6500-year-old skeleton unearthed inside Pennsylvania museum

In a cartoonish twist of fate, a museum in Pennsylvania has reported to have uncovered a skeleton in its own cellar. This skeleton is reported to be around 6,500 years old, and is thought to have been in storage for 85 of those. The skeleton is said to be extremely rare, and researchers are relieved that the skeleton is in good condition.

Undated handout photo of Dr. Monge and Dr. Hafford looking at a 6,500-year-old human skeleton, discovered in the basement of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia

How did they find it?

The Penn Museum is affiliated to the University of Pennsylvania. The museum unearthed the remains as part of a digitization project. The project aimed to digitize old records from a certain expedition during the year 1922-1934. This expedition was a joint effort by the British and Penn museums in what is now modern-day Iraq.

It is sad to note that there must be many other such treasures languishing in the cellars of many other museums around the world. The wealth of information humans have uncovered is partly lying forgotten in basements the world over. The fact of the matter is that paper records disintegrate and are hard to keep track of. Digitization of records is a step in the right direction to take stock of what we have uncovered so far.

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What do we know about it?

The skeleton is sixty-five hundred years old. It was unearthed around 1930 during the excavation into the Royal Cemetery or Ur. This expedition was led by a certain Sir Leonard Woolley. Woolley uncovered the remains 40 feet underground, the death indicating that it was under the cemetery that was being excavated. The cemetery dates back to 2500 BC.

The archeologists believe that the skeleton was buried in a layer of silt, a leftover from a flood that ravaged the area in ancient times. Woolley then had the skeleton shipped over, as indicated in his records.

Woolley’s records and pictures were part of the set of old records that was set to be digitized. Hopefully, the completion of the project will see the uncovering of more forgotten treasures within those hallowed halls!

How did they find the skeleton?

During the digitization process, a researcher named William Hafford noticed some pictures of Woolley’s team removing the skeleton from its grave along with records of shipment. Hafford mentioned finding these records to his superior, Janet Monge. Janet Monge is the museum’s chief curator. The team working on this summer project then tracked down the remains along with museum authorities.

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Well-kept records and swift action soon brought the remains to the public eye. researchers were overjoyed to have been part of this re-discovery of an ancient treasure.

What exactly was found?

The remains were examined and the following points were deciphered -

  • The remains are of a man
  • This man was well-muscled
  • He probably died at around the age of 50
  • A rough estimation of his height put him at 5 feet 10 inches tall

The museum has been calling the remains Noah, due to the fact he was found in the leftovers of an ancient flood. This has parallels with the popular Biblical story of Noah and the Ark. The fact that these details were weaned out of the skeleton indicates that it is an intact one. Intact remains are an important tool for researchers to gather data that is otherwise unavailable from bits and pieces of scattered bone.

Why is this skeleton important?

This is an intact skeleton. To get such an intact specimen from the era is a rare occurrence. The museum has many other remains from ancient Ur. However, this particular specimen is two thousand years older than any of the other remains uncovered during the detailed excavation project.

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The museum has told of the many important implications this discovery has on ongoing research into archaeology. This is because when the skeleton was uncovered, the archaeologists did not have access to the same technology we have today. An intact skeleton would yield many answers pertaining to the diet, stress, disease, trauma and ancestral origins of people from this time period. The museum states that these factors are misunderstood or poorly understood as there isn’t enough reliable data to bank on. The discovery of this skeleton is set to change that.

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