6.5K-Year-Old 'Noah' Found in Museum Basement

It had been uncatalogued since 1930 expedition in modern-day Iraq

By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 7, 2014 1:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – An ancient skeleton gathering dust in the basement of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia for 85 years finally has an ID: It's a 6,500-year-old man newly nicknamed Noah, reports Philly.com. Historians didn't figure it out until a project to digitize the museum’s collection revealed that a skeleton collected from a 1930 expedition at the Ur site in Iraq seemed to be missing, LiveScience explains. Penn anthropologist Janet Monge knew of the bones kept in an uncatalogued box in the basement, and tests revealed that the skeleton was indeed from that 1930 expedition by Sir Leonard Woolley. Noah is unique because he’s relatively tall (almost 5-foot-10) and old (about age 50) for his era. Another cool trait—he was buried in silt, suggesting that he lived after a major flood. Hence the nickname.

"Me and my students, we are going to hang out for a while with this dude," says Monge. Researchers will give Noah a DNA test and a CT scan, and try to uncover his diet, ancestral origins, and any trauma, stress, and diseases he may have suffered. But there’s one more mystery to crack. A second skeleton from that same expedition also is missing, though Monge says there’s another strange box in a storage room marked "No number." Museum officials declined to open it for reporters, but will do so in private. (Another ancient skeleton might be the earliest known case of Down syndrome.)

Anthropologist Janet Monge discusses the find at the Penn Museum.
Anthropologist Janet Monge discusses the find at the Penn Museum.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Anthropologist Janet Monge at the Penn Museum.
Anthropologist Janet Monge at the Penn Museum.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
6,500-year-old human remains are displayed at the the Penn Museum.
6,500-year-old human remains are displayed at the the Penn Museum.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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