Museum finds 6,500-year-old skeleton in basement

Museum finds 6,500-year-old skeleton in basement

BAG OF BONES: 6,500-year-old human remains are displayed at the The Penn Museum, part of the University of Pennsylvania, Tuesday, Aug. 5, in Philadelphia. The museum announced Tuesday that it had rediscovered in its own storage rooms a 6,500-year-old human skeleton believed to have been a man at least 50 who stood 5 feet, 9 inches tall. The remains were originally excavated from southern Iraq around 1930. Museum officials said the complete human skeleton had been stored in a coffin-like box but with no trace of identifying documentation. Photo: Associated Press/Matt Rourke

By Daniel Kelley

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A Philadelphia archaeology museum said on Tuesday its researchers have discovered an extremely rare 6,500-year-old human skeleton in its own basement, where it had been in storage for 85 years.

The Penn Museum, affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, said it had lost track of all documentation for the skeleton which dates to roughly 4500 BC.

But the paperwork turned up this summer, as part of a project to digitize old records from a 1922-1934 joint expedition by the British Museum and the Penn Museum to modern-day Iraq.

Researchers were able to determine that the skeleton was unearthed around 1930 as part of an excavation into the Royal Cemetery of Ur led by Sir Leonard Woolley.

Woolley’s records indicated that he had shipped a skeleton over, and the team digitizing his records had uncovered pictures of the excavation, which showed the skeleton being removed from its grave. A researcher on the digitization project, William Hafford, mentioned the records to Janet Monge, the museum’ chief curator.

Woolley’s team uncovered the remains 40 feet below the ground, beneath the remains from the cemetery itself, which dates to 2500 BC. The body was found in a deep layer of silt that archaeologists believe was left over from a massive flood.

The remains indicate they are those of a well-muscled man who died at 50 and would have stood approximately 5-feet, 10-inches tall. The museum has named him Noah.

The museum said the discovery has important implications for current research. Scientific techniques that were not available at the time of the expedition could give scholars new insights into diet, ancestral origins, trauma, stress and disease from the time period, which the museum says is poorly understood.

Intact skeletons from this era are rare. While the museum has other remains from ancient Ur, about 10 miles from Nassiriya in southern Iraq, “Noah” is about 2,000 years older than any remains uncovered during the excavation at the site, it said.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Mohammad Zargham)

Recent Headlines

in Black Friday, Viral Videos

WATCH: Holiday parodies of the year’s biggest hits


From "Bad Blood" and "Watch Me," to "Uptown Funk," here are the year's hottest songs made fit for the holidays.

in Music

Judas Priest star wants to rock out with Lady Gaga


Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford is keen for an odd collaboration with the "Poker Face" hitmaker.

in Black Friday, Viral Videos

WATCH: What ‘Black Friday’ would look like as a scary movie


Black Friday would be a scary shopping experience if it got the Hollywood treatment.

in Music

Tony Iommi teases fans with new songs


The Black Sabbath rocker wants to release five unheard songs by the band just weeks after they scrapped plans for another album.

in Music

Metallica looking forward to baseball season


The San Francisco Giants will hold Metallica Night for the fourth year on May 6.