Ata is the common name given to the 6-inch (150 mm; 15 cm)-long skeletal remains of a human found in 2003 in a deserted Chilean town in the Atacama Desert, hence the abbreviated name. The remains have been placed in a private collection in Spain. According to a local Chilean newspaper, La Estrella de Arica, Ata was found in La Noria, an old nitrate-mining town, in northern Chile by Oscar Muñoz, who later sold the remains; their current owner is Ramón Navia-Osorio, a Spanish businessman.
DNA extracted from the bones shows Ata was a girl who carried mutations in at least seven genes that are known to cause major skeletal malformations.
Although initially thought to be older, the remains have been dated to the last few decades and have been found to contain high-quality DNA, suitable for scientific analysis. Ata has an irregularly shaped skull and a total of 10 ribs. Ata might also have suffered from oxycephaly.
Considering that the frontal suture of the skull is very open and the hands and feet not fully ossified, anatomist and paleoanthropologist William Jungers has suggested that it was a human fetus that was born prematurely and died before or shortly after birth. An alternative hypothesis, by immunologist Garry Nolan, is that Ata had a combination of genetic disorders and thus died prematurely. Nolan’s more speculative suggestion, which he called a “long shot” is that Ata suffered from a very severe form of dwarfism, but no genes for dwarfism were found during his team’s genetic analysis. Pediatric radiologist Ralph Lachman said that dwarfism could not account for all the features found in Ata.
During the DNA analysis by Nolan, the B2 haplotype group was found in the remains.
Haplogroups identify human genetic populations that often are associated distinctly with particular geographic regions around the globe. Combined with the alleles found in the mitochondrial DNA contained in the remains, the findings suggested that Ata is indigenous to the western region of South America. While some ufologists, e.g., Steven M. Greer claim that Ata is an extraterrestrial, this speculation is inconsistent with DNA testing of the remains.