Gnome sequencing of the mummy of a tiny, six-inch humanoid that was found in the Chilean town of La Noria has been completed, and although it had been determined that the individual had been human in a 2013 investigation, these new clues reveal that the nature of the tiny mummy, nicknamed "Ata", were far stranger than what the 2013 study determined.
Named after Chile’s Atacama desert, Ata was discovered in 2003, wrapped in a white cloth that was bound with a violet ribbon. Ata only had 10 pairs of ribs, instead of the usual 12, and had an elongated, cone-shaped head — an appearance that led some to believe that it was the corpse of an extraterrestrial, to the point where it was featured in a 2013 documentary titled "Sirius", produced by Dr. Steve Greer. Preliminary genetic testing done that year by Stanford University’s Dr. Garry Nolan revealed that the corpse was that of a male human, probably aged 6 to 8 years old based on the growth exhibited by the body’s bones, but suffering from acute dwarfism.
Nolan went on to sequence Ata’s entire genome, and his team published their findings earlier this month. They found that the initial 2013 conclusions on the case were not correct: Ata was instead the fetus of a stillborn female that suffered from mutations in at least seven genes that are known to be the cause of major skeletal malformations, including the accelerated development of the individual’s bones. This accounted for the advanced development of Ata’s skeleton, the feature that initially led the researchers to believe that the individual had lived well into childhood before she died. Unlike mummies recovered from archaeological sites, Nolan believes that Ata is not an ancient Chilean, but died as recently as the 1960s.
Ata’s DNA also revealed that her genes most closely resembled that of Chileans in the region (meaning she was definitely human), and that she had a condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect that prevents the diaphragm from developing properly. Although the work done to uncover the story of Ata’s DNA may only seem to have been to satisfy our curiosity into the mystery behind this individual, Nolan says that the information gleaned from the tiny body’s skeleton can provide insight into helping advance current medical techniques.
"Understanding the process might allow us to develop therapies or drugs that drive bone development for people in, say, catastrophic car crashes," Nolan says, referring to the accelerated bone growth that Ata’s skeleton experienced.