For nearly a couple of decades, people all over the world have been fascinated with the origins of the mysterious Starchild Skull.  Here at the The Field Reports, we have been tasked by the owner, Melanie Young, to investigate just that. In addition to getting the DNA forensically extracted and tested, we have unearthed never-before-discovered information about the Starchild’s history.

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The results are in and the father is….

Well, unfortunately, that testing is still underway, (more about that later) but we know all about the mother. Here’s a quick primer on DNA to make this separation of paternal/maternal DNA results make sense.

DNA is obviously passed from parent to child, relatively unchanged, but it is in the small changes, or mutations, that can help pinpoint a particular ancestor from whom all subsequent mutations follow.  In this fashion, one can trace their mother’s lineage (located on the X chromosome) back even thousands of years and this maternal DNA (mt-DNA) is found in the mitochondria. A male inherits both an X and Y and can trace his father’s (Y-DNA) as well as his mother’s ancestors in the same manner.  The problem with this Y-DNA is that while mt-DNA is found in both the nucleus and mitochondria, the Y-DNA is only found in the nucleus and it degrades at least twice as fast as its maternal counterpart.  So, when we’re dealing with ancient DNA, as we are with a 900-year-old skull, different methods are used to try to isolate the best quality DNA possible.  Therefore, Paleo DNA Laboratory is currently trying to eke out all of the hidden paternal information encoded in the Starchild’s ancient bone matter.  Stay tuned and we will update you as soon as possible about the paternal DNA. That will provide the conclusive answers to everyone’s questions!

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Chase Kloetzke forensically extracting DNA from the interior of the Starchild Skull with a dremel tool.  – photos by Lindsey Hughes

Above: Kerry McClure examining and measuring thickness of the Skull. Below: forensic equipment used to ensure uncontaminated samples, Chase Kloetzke drilling the inside of the Skull (where it was the least contaminated by humans or lacquer) for powder to submit in multiple sealed forensic envelopes.

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A tooth from the maxilla was also submitted for DNA testing. The most viable DNA was most likely protected inside the tooth.

And the mother is…

Attachment-1 4If you are interested, please take a moment to look at the newest results from Paleo DNA Laboratory here –  mt-DNA Paleo-DNA Labs Report.  The tests confirm what previous DNA tests have stated (read a previously published report here – 2003 DNA report) – the mother was human and Native American, or more precisely, haplogroup C1. This means that the Starchild was at least 50% human Native American.

Read all about it! Breaking 900 year-old news! The Starchild’s Origin Story…

We now know a little more about the Starchild from his DNA; he was, at least, half Native American with haplotype C1.  We also know from carbon dating previously done, that he was alive around 900 years ago – which puts him in the Pre-Columbian era, or before Columbus.  What historians know about the people in the Americas declines drastically at this demarcation, and so many tribes were either decimated, relocated or merged together after this time that much of their history, which was mostly in oral tradition, was unfortunately lost.

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Information pertaining to the migration of C1 can be found here.

As the story goes, the skeletons of the Starchild and a non-related adult female were found together in a cave or mine in a rural area outside of Delicias, Mexico.  The story of how a little girl found the skeletons and secreted the skulls back home can be found in our interview with their current owner, Melanie Young.  In addition, this young girl first noticed an adult-sized skeleton next to what looked like a deformed skeleton hand that belonged to the Starchild, who was buried under a pile of dirt. (We now know through DNA testing they were not closely related to one another.)

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The Starchild Skull was allegedly found in a mine or cave near Delicias, southeast of Chihuahua.

So much of the hub-bub surrounding the Starchild Skull focused on its bizarre appearance and the hypothesis of his other-worldly beginnings.

It’s surprising that no one has applied Occam’s Razor,

“The simplest explanation is usually the right one.”

No one has delved into the simplest of theories of who the Starchild was.  So, that’s exactly what I set out to do. Who was he? Who were his people? Could there be any interesting history that could connect this child to stories of “Star People”?

What are the knowns? We have facts:

  1. He was alive around 900 years ago.
  2. His mt-DNA was haplotype C1.
  3. He was found near Delicias, Mexico, untouched for nearly 900 years.

First, I asked, what was going on in ancient Mexico near Ciudad Delicias 900 years ago?  This question is not easily answered. As stated, it is difficult for anthropologists to know for sure the history of pre-Columbian indigenous peoples, but from studying ruins and archeological finds, they can piece together a story, although a story that they all don’t agree with. It seemed, around this time there was a lot of change going on in what is now known as Chihuahua, Mexico. The main tribe in the area was the Mogollon (mah-ge-yone) and they were transitioning to a more agrarian people. Their homes were mainly pit houses but they were beginning to learn how to build pueblo-style homes. Some say it was the Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloans) who began to infringe on the Mogollon’s territory, either by force or though trading, bringing with them their culture and advancements. By around 1100 (around the time of the Starchild), the population of the eastern part of the Mogollon’s territory (an area that contains Delicias) began to decline.  Most archeologists believe this was due to migration. Could this have played a part in the condition the skeletons were found? Were they left behind? Were they unable to make the journey?

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Depiction of the Mogollon Territory

The Mogollons were a spiritual people. Their religion had numerous deities and Shamans were at the center of their rituals and ceremonies.  Having no written language, the Mogollons illustrated the walls of caves with drawings of spirituality, ceremonial dancers, masks, animals, and geometrical patterns. These petroglyphs also decorated the caves with drawings to summon their different gods. They painted their pottery with deities and stylized depictions of trances caused by ingesting psychoactive mushrooms.

Examples of Mogollan petroglyphs and more information can be found in a free downloadable book by Kay Sutherland, Phd

The decorated pottery may have had more to do with a funeral ceremony than for utility. A painted bowl would be placed upon the deceased face and then a hole punched in the center to allow the spirit to be free, and is believed to live on in their descendants. This Mogollon death ritual also dictated that the dead be buried under their home.

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Example of a Mogollon ritualistic bowl. More information can be found here.

What was it about the Starchild that he didn’t receive a ceremonial burial? No bowl. No spirit living on.  And who was this unrelated woman found lying next to him, not even buried as he was. No bowl. No under-home burial. Did she carry him to a cave? Did she bury him? Why did she sacrifice herself for someone not worthy of a death ritual? We’ll never know the answers to these questions, but we can almost picture it now that we know more about the people of the area at that time.

Could there still be an “other-worldly” connection?

Although all signs seem to point to human, there are some interesting bits of information to take into account when considering the theoretical origins of the Starchild Skull. For one, the area where the skeletons were discovered is close to the Zone of Silence. This area in Mexico was named so because radio signals of any kind don’t transmit because of high levels of magnetic fields and it’s a magnet for a large number of meteorites.  Also, nearby is the Crystal Cave of Giants where some of the crystals measure 50 feet by 4 feet and recently NASA discovered ancient microbial life that could be up to 50,000 years old inside these crystals! Another oddity is that Mexico’s version of Roswell happened nearby, complete with a crashed craft, recovered bodies, and a government cover-up. We feel, however, the piece that connects the Starchild to the stars the best is that he was Native American. The indigenous peoples of North America have oral traditions going back thousands of years with various stories depicting their origins being in the stars or that Star People came down to visit and share knowledge or even wage war. They have recorded in petroglyphs images of portals, strange beings, and even crafts. Many Native Americans today still hold fast to these beliefs and carefully watch over the prophesies their ancestors foretold. It would not be hard for some to think the Starchild could be both Native American and extra-terrestrial as they themselves believe their people were from the stars.

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Where should the Starchild Skull rest?

Around 1450, the Mogollon disappeared. It’s generally concluded that they didn’t just vanish but they up and moved, possibly because of the Spanish invasion. While it’s not definite, many believe that the Tarahumara of northern Mexico are the descendants of the Mogollon. The interesting thing is, there are over 70,000 alive today and most continue to practice a traditional Tarahumara lifestyle – even living in caves and hanging cliff dwellings! In the Journal of Human Genetics, a study showed that the Tarahumara had a considerably higher percentage of haplogroup C1(38%) than people in Mexico City (21%), central Mexico (15.6%) and coastal regions (17%). The Starchild Skull was haplogroup C1.

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Is this the face of a modern-day relative of the Starchild? This Tarahumara artwork can be located here.

As we continue to wait for both paternal DNA and legal direction, we wonder where the Skull belongs. With this new research, we may have found the Starchild’s distant relatives and possibly his resting place.  Of course, who knows what the Y-DNA will discover! We will advise the Skull’s owner, Melanie Young, with whatever legal regulations must be followed and wait expectantly for the final conclusions!

Coming next…the final paternal DNA test results – possibly as soon as two weeks!! This will conclusively tell us (if they can obtain enough viable nuclear DNA) whether the Starchild Skull belongs to a young, deformed Mogollon boy or to a half – young, deformed Mogollon boy / half – undetermined or unknown (as stated previously, we cannot state something is of alien descent without comparable DNA). But, if the results are so bizarre, unlike anything seen before, this can be used for future reference as a new entry into the database. Regardless of the results, this is as far as modern science can take us. This will be the answer everyone has been waiting for…

Who was the Starchild?