A tiny, alien-like skeleton discovered a decade ago is a medical mystery, but new evidence suggests it is of human origin.
The 6-inch-long mummified skeleton, which resembles that of a human but has a large, elongated head, was discovered in 2003 in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Known as the Atacama humanoid, some suggested it could be an alien, while others believed it could be the skeleton of a primate.
Newly released data from DNA and other tests shows the skeleton is that of a human, though, who was 6- to 8-years-old when he or she died.
“While the jury is out regarding the mutations that cause the deformity, and there is a real discrepancy in how we account for the apparent age of the bones … every nucleotide I’ve been able to look at is human,” researcher Garry Nolan told LiveScience.
Researchers analyzed the skeleton with high-resolution photography, X-rays and computed tomography scans, as well as DNA sequencing, to determine the origin of the remains. They said the skull had deformities and mild underdevelopment of the mid-face and jaw, leading them to ask whether the skeleton was the result of a rare disorder.
“It’s an interesting medical mystery of an unfortunate human with a series of birth defects that currently the genetics of which are not obvious,” Nolan wrote, according to UPI.
Nine percent of the genes did not match up with the reference human genome, according to LiveScience, but that could be attributed to a variety of factors, including degradation and insufficient data.