Hoaxes & Rumors

Ata the “6-Inch Alien” – Real or Hoax?

Ata the “6-Inch Alien” – Real or Hoax?

Comprehensive overview of credible information on Ata, the 6-inch humanoid skeleton found in Atacama, Chile. Includes our observations and questions.

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The Atacama Humanoid

In 2003, in the remote desert Atacama region of Chile, small mummified remains of what appeared to be a tiny human-like creature were found. In April of 2013, a documentary film was released which unveiled deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing results of those remains. To some people, these results provided more questions than answers. And the biggest question of all is if the remains were even real.

The film entitled “Sirius” is promoted by Dr. Steven M. Greer, M.D., who is a self-proclaimed authority on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and extraterrestrial intelligence. Though the film’s scope encompasses more than just the remains known as “Ata,” this diminutive creature’s role in the film has garnered the most attention.

Critics have panned the film as recycled UFO fodder and accused Greer of peddling theories with no evidence. In the segments relating to Ata, however, Greer brings in some reputable scientists which lend some authority to the assertions regarding the remains.

The official “Sirius” website can be found at siriusdisclosure.com. There the documentary can be viewed for $4.99 and/or the DVD can be purchased for $9.99.

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DNA Results

In the film we learn that Garry Nolan of Stanford University’s School of Medicine performed DNA tests on the remains. He stated, “I can say with absolute certainty that it is not a monkey. It is human – closer to human than chimpanzees. It lived to the age of six to eight. Obviously, it was breathing, it was eating, it was metabolizing. It calls into question how big the thing might have been when it was born.”

Nolan said he can state “with extremely high confidence that the mother was an indigenous Indian from the Chilean area. The other thing that immediately fell out of the analysis is that it’s male. It probably died in the last century, if I were to make a guess.”

Results of the DNA testing were covered by NBC News and the Discovery channel.

Additional notes

Here are some other pieces of information from the film and from papers published by Greer and Nolan:

  • The specimen has only 10 pairs of ribs, as opposed to the 12 characteristic of humans.
  • The skull contains a number of deformities and is quite different from a typical human.
  • A non-fetal tooth exists in the jaw bone.
  • No deformities or genetic defects (such as dwarfism) were reported.
  • Although 91% of the DNA matches human DNA, 9% of the DNA does not.
  • The remains are described as “many decades to centuries” old.


Below are some of the more common theories as to what Ata may be:

  • ET/Human Hybrid – UFO and ET theorists point to the appearance and 9% unknown DNA as possible evidence of a human/ET hybrid creature. Some have dismissed the 9% DNA figure, as several articles mention that the DNA discrepancy could be explained as insufficient data due to contamination and/or deterioration of the sample. In an interview with LiveScience, Garry Nolan was quoted as saying, “…every nucleotide I’ve been able to look at is human… I’ve only scratched the surface in the analysis. But there is nothing that jumps out so far as to scream ‘nonhuman.”
  • Fetus Theory – Many have speculated that the remains may merely be those of a fetus. Both Greer and Nolan, however, flatly reject this claim. You can see x-ray comparisons of a fetus with Ata here.
  • Deformity/Mutation – Some have suggested this represents the remains of a human afflicted with a deformity unknown to modern medicine. Dr. Nolan’s paper on the subject states, “The specimen was concluded by the medical specialist to be a human child with an apparently severe form of dwarfism and other anomalies.” He later writes, “As the current list of human disorders is far from complete and many human disorders are polygenic, there might remain to be found a combination of mutations working in concert that lead to the observed defect(s).”
  • Hoax – Some commenters around the internet have joked that this is nothing more than a plastic doll and the entire film is a hoax designed to make money. Greer points to the CAT scan as evidence: “There is absolutely

     no doubt that the specimen is an actual organism and that it is not a hoax of any kind.” Though this would certainly be the reaction of most people, it is hard to believe that Stanford professor would sacrifice his reputation with such a statement.

  • Shrunken Remains – It has been suggested that these are indeed human remains, but they have been shrunken in some way similar to shrunken heads. We have not found evidence that bones can be shrunken in this manner, and traditional shrunken heads are created without the skull.


  • How could a 6-inch human possibly survive for 6-8 years?
  • How small was this organism at birth?
  • Will the results be subject to peer review? (Nolan’s paper addresses this: “Full analysis of the DNA, and attempts to link genetics to morphology, will eventually follow in an appropriately peer-reviewed article in an accredited scientific journal. The results will be independently verified before publication.”)
  • Why was there a 10-year wait to test the DNA?

Huffington Post Articles

An April 2013 Huffington Post article on the topic has been criticized for dismissing the results as a “disappointment” to those anticipating the film. “In fact, the film, which premiered Monday in Hollywood, features a scientist who concluded the little humanoid was human,” the article summarizes. Readers critical of that article have claimed that it over-simplifies the findings presented in the film and in the papers by Greer and Nolan.

According to a May 2013 Huffington Post article, the remains of a 6-inch tall mummified human nicknamed “Atta Boy” were photographed with “Ripley’s, Believe It or Not!” founder Robert Ripley in 1933. The column states that the “Atta Boy” mummy was also discovered in the Atacama Desert, but was found in either Peru or Bolivia instead of Chile. Nonetheless, it is not known where the “Atta Boy” mummy is currently located.

At the time of the second Huffington Post article, Ripley’s vice president of exhibits and archives, Edward Meyer, was attempting to locate the remains of “Atta Boy”. In the article, he was quoted as saying, “If anybody knows where the original Atta Boy is, write to me at [email protected]. I have to think that there’s a story that’s better than the modern Ata if we could find where this thing is or where it’s been.”

Meyer also offered lifetime passes to all of Ripley’s Odditoriums and a free pass to each of Ripley’s Aquariums to the first person who could provide information leading to the rediscovery of “Atta Boy”.

Surprisingly, little new information has been released on these stories since May of 2013.

Watch a trailer for Sirius below. Note that Ata only accounts for a small portion of the film’s overall content.

Below are some images of Ata.





Bottom Line

Ata appears to be somewhat of an anomalous mystery. At first glance, it surely seems to be a hoax, but with a Stanford professor’s reputation at stake, it appears that the remains are human with an unknown deformity. The Huffington Post reported that similar a mummy called “Atta Boy” was found in the same region in the 1930s, yet the location of the remains was currently not known. Although we await new information on this case, it appears that no followup stories have been reported since May of 2013.

Your Turn

What is your theory regarding the remains?

Updated November 17, 2014
Originally published April 2013

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