Atacama Mummy
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Ata
Age fetal
Sex f
Height 6 inches
Culture Chile
Site Atacama Desert
Current Location
Location private collection in Spain
Catalog #

The 6-inch-long body of a fetal mummy now known as Ata was found in 2003 in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, the body was wrapped in a white cloth and a purple ribbon inside a leather bag. The body was found near a church and a graveyard. It has hardened teeth, 10 ribs instead of 12, big eye sockets and an elongated skull.


Preserved due to the arid conditions of Chile’s Atacama Desert.


DNA analysis of bone marrow cells from the skeleton. The results suggest that the remains belonged to a child who likely had genetic mutations resulting in a bone disorder in a girl of Chilean descent. Scoliosis was present, and scientists concluded that the child had suffered from a rare bone degeneration, which resulted in a faster aging of bones. They estimate that the child died about 40 years ago.

Genetic research at Stanford in a new study, found mutations present in seven of Ata’s genes that are all involved in human growth. This combination of mutations caused Ata’s severe skeletal abnormalities, including her unusually rapid bone growth.


The degree of development is consistent with a 14-16 week old fetus.

DNA extracted from the bones shows she carried mutations in at least seven genes that are known to cause serious skeletal malformations.

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