The Starchild Skull and Its DNA Testing: No Proof of an Alien Hybrid

Frank Johnson of the Ancient Aliens Debunked (AAD) blog recently posted this lengthy essay concerning alleged DNA evidence that the Starchild Skull was that of a human0alien hybrid child: “A Bone to Pick with the Starchild Skull.”

It’s well worth the read, and you should follow the links that relate to the testing itself. The post not only goes into the selective use (and discarding) of DNA evidence, but also its misinterpretation. The post features comments (which have been public for some time) by Dr. Robert Carter. Carter’s PhD is in marine biology, but he’s knowledgeable about the interpretation of DNA evidence.

I’ve been holding some email comments for years from my own go-to expert in genetics (PhD in biology whose doctoral work was DNA-related) about the Starchild skull’s DNA testing and Carter’s own comments. I was waiting for the Starchild’s keeper, Lloyd Pye, to go through with his promise of further DNA testing. In the wake of Pye’s recent passing, I doubt that will happen.

I’ve decided to post excerpts of the comments below, without identifying the geneticist. There’s no point unless we get further testing. My resource thinks the alien claims for the skull and its DNA defense are bunk. Interestingly, he has bones to pick with Carter’s analysis (my guy is a real geneticist, so he’s bound to see flaws in Carter’s analysis). He also knows Carter. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a few editorial remarks of my own (MSH) that have a bearing on what my guy says and what the AAD essay says.


I skimmed over the links you sent, and here are my thoughts for what they’re worth:

1.  Based on the description of the mtDNA results, the normal skull is not the mother or sibling of the abnormal one.  They have different mtDNA types, and mtDNA is (nearly) always maternally inherited.  So they cannot be maternally related.  Could be father/son though.

[MSH: This strikes me as important since, as the AAD post points out, initial Starchild DNA tests had the child as a male. These results were set aside by Pye because of “contamination” – more likely, because they didn’t support his ideas; see the AAD post for that discussion.]

2.  The description of the “shotgun” sequencing [in the Starchild report – MSH] is very crude, obviously written by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Assuming that they’re describing real sequences from the abnormal skull, the conclusions they reach do not follow.  In particular, this statement is totally false: “To have recovered a string of base pairs 342 nucleotides long with NO reference in the NIH database is astounding because it means there is NO known earthly corollary for what has been analyzed!”

All it means is that we haven’t encountered that particular nucleotide sequence yet.  It happens all the time.  Usually, with every genome of a new genus or species that we sequence, some measurable fraction (10-30%) is DNA sequence we’ve never seen before (i.e., has no match in the public database).  In the case of the skull, the novel DNA is probably just contamination from bacteria or fungi or some other critter that
participated in the decomposition of the body.

[MSH: Note the contamination issue again – and make sure to zero in on that in the AAD post.  Pye’s claims of contamination were self-serving. He used that as an excuse when something didn’t suit his alien hybrid view, but ignore that possibility in other contexts.]

3. … Yes, the description of the shotgun sequencing is incompetent (for the reasons [Carter] cites), but I see no reason to suspect that the description is intentionally deceptive.  Not only that, but from my perusal it looks like Carter entirely missed the issue of contamination, which is the probable source of the novel DNA sequence.

[MSH: In other words, my source chalks this up to incompetence, not deliberate deception. Who knows?]

The Peruvian “Alien Skull”

If you’ve surfed the web at all in the last day or two you have probably heard about this “discovery.” One piece I saw on Yahoo News described the skeletal remains in the picture below as those of a “giant-headed mummy” with a “triangular skull.” It must be alien — right?

At first glance, the “giant-headed” description may cause readers to zip right past the fact that the specimen is twenty INCHES long. Here is another picture you likely won’t see on the archaeo-porn websites seeking to derive up their hit traffic. It puts things into perspective.

The specimen is most likely an infant whose head was wrapped to achieve the shape, as I have blogged about before (and lots of infants have misshapen heads without wrapping anyway). This is the opinion of the discoverer, at any rate (if it really is a discovery, as opposed to a hoax). But that of course doesn’t deter audience-seeking web journalists from using words like “alien” and “extraterrestrial.” But iust couldn’t be the result of head-wrapping, known to have been practiced over nine millennia, including in Peru.

Otherwise, is it just me, or are several of the teeth in the skull a different color? And maybe it’s my imagination that the jaw is also out of proportion. I’m sure there’s no hoaxing involved. I’m also sure the Colts will be in the play-offs this year.

At any rate, at least one report I read noted that there appears to be the remains of an eyeball in the right eye socket (pardon me while I ignore the fact that if this is ancient that shouldn’t be there). But if by some material this non-bone material survived all this time, that would be prime DNA testing material. We can all wait now for the “oh, if only we had the funding [and please help us with that]” lamentations that will likely follow (either that or “the scientific community won’t allow us to test it”). My money is on this turning out to be another in the long line of “finds” that do nothing but perpetuate the cherished mythology.