Researchers Discover 6500 Year Old Human Skeleton in Penn Museum Basement

Human Skeleton in Penn Museum

A Philadelphia archaeology museum found a 6,500 year old human skeleton in it’s basement.

The skeleton, which had been kept in a coffin-like box, was missing documentation until researchers recently began digitizing the museum’s collection from an expedition to Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah.

Project manager William Hafford was matching objects with inventory lists from the Sumerian trek when he came across a description of a full skeleton that he couldn’t find.

Researchers at the Penn Museum, which is associated with the University of Pennsylvania say these remains are extremely rare and date to 4,500 BCE. They were unearthed by archaeologists around 1930 during an excavation of the ancient city of Ur in modern day Iraq beneath the city’s cemetery, itself dating back to 2,500 BCE.

Dr. Janet Monge, the curator-in-charge of the anthropology section of the Penn Museum had known the skeleton was in storage, one of about 2,000 complete human skeletons in the Museum collection, which houses, altogether, more than 150,000 bone specimens from throughout human history. For as long as she had been a Keeper or Curator, it had been there—a curious mystery, in an old wooden box with no catalogue card, no identifying number, nothing to explain its former whereabouts.

Researchers weren’t able to determine its significance until they started to digitize records, officials said.

“So we went, found the crate, opened it up and compared it to the field notes and the field photographs, and we had a match,” Hafford said.

The body is believed to be that of a well-muscled man at least 50 who stood 5 feet, 9 inches tall, according to Monge. She hopes a skeletal analysis, possibly including a CT scan, will reveal more about his diet, stresses, diseases and ancestral origins.

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