Melanie Young, co-founder of the Starchild Project and a former neonatal nurse,
hopes that a strange 900 year old skull holds the secret to treating some of the conditions that stop many babies surviving and thriving. Melanie Young, RN, worked in the neonatal unit of a busy hospital for over 10 years before she was given a strange gift that changed her life:
“I opened the box and there were two skulls inside. One was a normal human, but the other was so strange, I just took one look at it and thought, how did you survive?” The thin and light bone of the skull and its strange shape were different from any deformity she had ever seen in practice or in text books. She suspected that, if it was a human, it had survived a level of deformity that had never been seen before. Young explains, “You can have any sort of deformity created by genes getting confused, but mostly whatever goes wrong is so severe that it kills the baby either before it can be born, or shortly afterwards; but this skull lived long enough to grow teeth and to grind them down with years of use. I saw those worn teeth and immediately wanted to know what made it so special that it could survive what no one else could, and I wanted to know if there was some way for that miracle element to be isolated and engineered into a treatment to help other babies survive.”
The strange skull in question was found in Mexico in the 1930's, but was kept in private collections until it was gifted to Young in 1998. The skull shot to recognition in 1999 when UFO enthusiasts noticed that it looked like a skull of the so-called “grey alien”, and it became known as the “Starchild Skull”. Young claims to be open to the possibility that it is an alien, but reiterates that her goal is to explore any medial or scientific benefits of the skull first and only then to worry about where it fits — if at all—on the human family tree.
In 1999 a volunteer organization known as the “Starchild Project” began seeking experts to examine the skull, and contracting independent labs to conduct donation-funded testing ranging from simple X-Rays to Scanning Electron Microscopy and even DNA testing. They have published all of the results and reports directly on the starchildproject.com website, and although some experts remain skeptical, many have gone on the record with their conclusions that it is not human.
Dr. Ted Robinson, a now retired physician who studied the unusual skull for over a year, has been particularly vocal in his expectation that it will eventually be named a new species, “In 40 years as a craniofacial plastic surgeon I have never seen anything like it. It is not hydrocephaly, it is not progeria, it is not a deformity. It is not human.”
Neanderthals, currently believed to be the closest genetic relative of humans, died out about 20,000 years ago, yet this new species lived only 900 years ago and appears to have cohabited peacefully with modern humans. If it is accepted as a new species, that Starchild Skull would represent a radical departure for the conventional timeline for human and pre-human life on Earth.
Despite the potentially history-changing nature of the skull, Young takes it all in her stride, saying, “It has never been about proving aliens exist or finding a new species. That would be cool, but it’s not why I started this. The thing that has driven me to keep working on this is knowing that, if we could find out what made this a viable birth, then we could develop ways to help other babies with birth defects survive and live a productive life. There is nothing sadder than watching a little life get cut short, and I know if I can stop that happening even one time because of this skull it will all be worth it.”
The Starchild Project is currently working with a US based genetics lab to complete the DNA testing that will either prove that this skull belongs to a previously undiscovered species, or find the genetic differences that may have enabled a human to survive such comprehensive deformity. Previous DNA testing has only yielded partial results which have left opinion divided. Some experts claim the incomplete results show the skull to be human, while others argue that the inability to recover more DNA indicates that the previously “unrecoverable” parts of the genome are not human, and therefore the skull is not human. New testing using the 454 method pioneered on the Neanderthal genome is expected to end the debate, with results anticipated as early as 2015.