A teensy skeleton with a squashed alienlike head may have earthly origins — but the remains, found in Chile‘s Atacama Desert a decade ago, do make for quite a medical mystery.
Apparently when the mummified specimen was discovered, some speculated that it was an alien that had somehow landed on Earth, though the researchers involved never suggested this otherworldly origin.
Now, DNA and other tests suggest that the individual was a human and may have been 6 to 8 years of age when he or she died. Even so, the remains were just 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
“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, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told LiveScience. “I’ve only scratched the surface in the analysis. But there is nothing that jumps out so far as to scream ‘nonhuman.'”