Claim: An "alien mummy" was recently unearthed in a pyramid, and scientists cannot explain its origins.
Origin:On 21 March 2016 the web site Worldwide Science Stories published a post reporting that the discovery of an "alien mummy" in an Egyptian pyramid had been confirmed by archaeologists speaking under condition of anonymity:
The mysterious creature was between 150 and 160 centimeters, and was found by archaeologist near Lahun when investigating small pyramid near the Dynasty doceaba of Senusret II. However, this fact was not discovered immediately. "Mummy of alleged alien, dating back more than 2,000 years, said a source from the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, which submitted the details and photographs of the mummy, but on condition of anonymity.
The remains of the alien created a lot of controversy in the world.
Some online sources say this is some kind of reptile because of the features that characterize these animals as their eyes too big oval. The inscriptions on the tomb of the mummy show that it was counselor to the king named Osirunet, meaning star or sent from heaven. What has fueled passions that it is alien ...
The "anonymity" clause presented an immediate red flag, as it conveniently inhibited any nosy fact-checking of the claim. Another less obvious clue was the non-existence of any organization called the "Egyptian Department of Antiquities": the former Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), a branch of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, became the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) in 2011. That agency historically oversees the "conservation, protection and regulation of all antiquities and archaeological excavations" in Egypt.
Worldwide Science Stories cited primarily unnamed sources in their article, identifying only an individual named "Dr. Victor Lubeck," who (like the "Egyptian Department of Antiquities") doesn't appear to exist.
But the largest clue to the claim's lack of credibility came in the form of reverse image searches. The "alien mummy" photograph first appeared online as early as 2008 and in its original incarnation (as a specimen purportedly discovered in Peru, not Egypt) depicted a far less extraterrestrial specimen:
The original photograph circulated primarily on web sites outside the United States between 2008 and 2011, when the image was altered significantly to give the mummy a more "extraterrestrial" appearance.
Unfortunately, the doctored photograph proved far more popular than its legitimate counterpart. Due to the age of the original photographs, much of what was published about that particular mummy had long disappeared from news web sites, and few unaltered iterations of the original now populate search results. Some social media clues remain, however:
A bit more digging reveals that the mummy was covered in the news in 2007, after the Saint Louis Science Center (SLSC) got hold of a specimen that was originally acquired by a dentist back in the 1900s:
Washington University scientist Charles F. Hildebolt got an intriguing phone call. A mummy had turned up in the storage facility of the Saint Louis Science Center (SLSC), but no one knew much about it. Could he and his colleagues do some detective work to learn more?
"When you hear the word 'mummy,' you think big box or large tomb," says Hildebolt, DDS, PhD, a dentist and anthropologist in the Department of Radiology. "It was a surprise when we got over there and found that this was a small child, partly unwrapped and in a little pine box. We said, 'Wow! This is really interesting.' But we didn't know exactly what we'd be able to find out."
At the same time, they made a bit of scientific history. Although the record of child mummies in existence is still incomplete, they are "exceedingly rare," says Hildebolt. The extensive research they have done to understand this one may well rank, he says, "as the most extensive work ever done on a child mummy."
What information they had when they began came from SLSC records. Around the turn of the last century, a dentist from Hermann MO was traveling in the Middle East when he acquired the mummy as a keepsake. Back home, a niece eventually inherited it, and she brought it out for display on Halloween. Her family donated it to the SLSC in 1985.
For two decades, the small mummy remained in the SLSC storage facility until new vice president Al Wiman noticed it in 2006. "The first thing I asked was 'What do you know about it?' Well, they knew it was a boy," he says today. "'Do you know anything else?' No, they didn't.
At the time, initial testing revealed only a few facts about the circumstances under which the child was born and died:
With funding from the SLSC, university researchers sent another swatch of wrapping to a laboratory for radiocarbon dating; with 95 percent certainty, the results showed a close match. This baby lived sometime between 40 BC and 130 AD, at the end of the Macedonian-Egyptian period of control and the beginning of Roman rule under Caesar Augustus.
"So this child could easily have been alive at the same time as Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Julius Caesar and Octavian," says Hildebolt.
To trace the baby's roots, they contacted Washington University geneticist Anne M. Bowcock, PhD, who enlisted researcher Li Cao, MD, to help retrieve and analyze DNA. Targeting the mitochondrial DNA, they amplified and sequenced their samples, checking the results with Douglas C. Wallace, PhD, of the University of California-Irvine, a mitochondrial expert. Next came a major surprise: This kind of DNA, provided by the maternal side, showed that this child's mother came of European lineage — perhaps a Roman or Greek living in Egypt. So far, the researchers have not been able to amplify the child's nuclear DNA, which would show the father's lineage.
We contacted the SLSC and confirmed that the child mummy exhibit remains a permanent fixture at that center, ruling out the possibility that it has escaped and assumed extraterrestrial form.
Last updated: 21 March 2016
Originally published: 21 March 2016