Boo! Scientists discover 6,500-year-old skeleton had been hiding in the basement of a Philadelphia museum for 85 years
An archaeology museum in Philadelphia has made an extraordinary find — in its own storage rooms.
The Penn Museum, part of the University of Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that it had ‘rediscovered’ a 6,500-year-old human skeleton believed to have been a well-muscled man of 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 in one of their rooms for the last 85 years.
All traces of its original identifying documentations have been lost, but the museum were not worried.
A records digitization project was recently undertaken, with University of Pennsylvania researchers, working with a team from the British Museum, determining the remains were first unearthed at the site of Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah, around 1929-1930.
The major archaeological project was lead by Sir Leonard Woolley.
They excavated nearly 50 feet to reach a site that became known as ‘The Royal Cemetery’.
During the excavation, the team hit a layer of silt, which Woolley referred to as the ‘flood layer’, because it was ten-feet deep in some places but still technically up sea level.
He determined that the original site of Ur had been a small island in a surrounding marsh.
Then a great flood covered the land in the Ubaid-era.
Some 48 graves were dug up.
However the only skeleton in good enough condition to recover was the one now found at the Penn Museum.
The bones and surrounding soil was coated in wax and the entire skeleton was shipped to London, then on to Philadelphia.
Skeletons of the same time period, particularly complete remains, are extremely rare, the Penn researchers said.
They hope a modern skeletal analysis will reveal more about the population’s diet, stresses and ancestral origins that were unable in Woolley’s time.
Dr. Janet Monge, the curator-in-charge of the anthropology section of the Penn Museum, had known the box was in storage for as long as she had been in charge, but it remained a mystery.
There was no catalog card or identifying number.
Researchers weren’t able to determine its significance until the recent digitization of records.
The effort enabled the researchers to link the skeleton to the field records of Woolley.
Because the skeleton had survived an epic flood leading Penn researches have appropriately nicknamed their re-discovery ‘Noah’.
The Penn Museum collection houses more than 150,000 bone specimens from throughout human history.
However a museum spokesman told The MailOnline there are no current plans to exhibit ‘Noah’.