mummy’s ‘alien’ appearance finally explained by scientists

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The story began nearly 20 years ago in the Atacame Desert of Northern Chile, when rumors of the discovery a small mummified alien spread. A collector roaming a remote area of Chile stumbled upon the mummy wrapped in a leather pouch, measuring about six inches in length, and resembling a humanoid bone structure. Despite its small size, the skeleton seemed to have developed fairly complete, even developing teeth. There were other features that were quite peculiar: the mummy had ten ribs instead of the usual 12 on a human, and its skull was also oblong shaped. 

The mummy, later known as Ata, from its location Atacama Desert. A 2013 UFO documentary featuring the skeleton fueled rumors of extraterrestrial life on Earth. These claims can now be refuted by scientists who were able to run genetic testing to determine the true origin of Ata.

The team, led by Gary Nolan at Stanford University, found that Ata’s bones contain DNA that belong to a human female, and that she belonged to a local population somewhere in Chile. While the remains were found to be without a doubt human, Nolan’s team had trouble explaining the strange physical appearance since the bones were as mature as that of a 6-8 year old, despite the much smaller size.

To answer this, Nolan and his team worked with genetic researchers at Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco to analyze Ata’s genome. Their study found seven mutations, all dealing with human growth. They attribute these mutations to the strange appearance and rapid bone growth of the skeleton. They concluded that Ata was likely to have been stillborn or died soon after birth.

While it is common for humans to have many genetic mutations, it is extremely rare for seven mutations to be involved. Alkuraya, a geneticist at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Saudi Arabia said that of the seven mutations, only a few played a role in the development of Ata’s skeleton. However, due to lack of information on Ata’s parents, we will likely never be able to pinpoint exactly the cause of her disfigrement.

Nolan believes that Ata was cared for when she died about 40 years ago; he alludes to the fact that Ata’s remains were carefully wrapped in a leather pouch, and placed flat on the ground away from danger.

These findings have done little to change the minds of those who believe the Ata’s remains are indeed that of an alien. However, Nolan feels her remains should be laid to rest in her home country, and the case be closed for good.

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