It was like an alien unboxing—but they were just Nazca mummies from Peru. Toward the end of a public hearing in the Green Room of the Chamber of Deputies Congress of Mexico, Jaime Maussan, ufologist, journalist and host of the Mexican television program Tercer Milenio, announced a surprise. The well-known researcher had the audience’s attention at this historic session focused on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs)—better known as UFOs.
Before the hearing began, Sergio Gutiérrez Luna, the deputy of Morena, Mexico’s governing party, asked the participants to stand up and swear to tell the truth. Among the audience were Ryan Graves, a retired US Navy pilot lieutenant who had earlier testified in the US Congress regarding his experience with unidentified objects, and Abraham “Avi” Loeb, an astrophysicist, director of the Harvard Astronomy Department, and leading proponent of a theory that an alien spaceship has already landed on Earth. When it was Maussan’s turn to speak, he gave a signal to open two tiny sarcophagi containing the bodies of two “nonhuman beings.”
But these are not nonhuman beings. They are Nazca mummies, specifically “tridactyl Nazca humanoid mummies,” once presented as a great archeological discovery but since widely discredited by the international scientific community. It is suspected that these mummies were manipulated to give them a different appearance, and their authenticity has been rejected by important organizations such as the World Committee on Mummy Studies, which has described the discovery as a fraud, calling it “an irresponsible organized campaign of misinformation.”
Peru’s archaeological wealth is recognized worldwide, with sites ranging from the ancient Caral civilization to those of the Inca, including legendary Machu Picchu. But the mummies presented at Mexico’s Congress are nothing but elaborate fakes. The opinion of academics, archaeologists, and scientists is unanimous: Part of these mummies are modified pre-Hispanic human bodies, while the rest, especially the smaller ones—like those presented this week in the Mexican Congress—are bodies assembled with animal and human bones.
“With the experience that all the researchers who have worked with pre-Columbian mummies have, especially from the Nazca area, it is very clear to us that these mummies, the large ones, are pre-Columbian human beings that have been modified for commercial purposes, and the supposed ‘small mummies’ are structures that have been put together,” physical anthropologist Guido Lombardi, who has studied mummies in Peru, told the newspaper El Comercio.
Flavio Estrada, a forensic archaeologist who analyzed the mummies for the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences of the Public Ministry in Peru, has said that the remains of the alleged aliens “are creations made from animal and human bones held together with synthetic glue” which have, in turn been covered in a fake skin.
According to Maussan, the desiccated bodies were found in Peru in 2017. “They are nonhuman beings that are not part of our terrestrial evolution,” Maussan said. “According to UNAM [the Autonomous University of Mexico], who performed the carbon-14 analysis, these beings are about 1,000 years old. They were not recovered in ships that crashed, but they were buried in diatomaceous earth, a fossilized algae that is 17 million years old and was abundant at that time,” Maussan added.
News networks exploded. The scientific community issued communiqués and those following the hearings divided into two camps: those who backed Maussan and those who discredited him—and then there were others who simply poked fun at the spectacle. “It would have been good to invite scientists,” says Julieta Fierro, physicist, astronomer, and science authority. “Both those who search for extraterrestrial life, as well as people who do genetic anthropology and who date remains from the past, but they were not included,” Fierro adds. “Not only that, they should also have invited the Peruvian ambassador. You can imagine what it means to display ‘extraterrestrials’ unearthed in that country and bring them to Mexico, and not invite representatives from Peru, it’s terrible. How did they get through customs? Besides, if they were aliens, the first thing you should do is to isolate them. Because what if it brings a virus from somewhere else and causes a terrible pandemic?” Fierro says.
“What happened yesterday in the Mexican Congress was a spectacle, with information that is not necessarily verifiable, the product of fanaticism that is more about media spectacle and political gain than explaining the phenomenon of possible life beyond our planet,” says Raúl Trejo Delarbre, researcher at the Institute for Social Research and a doctor in sociology from the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at UNAM. “And, above all else, it is a matter that is beyond the scope of Congress.” After the hearing, Ryan Graves, the retired US Navy pilot lieutenant who was among the attendees, expressed his disappointment and described the events as “a huge step backwards” and an “unsubstantiated stunt.”
In the Mexican Congress, the phrase “we are not alone” echoed in the chamber. Pilots and air traffic controllers, who consider themselves privileged witnesses, along with astronomers from institutions such as Harvard, as well as experts and politicians from Japan, Argentina, France, Brazil, and Peru, testified that they face “frustration, harassment, and threats” when they dare to report unexplained discoveries found in the skies or the depths of the sea.
“Congress exists to legislate. What is the Mexican state going to legislate in this area? It is absolutely ridiculous,” says Trejo Delarbre. “I believe that this hearing should be understood in the context of the enormous misdirection of the majority party that dominates the Mexican Congress, that is, Morena and its allies; the extreme irresponsibility of Congressman Sergio Gutiérrez Luna, who on other occasions, but never in such a clumsy way as this one, has used his seat in Congress to fulfill his personal whims. The one who benefits from this is Mr. Jaime Maussan, who has for several decades been profiting from a personal business built around the social interest in so-called UFOs.”
Maussan’s path to the Mexican Congress began in the United States, when the US Congress held its own hearing on UFOs and opened the door for the same to happen in Mexico. Maussan also has many friends, among them Gutiérrez Luna, who has described the country’s Chamber of Deputies as the “house of the people.” At the hearing, Gutiérrez Luna said the audience would “hear evidence that has awakened a great, great, great, great, great interest in the part of the public.”
The origins of this hearing, said Gutiérrez Luna, can be traced back to when Maussan approached legislators to explain that in other countries, UFOs were already being talked about in legislative bodies. “Jaime Maussan is a renowned journalist and researcher who approached us,” he said. “If you swear to tell the truth in this exercise of legislative power … you promise to tell the truth about everything that is discussed here today,” Gutiérrez Luna said when leading the participants in the hearing as they were sworn in.
“The Mexican Congress has the power to deal with any matter for the purpose of enlightening and guiding society, but above all and fundamentally to legislate,” Trejo Delarbre says. “Legislators supervise other powers, manage society’s needs, but first and foremost they make laws. This meeting was convened as a public hearing for the regulation of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) in Mexico. That is nonsense. How can one regulate what is anomalous and unidentified? The title of the hearing already indicates that it shouldn’t be taken seriously,” he adds.
This was not the first time Maussan has appeared in a hearing held by the Mexican Congress. In 2016, the Chamber of Deputies received him following an invitation by a deputy from PRI, another political party, for a hearing focused on geometric figures, including crop circles, that appear traced in fields and are often called agroglyphs.
At the hearing, Mariano Tello, director of the Center for Attention to Society, part of a government body in Mexico, shared that on March 29, 2022, the institute received an email in which a citizen requested information about UFOs. The public information request culminated in the release of an air-traffic control transcript where a pilot reported on an unidentified object in May 1975. “You can read that the pilot reports to the control tower the presence of strange objects flying over his aircraft,” Tello said. The department has received 1,011 requests for information related to UFOs since 2003, among which there are 93 appeals for review, 58 regarding Mexican airspace of which 19 are specifically about UFOs, 15 about navigation services, and one about extraterrestrials.
After Maussan’s visit to the Chamber of Deputies, the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM issued a statement pointing out that, despite many studies and constant monitoring of activity in space, “to date there is no observational or experimental report that provides evidence of the existence of life beyond Earth.” The statement from UNAM adds that it is important that any work in this area be conducted with “the support of scientific research institutions, and following rigorous ethical standards.” The Institute of Astronomy also emphasized that “scientists are the main drivers of the search for extraterrestrial life and they will continue to explore this field with the diligence that science demands.”
On Tuesday, September 12, the Institute of Physics at UNAM also reissued a statement first published in 2017 regarding tests performed on the mummies found in Peru that were presented in Mexico’s Congress. “In May 2017, the Laboratorio Nacional de Espectrometria de Masas con Aceleradores [or National Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, known by its acronym in Spanish, LEMA] conducted a carbon 14 dating study of a set of samples that, according to the information provided by the client were skin and brain tissue of approximately 0.5 grams, whose results were issued in June of the same year and delivered to the user who requested it. As this is a commercial agreement, these results are confidential and no member of the LEMA can disseminate them,” the Institute of Physics said. “LEMA rejects any subsequent use, interpretation, or misrepresentation of the results it issues. In the case of the June 2017 analysis, any information that implies the participation of LEMA in any activity other than carbon 14 dating is invalid,” it concluded.
“Science has processes, routines, and an eagerness to question its own conclusions. No one denies that there could be life on other planets. I am concerned about this waste of attention in the public discussion and also about the possible waste of resources,” says Trejo Delarbre. “It was a spectacle that leaves the seriousness and commitment to science that the Mexican Congress should have in a very bad light, because it was a spectacle that is aligned with the anti-scientific attitude of the current Mexican government,” he adds.
This article was originally published by WIRED en Español.