Close-up of the head and torso of the still only partially explained so-called "Atacama Humanoid" (Ata). | Copyright: S.Greer, S.T.A.R. Research, sirius.neverendinglight.com
Since the documentary movie "Sirius" showed the first results of an investigation of a just 15 centimetres tall little mummy discovered in the Atacama Desert, analysed in depth by medics and geneticist of Stanford University, it created heavy controversies and misconceptions about what those (preliminary) results truly meant for an understanding of the specimen as well as about what the participating scientists think it is. To clear some of that confusion the German daily fringe-science news- portal "GreWi.de" (grenzwissenschaft-aktuell.de) asked Dr. Garry Nolan, the Stanford-Geneticist who conducted and still conducts the investigation of the so-called "Atacama Humanoid" (or in short "Ata") to give an update on the state of his research and investigation.
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GreWi: Dear Mr. Nolan, many news-items that followed the first showing of "Sirius" quoted other scientist, who were not part of your original investigation, declaring that the mummy of the so-called "Atacama Humanoid" is nothing else that a premature delivered foetus with heavy mutations and syndromes. But according to you and your colleague Dr. Ralph Lachman (who is a respected authority on skeletal dysplasias), the original being did live up to an age of 6-8 years and could therefore not be explained as being the mummy of an early aborted foetus suffering from some kind of progeroid syndrome?
Nolan: First it would be wrong to interpret that either Dr. Lachman or I "concluded" anything about the age of the specimen. The documentary was a window into how science is done - with the full understanding that I was giving the viewers "dynamic" speculation over time of my interpretations of the specimen - with whatever data I had at the time. It was my attempt to show people how one can do good science in controversial areas. As such, one has to consider, accept and then sometimes later reject, conclusions as new evidence appears.
Dr. Garry Nolan | Copyright: G.Nolan, med.stanford.edu
Thus, any speculation you hear from me in the movie (Sirius) is a "point in time" - and you will even hear me contradict my own conclusions later in the documentary as new data is revealed.
My early statement on camera that this (being) might have been eating, breathing and living is no longer a conclusion I feel strongly about. Dr. Lachman never said that, so it would be incorrect to broadly include him in what I (personally) stated tentatively. I repeat - the tenet and basis of the documentary approach was to hear me "speculate" - not conclude. Even at the time of the "last interview" in the documentary we only thought the specimen's bones "appeared" to suggest an older specimen than the size would lead one to believe.
The bone results are the only thing right now that suggests it is older. “Suggest” does not equal “prove”. That the bone epiphyses are “apparently” 6-8 years does not “prove” it was 6-8 years. It just makes the question worth answering as to “why” the bones look older. Is it an artifact of the mummification or drying process? Some new form of rapid aging? I don’t know and I suspect we won’t ever truly know without a lot more work. And I am not sure the specimen, at the end of the day, is worth that much more worry and scrutiny.
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GreWi: So are there any new insights and/or results into the question of how old the specimen was when it died?
Nolan: I intend to double-check the age at time of death by determining the foetal and mature hemoglobin ratios. That will be an independent assessment of potential age at time of death and hopefully will not be subject to the changes brought on by whatever syndrome caused the anomaly.
GreWi: The German weekly newsmagazine "Spiegel" (respectively it online portal www.spiegel.de) quotes Dr. Jürgen Spranger, who - like Lachman - is an international recognised expert on skeletal dysplasias and who examined the available x-ray-scans of the mummy and consulted some of his colleagues, with the following statement: "All experts agree in the view that it (Ata) is a foetus, miscarriaged at the 24th week of pregnancy that suffered of the so-called 'Wiedemann-Rauterstrauch syndrome' (a form of progeria)." Can you comment on this evaluation?
Nolan: Dr. Spranger might be right about WS. But remember, these syndromes often are just a collection of birth defects with similar appearance. Syndromes do not always have the same genetics any more than a marsupial wolf is a close relative of a grey wolf. In other words, one can have convergence of features for very different reasons.
Dr. Spranger and I have been in email contact just in the past weeks to work together to resolve the cause of the mutation. He has given me some suggestions on potentially similar foetal and human specimens that might be usable to determine if there is a common genetic lesion with the Atacama Specimen. That said, however, there are no genetic anomalies, based on the sequence, associated with the specimen that points to the known forms of progeria. And to my knowledge WS (the syndrome Dr. Spranger refers to) does not have a known genetics (as of 2007 with the last review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17728088). If Dr. Spranger knows of genes other than what is listed in this report please ask him to contact me with them and I can check the sequence and I am happy to share with him the results as we write up the report for publication.
Thus, the problem might be a polygenic or other disorder such as an environmental teratogen (birth defects caused by environmental causes like chemicals, teratogenic materials, viruses and/or ionising radiation.)
The mummy known as the "Atacama Humanoid" (Ata) was already shown in 2005 as part of the "Unsolved Mysteries"-Exhibition at Berlin. | Copyright: Andreas Kramer
GreWi: Many reports in the mainstream media counter your cautious attitude regarding a conclusion about what the Atacama Specimen truly is with other experts opinion that there are common explanations for the anomalies present. What is your opinion about this?
Nolan: I was brought in to help - not set up "experts against experts" in a disagreement in the media. I have had several emails from equally prominent paleo-anthropologists and MDs who think it's a different disorder altogether. So while WS might be the “syndrome”, there are other ideas promoted by similarly expert individuals. All that means is that I think it is important for your reading public to know that many "syndromes" have no known genetic associated with them. Thus, even diagnosing a specimen with a syndrome will not always lead to a formal diagnosis of the root cause.
GreWi: In "Sirius" you explain that the analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) revealed without any doubt that the being's mother was a human woman indigenous to the Chilean area where the mummy was found (Haplogroup B2A). What is your analysis so far saying about the father?
Nolan: We are comparing the normal DNA with the known allele frequencies of indigenous natives of the South American continent. Yes, I expect that the DNA analysis will end with this being a human and the Father also a native of the area. While I am open minded about the result, I think it is safe to now conclude this specimen is, without a doubt, human.
Another close-up of the mummy. | Copyright: André Kramer
GreWi: Due to the fact that there has been obviously several misconceptions in the public and media about your statements shown in "Sirius" and what they mean for an assessment about what that being is, may I ask you if you regret to have been part of the documentary?
Nolan: No - I do not feel that at any point during the filming of the movie or immediately thereafter that I was misquoted or that the work I had done to that point was misrepresented. As I have said now many times that the documentary part about my work was one of a “work in progress” and that results and conclusions would change as new data arose. Remember the documentary of my part was of a dynamic process. You can expect my results to change. Since so many reporters are trying to put me in a position of either fighting with the documentarians who graciously gave me access to this sample, or putting them in a position of being accused of misrepresenting me, I respectfully decline to answer any further questions.
Nolan: Anything further I could state would be speculation, and I am now chasing my own speculations in the newspapers. So, I won’t speculate anymore and I will gather all the evidence for a paper where the considerations of many experts can be collated. This will take months - and this specimen is not my highest priority.
I think at the end of the story we will find a conventional explanation for the epiphyses and the “apparent” age. I hope we find a genetic lesion and information that helps others at risk of similar birth defects.
GreWi: Dr. Nolan, again many thanks for your information.
Copyright: grenzwissenschaft-aktuell.de, 2013
- Dr. Steven Greer on the "The Atacama Mystery"
Click on the image to play video
- Find the CAT-Scans of the mummy HERE
- Read the comment by Dr. Ralph Lachman HERE
- Read the summary by Dr. Greer on the preliminary finding of Lachman and Nolan (published together with the release of "Sirius") HERE