Is Ata an alien?

In the last couple of days I’ve seen quite a kerfuffle about Ata, the mummified remains of a 6-inch tall “humanoid” found in Chile. I thought it was an interesting story when I first read it and I thought it was all over, as the Science Now article I read pretty much explained it completely. But then, this morning, one of my friends shared this on Facebook:


Click the image to see it in full size.

The picture was accompanied by some text, I don’t want to reproduce all 300 words of that here because that will make this blog post too long, so I will give you some highlights.

Steven Greer has recovered a mummified humanoid shaped being that was found in the Chilean desert region of Atacama, South America. This being could not be readily identified as any known species of primate.

It had several anomalies that could not be accounted for under any known human mutation. It is approximately 6 inches in height and estimated to have lived to the age of 6-8 years old, as estimated by Dr. Gary Nolan. It only has 10 ribs, and a cranial-body ratio that does not coincide with any known mutations or species.

“Obviously, it was breathing, it was eating, it was metabolizing. It calls into question how big the thing might have been when it was born,” said Garry Nolan, director of stem cell biology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California.

“After six months of research by leading scientists at Stanford University, the Atacama Humanoid remains a profound mystery.” – Dr. Steve Greer

The one thing I can say for sure is that ‘Ata’, as the specimen is known, is not a hoax. The X-Rays and CT scans show complex internal morphology; a beautiful skeleton and fine facial features. Not to mention the DNA they were able to extract from the specimen.

That DNA is important. The Facebook post claims (in the bullet points on the image) that:

  •  There are no known genetic mutations that would cause all of the skeletal anomalies seen in Ata
  • 9% DNA “mismatched’ to human genome
  • 82 Haplotype indicates mother from Chile
  • DNA proves not a new-world primate

But, how many of these claims are true?

Dr Garry Nolan, an immunologist and director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Proteomics Center for Systems Immunology at Stanford in California, contacted an international team of scientists and asked that they sequence Ata’s DNA. What the team found completely rules out any speculation that Ata is anything but human. Or it should anyway.

Most telling is the fact that Ata’s DNA is only a handful of decades old. Nolan says the DNA is:

modern, abundant, and high quality,

Modern. Abundant. High Quality.

The team mapped 500 million reads of the human genome and it matched Ata’s. There is 17.7-fold coverage of the genome.

Ata “is human, there’s no doubt about it.”

-Dr. Garry Nolan

The DNA sequencing confirms that Ata’s mother was from the west coast of South America.

Furthermore, Dr Nolan addresses the point about the “9% mismatch” in the discussion thread of the Science Now article:


The pro-alien pundits in this debate demonstrate their ignorance of science when they claim that the mismatch is significant. It isn’t.

There is absolutely no doubt that Ata is human. We don’t need to worry about new world primates and all that other stuff.

The really interesting question, to my mind, is what would cause this extreme mutation? Evidence from the skeleton suggests that Ata lived to between 6 and 8 years old. But this is by no means conclusive.

William Jungers, a paleoanthropologist and anatomist at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, posits that Ata is not the mummy of a young child, but is in fact the remains of a premature, stillborn fetus. Science Now states:

He notes that “barely ossified and immature elements” of the hands and feet, and the wide open metopic suture, where the two frontal bones of the skull come together down the middle of the forehead. “Genetic anomalies are not evident, probably because there aren’t any,” he says.

Is there any evidence to support the hypothesis that Ata is the remains of a stillborn fetus?

Baby Center says that at 19 weeks of development:

Your baby weighs about 8 1/2 ounces and measures 6 inches, head to bottom — about the size of a large heirloom tomato. Her arms and legs are in the right proportions to each other and the rest of her body now.

I strongly urge you not to do a Google image search for pictures of fetuses at 19 weeks, as I just did hoping to find helpful diagrams. I did find one image, however, that I think is fairly exciting (in an intellectual, puzzle-solving kind of way). This is an ultrasound image intended to highlight the baby’s spine. Count the ribs.


There are only 10 ribs visible. Not only is Ata the length of a 19 week fetus, it also has a corresponding number of ribs.

The CT scan shows a beautiful heart (in exactly the right place):


Occam’s Razor states that when you have two competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest new assumptions should be selected.

From what I can see, we have three main hypotheses for the origin/nature of Ata:

  1. A stillbirth (fetuses born younger than 22 weeks cannot survive outside the womb). Ata’s morphology strongly implies that this is the case.
  2. An extreme and rare form of dwarfism. (Rare doesn’t mean impossible. We all carry genetic anomalies within us, some are obvious and some will never be known. Any fatal genetic disorder may well lead to stillbirth, premature birth or early death. I wouldn’t be surprised if a great number of “unknown” genetic abnormalities cause miscarriages for which we will never have a diagnosis.)
  3. Ata is an alien-human hybrid (remember, her mom is certainly human and probably Chilean).

Which of these requires the fewest new assumptions? Really NEW assumptions here. For Ata to be an alien you would have to assume that aliens exist (something for which we have no evidence), that they traveled to Earth (no evidence), that they have nearly exactly the same physical structure as humans (close enough to be able to breed with us), that they impregnated a woman fifty years ago, and that this is the 6-year old offspring of that union for which we see no other evidence.

Yeah. Laughable. Unfortunately, there are plenty pundits out there who want you to think that this is the answer, that Ata is an alien, when there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that this is the case. But they have no compunctions against misrepresenting the science and mis-quoting the scientists in an attempt to fool you into thinking that this is more than it is.


10 responses to “Is Ata an alien?

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  3. by the end of paragraph 1 I was thinking “fetus”. The head seems a little oddly shaped though and it is easy to jump to “alien” but there could be any number of explanations for that, from mutation to the soft bones were crushed by a rock at some point in the last 50 years…

  4. The story began 10 years ago, when the diminutive remains were reportedly found in a pouch in a ghost town in the Atacama Desert of Chile . Ata ended up in a private collection in Barcelona; producers of the film Sirius latched onto the bizarre mummy as evidence of alien life.

    • Yeah, I know about Piltdown man. I don’t expect the same issues here.

      Firstly, all they had was a jawbone. The signs of forgery were clear (the file marks are visible), no other fossils they could match.

      This is a mummy. The scientific community is not claiming that it is anything other than a desiccated human. If they were making wild claims I would be more skeptical, but they aren’t.

  5. Steven Greer has done tremendous work to expose the international cover up of alien contact on earth. He has the credibility of prime ministers, generals, and many scientist in the accepted science domain. This creature was suppose to be his lost ark of evidence to prove to the general public of the existence of aliens, but this whole escapade has destroyed his validity in terms of a whistle blower.

    • So, would you say that his work of “exposing a cover up” was true?

      I have seen nothing convincing to suggest that it is.

  6. while I firmly believe in the existence of aliens, I immediately thought “foetus” when I saw the picture. from some documentary I saw, I know that it’s physically impossible for humans to breed with our nearest non-human relative, the bonobo chimp, as the DNA is simply too incompatible and a fetus will not form. do people REALLY believe that a being who evolved on a completely different planet would have DNA SO almost identical that interbreeding would be possible? isn’t that an extremely homo-centric and out-moded way of thinking?

    • Yes.

      You are right on every point you raise. I think it is not surprising that people expect aliens to be green-skinned humans, most of us think the entire universe was created especially for us.

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