Claim:   A strange skeleton found in the Atacama desert has baffled scientists and may be a human-alien hybrid.


TRUE: Unusual skeletal remains were discovered in Chile’s Atacama desert in 2003.
FALSE: The Atacama entity is a human-alien “hybrid” or some other non-human entity.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2014]

The article, referring to partially mummified body found in the Atacama Desert states that ‘The astonishing thing is that 9% of its DNA is unmatched…’ Is that really true and, if so, does it actually mean anything?


Origins:   Interest in the “Atacama entity” (or just “Ata”) is cyclical, the most recent spike coming in the Fall of 2014. Facebook pseudoscience peddler The Mind Unleashed posted a status update linking to a 2013 article about the Atacama entity which renewed attention to the anomaly:

Since its discovery in 2003, the Atacama skeleton has challenged scientists to fully explain the anomalies in its structure. However, testing has shed significant light

on what may have led to the specimen’s puzzling appearance. Although the Atacama skeleton was originally thought to be tens of thousands of years old, testing revealed DNA that was “modern, abundant, and high quality.” Furthermore, matrilineal testing traced that DNA to the west coast of South America, not a distant galaxy.

In 2012, Stanford University immunologist and microbiologist Garry Nolan took a crack at unlocking the Atacama specimen’s mysteries. Nolan confirmed Ata was definitively human, addressing a nine percent DNA mismatch as likely the result of “bad reads” or “machine error.” He was unable to identify any genes linked to progeria or dwarfism in the sample, and other experts believe that the specimen may be a mummified stillborn baby.

William Jungers, a paleoanthropologist and anatomist at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, observed “barely ossified and immature elements” of the specimen’s development and said:

This looks to me like a badly desiccated and mummified human fetus or premature stillbirth … Genetic anomalies are not evident, probably because there aren’t any.


Nolan discussed what DNA testing confirmed about the Atacama skeleton:

The sequence that we got from the mitochondria tells us with extremely high confidence that the mother was an indigenous Indian from the Chilean area. The other thing that immediately fell out of the analysis is that it’s male. It probably died in the last century, if I were to make a guess.


While scientists can’t yet confirm the exact origins of the Atacama specimen, they have ruled out both aliens and undiscovered species as possibilities.

Last updated:   17 January 2015