Atacama ‘Alien’: Grave Robbing For Profit – Chile Wants Answers


An odd coda had been added to the recently-concluded tale of the Atacama ‘alien’ as Chilean officials and scientists have expressed outrage over the highly-publicized study of the skeleton’s genetics.

Following publication of the scientific paper which spawned headlines around the world last week, Chile’s National Monuments Council took issue with the research that had been done.

Before one worries that the agency may still believe that the mummified remains are really an alien, rest assured that is not the case.

On the contrary, their concern centers around how the skeleton wound up being taken out of the country in the first place as well as the ethical issues surrounding scientific testing on human remains.

“It’s offensive for the girl, for her family, and for the heritage of Chile,” a biological anthropologist from the country declared to the New York Times.

For their part, the researchers behind the genetic study of the skeleton say that they had nothing to do with whatever process led to the body being taken out of Chile after it was discovered in 2003.

Additionally, they note that the Chilean government has long known about the skeleton and never raised any concerns about the fact that it was likely smuggled out of the country.

Nonetheless, critics say that this does not absolve the researchers from the ethical issues involved with studying human remains, especially those that have been procured by way of, essentially, grave robbing.

As such, the Chilean government has launched an investigation into the skeleton’s chain of custody and is also calling on the scientific journal that published the paper to now retract it.

Although they are unlikely to honor that request, the journal’s editor did promise to explore the issues involved with subjected ancient remains to scientific study in future editions of the publication.

And, although they appear appreciative of the Chilean government’s disapproval of the study, the geneticists involved with the research argue that their work was ultimately beneficial.

“The study has provided a definitive scientific basis to put a stop to unscientific accounts of the skeleton’s true human nature and accord it the respect it deserves,” one of the researchers told the Times.

So while the debate over the true nature of the Atacama ‘alien’ may have ended, it would seem that the study which solved the mystery has spawned a more down-to-Earth argument over the appropriateness of such research in the first place.

Source: New York Times

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