6,500-Year-Old Skeleton Named 'Noah' Rediscovered in Penn Museum

Aug 06, 2014 03:32 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Tags Ur, Noah, skeleton

Penn Museum researchers have rediscovered a 6,500-year-old skeleton of a man they have named "Noah" because he is said to have lived after a massive flood in ancient Ur.

Hidden away in a box in the Philadelphia museum's basement for 85 years, the skeleton was originally discovered during a dig that took place between 1929 and 1930, Live Science reported.

The remains, which were found in modern-day Iraq, once called Ur, had no identifying numbers or catalog card and were found as part of a move to digitalize the institution's old records.

The man is believed to have lived after a massive flood in Ur as indicated by geographical evidence. He was likely around 50 years old and stood between 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall. With newer research, scientists may be able to discover much more about the skeleton than when it was originally unearthed.

The same excavation is renowned for finding the Mesopotamian "royal cemetery" that yielded hundreds of graves and 16 tombs full of artifacts. During the 1929 and 1930 excavations, Sir Leonard Woolley and a team of archaeologists from the Penn and British Museums additionally found graves that were around 2,000 years older than the royal burial ground.

The 48 older graves have been dated to between 5500 B.C. and 4000 B.C., which is known as the Ubaid period. Woolley opted to bring back just one skeleton from the site-the remains recently recovered in the Penn Museum basement.

The Ur skeleton was included on a list of artifacts, but it was nowhere to be found when William Hatford, the project manager in charge of digitalizing the museum's records, came across the entry. Janet Monge, the institution's curator of physical anthropology, remembered the mysterious box and then identified the skeleton as Woolley and his team's find.

Researchers hope to learn more about the diet, trauma, ancestral origins and diseases of the population through new analysis of the skeleton. 

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