The Atlantic

The Controversial Study of a Girl Who Ufologists Called ‘Alien’

DNA analysis done on unusual remains found in Chile proved the girl was human, but there has been an uproar over whether the body was acquired ethically.
Source: Bhattacharya S et al. 2018 / Genome Research

Before the media frenzy, before the documentary about aliens, before her bone fragments were ground up for DNA analysis, she was a girl.

She was tiny when she died. Six inches. Perhaps she was stillborn or died very young. Her body was reportedly found wrapped in cloth with a purple ribbon and buried—with intentionality, it would seem—near a church in La Noria, an abandoned town in the Atacama desert in northern Chile.

As for everything else, well, it went like this. In 2003, a local man who regularly scavenged La Noria for historical trinkets found her body. He noted the unusual conical shape of her head. Almost immediately, photos of her began to circulate, and ufologists eager for evidence of aliens came calling. A businessman bought her body and brought it to Spain. She featured prominently, as the “Atacama humanoid,” in a documentary called , which alleges, among other things, contact between aliens and ancient civilizations. On screen, the filmmakers are shown cutting her skull open, and removing a rib fragment for DNA analysis.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min read
The Dark Teen Show That Pushes the Edge of Provocation
HBO’s Euphoria joins a long list of works that have appalled and thrilled in equal measure. But does it have more to say?
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
For True Trump Believers, the Magic Isn’t Lost
The president’s 2020 campaign-kickoff rally in Orlando was an attempt to hark back to the old days … of four years ago.
The Atlantic5 min readSociety
There Is No Middle Ground on Reparations
Americans who oppose reparations care more about responding to political expediency than about the emergency of inequality.