A TINY "alien" skeleton found in a desert 20 years ago could actually be from an unknown race of mini-people who lived in caves, a researcher claims.
Previous studies are said to have established the remains – measuring just six inches – were not a human foetus but a fully formed being.
The owner of the skeleton admitted he had "started to worry" about the creature's origin due to its alien-like feature.
The mysterious corpse is only six inches tall and has no knee caps, a pointy cone-shaped skull, slanted eye sockets and ten ribs.
The peculiar remains, nicknamed Ata, were discovered in an abandoned church in Chile's Atacama desert.
Oscar Muñoz found the corpse enclosed inside a leather pouch wrapped in white cloth and tied with a purple ribbon – with nothing to suggest where it had come from.
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Mr Muñoz later sold it to Spanish businessman and researcher Ramón Navia-Osorio Villar.
Mr Navia-Osorio now believes the skeleton is from a tiny race of people who used to co-exist with the Aymara people in South America many years ago.
He recently appeared on the Spanish TV show Fourth Millennium and ruled out the possibility it was an alien.
He said: "We received it at the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences and there we carried out the first X-ray, with low radiation so as not to damage the specimen.
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"They already told us that they did not know what it was, the head was so voluminous.
"The hands were so elongated, it had no kneecaps, the clavicle was more triangular than that of humans, I started to worry."
According to Mr Navia-Osorio, some of his colleagues categorically stated that Ata was not a human foetus.
He said: "How could it be a foetus if it had callouses on its feet? This creature was not extraterrestrial, it was terrestrial."
The researcher believes Ata does not come from outer space, but rather coexisted with humans many years ago.
He explained: "They were very small people who lived in caves and only came out at night, hence its strange almond-shaped eyes.
"A native friend from the Aymara tribe told me that these beings used to live with their ancestors before the Spanish settlers arrived."
Since Ata’s discovery in 2003, speculation over its origins has run wild with many believing it is extraterrestrial.
The theory grew in popularity after the skeleton featured in a documentary as potential evidence for alien life.
DNA analysis in 2018 suggested it was a human female foetus with unusual mutations linked to dwarfism and scoliosis.
However, that was disputed by a follow-up study by an international research team led by Siân Halcrow, professor of bioarchaeology.
The team concluded: "As experts in human anatomy and skeletal development, we find no evidence for any of the skeletal anomalies claimed by the authors."
This is not the only strange creature that has had its mystery solved recently.
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Last month we told how a bizarre "mermaid" that was thought to be part fish, part monkey and part reptile was actually a hoax.
It was discovered that the creature is completely artificial, made in the late 1800s.
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