The Atacama desert "alien mummy"

The Atacama desert "alien mummy"

When truth is stranger than fiction

Chile's Atacama Desert is one of the most amazing places on the planet. This plateau is a 600 mile-long strip of land wedged between the Andes mountains and the Chilean coastal range, and is one of the driest places on Earth. It has a near-total lack of precipitation, with rain only falling every few years, with an overall average of half an inch of rainfall per year. 

Parts of the desert are, at 10,000 feet with extremes of heat and cold every day, remarkably similar to Mars. In fact, NASA comes here to test its rovers before deploying them to the Martian surface.

The Atacama Desert has been like this for millions of years. The Chinchorro people, who lived on the edge of the Pacific Ocean from 7,000 to 1,500 BC, lived as fishermen and built sophisticated towns on the beach. And when their people died, their bodies were mummified and taken into the Atacama Desert for preservation.

The Chinchorro culture lasted for thousands of years, and many of their mummies predate the more famous Egyptian mummies. And unlike the Egyptians, who only preserved their royalty, the Chinchorro mummified each person who died, from the elderly to miscarried fetuses.

After a person died, the Chinchorro removed all of the internal organs. The body was positioned with sticks, and the skin was stuffed with straw. Some mummies were also coated with clay. Each mummy received a clay mask over its face. The body was then wrapped in reeds and left outside to dry.

A recent find set the internet ablaze. This small mummified corpse was approximately six inches long, with a cone-shaped head, and was said to have markers of being a child that was 6-8 years old, based on bone density. 

Many people jumped to the conclusion that it was the mummy of an alien. It certainly looks quite alien, to be sure! However, expert analysis has since concluded that this is the mummy of a fetus, perhaps one which was illegally aborted by the mother, and then disposed of in the desert. (Chilean abortion laws are very strict.)