A close encounter with the 'alien bodies' in Mexico
For Jaime Maussan, a Mexican journalist and longtime UFO enthusiast, they are one of the most important discoveries in the history of humankind.
But for many scientists these two tiny mummified bodies with elongated heads and three fingers on each hand, images of which were beamed around the world this week when they were presented to Mexico's Congress, are an already-debunked - perhaps criminal - stunt.
At Maussan's office, in the Mexico City business district of Santa Fe, staff members carefully carry the two closed boxes with glass lids containing the bodies into a green-screened studio, where Reuters had exclusive access on Friday.
Everyone huddles around to get a better look. The bodies appear ancient and share characteristics with humans: two eyes, a mouth, two arms, two legs. Maussan claims they were found around 2017 in Peru, near the pre-Columbian Nazca Lines.
He says he can prove they are unlike anything known on Earth. On social media and in the hearing, he shared scientific analysis and study results he argues proves the bodies are about 1,000 years old and not related to any known Earthly species.
One of them, described by Maussan as a female, was discovered to have eggs inside, he said.
"It is the most important thing that has happened to humanity," Maussan, 70, said of his crusade to bring awareness to the findings, sitting in his office that is heavily decorated with colorful alien-themed artwork and paraphernalia.
"I believe that this phenomenon is the only one that gives us the opportunity to unite," he added.
Elsa Tomasto-Cagigao, a respected Peruvian bio-anthropologist, is frustrated such claims are still being given publicity, citing similar alleged finds that were found to be frauds.
"What we said before still stands, they are presenting the same rehash as always and if there are people that keep believing that, what can we do?," she said by phone. "It is so crass and so simple that there is nothing more to add."
Previous such finds have been dismissed by the scientific community as mutilated mummies of pre-Hispanic children, sometimes combined with bits of animal parts.
David Spergel, former head of Princeton University's astrophysics department and chair of a NASA report into unidentified anomalous phenomena, said on Thursday that such samples should be made available for testing by the world's scientific community.
Maussan shared on social media and in his presentation the results of DNA and carbon dating tests that he said he commissioned on "the beings."
A Mexican scientist, at the request of Reuters, reviewed the results and concluded they indicated normal life on Earth.
Maussan told Reuters on Friday that the test results were not directly related to the two bodies that he showed Congress this week, however. In fact, he said, they were conducted on an entirely different body, known as Victoria that remains in Peru.
"They were found in the same place. They have the same physical appearance, they are the same," Maussan said of Victoria and the two bodies he presented in Mexico. Testing was not done on those two bodies in order to avoid damaging them, he said.
Maussan is no stranger to controversy. He has made claims about other remains in the past that have been widely criticized. He participated in a 2017 TV documentary about other remains found near the Nazca Lines, which experts like Tomasto-Cagigao and paleontologist Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi have said appeared to feature doctored mummies. Now, he has angered Peruvian officials.
Peruvian Culture Minister Leslie Urteaga has questioned how the specimens, which she said were pre-Hispanic objects, left Peru and says a criminal complaint has been filed.
"I'm not worried. I have done absolutely nothing illegal," Maussan said.
How the bodies arrived in Mexico is a question he says he cannot answer. Borrowed by Maussan for the hearing, they are in the possession of a Mexican man, who was in Maussan's office on Friday and who declined to be identified.
When asked how the bodies - whom he called Clara and Mauricio - came to be in his possession, the man replied only that he would reveal all "at the appropriate time."
Jose de Jesus Zalce Benitez, Director of the Health Sciences Research Institute of the Secretary of the Navy, participated in the congressional hearing, bolstering Maussan's claims. Now joining him at his office, he calmly explained his interpretation of the science.
"Based on the DNA tests, which were compared with more than one million species ... they are not related to what is known or described up to this moment by science or by human knowledge," he said.
Julieta Fierro, the scientist at Mexico's National Autonomous University's (UNAM) Institute of Astronomy who reviewed Maussan's test results for Reuters, sees far less mystery in the data.
She said that the presence of carbon-14 in studies done by UNAM proves that the samples were related to brain and skin tissues from different mummies who died at different times.
The proportion of the radioactive carbon-14 isotope that is absorbed by living organisms into their tissue decays over time, which allows scientists to determine the approximate year of death of the specimen.
On other planets, the amount of carbon-14 in their atmospheres would not necessarily be the same as on Earth, she said.
All in all, the results "do not show anything mysterious that could indicate life compounds that do not exist on Earth," Fierro said.