Penn Museum Rediscovers 6,500-Year-Old Skeleton

Thanks to a recent records digitization effort, the Penn Museum was able to connect a missing skeleton with the mystery box in the basement.

penn museum uri skeletonThe Penn Museum recently announced it has re-discovered a skeleton in its own archives. The skeleton, which had been in a “coffin-like” box in the basement of the museum for 85 years, is thought to be about 6,500 years old.

The museum knew it had a “mystery” skeleton in the basement for years now, but it had lost the identifying information on it. It simply sat there, unidentified and untouched. It wasn’t until the museum began a project to digitize records from archaeological expeditions to Ur (what is now southern Iraq) in the ’20s and ’30s that it was able to identify the skeleton.


One of the skeletons the Penn Museum received after an expedition was marked as missing in 1990. But William Hafford, who led the digitization effort, and Janet Monge (recently named Best of Philly), the curator of the physical anthropology section of the museum, were able to connect this record of a skeleton.

A visual inspection made by Penn Museum archeologists revealed the skeleton was that of a man, who lived to about 50 and was "well-muscled." The museum has about 2,000 complete human skeletons in its collection.

[Penn Museum]

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