Almost 20 years ago, researchers made a startling discovery within the deserted town of La Noria, Chile. After stumbling across a mysterious white cloth, they couldn't believe the contents neatly wrapped inside. Since then, the tiny fossils found that fateful day have been shrouded by mystery. That was, until recently, as scientists offered a new explanation to the decades-long case. Here's what they explained.
Let's start at the very beginning. Back in 2003, treasure hunter Óscar Muño was scouring through an abandoned church when he first made the puzzling find: a 6-inch long skeleton, stowed carefully within a piece of fabric. Much to his surprise, the tiny fossil was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Boasting a cone-shaped head and only 10 ribs (as opposed to the usual 12), the remains seemed almost unworldly. And he wasn't the only one who felt that way...
Scientists baffled by mystery mummified 'alien' skeleton with cone-shaped head 🐻👁 pic.twitter.com/nTUGKUzyhg— BAREVIEWS TV 🐻👁 (@bareviewstv) December 29, 2021
After sending the fossils to the lab for further inspection, scientists were just as baffled. As they revealed at the time, the skeleton - nicknamed "Ata" - seemingly had 8% of DNA that was not of human origin. "The DNA and images come from remains that were not known to be human when the research began," as Stanford University researcher Garry Nolan recalled. Fast forward to today, though, and a whole lot has changed.
As it turned out, the fossilized female had passed away roughly 40 years ago. As for the reasoning behind Ata's strikingly small size? While either dwarfism or a genetic disorder was the final diagnosis, researchers also surmised that the baby had been born prematurely. "This research clarifies what has been a very public and sensationalized story for a long time, and it was done out of a desire to bring some humanity to this discussion and dignity to the skeleton," Garry Nolan explained.
That being said, though, the "sensationalized story" still contains several unanswered questions: "We do not know how a little girl came to be buried next to the church in the abandoned town," another researcher, Cristina Dorador, confessed. How did she end up at the deserted site?
Stay tuned - something tells us this story is far from over...