Ancient Skeleton Found in Closet: Photos

A 6,500-year-old skeleton was found in the basement of the Penn Museum. See photos.

This 6,500-year-old skeleton was found in the basement of the Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). It belonged to a once well-muscled, 5'9" man, estimated to be at least 50 years old.

The complete skeleton was unearthed at the site of Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, in 1929–30 by a joint Penn Museum/British Museum excavation team led by Sir Leonard Woolley. The team excavated 48 graves in a floodplain, all dating to the Ubaid period (5500-4000 B.C.) but only one skeleton was in good enough condition to recover. This archival image shows the skeleton in silt deposits as it was excavated at Ur. Note the semi-crushed skull and the pottery at the feet.

A lightweight plaster mixture is placed over the covered skeleton to protect it during shipping. The silt is already being cut away under the skeleton to make room for the carrying board.

Workers carry the complete skeleton on its board up 50 feet of carved stairs and out of the dig.

Held together with wax, the skeleton was shipped to London for examination, and then on to Philadelphia. There, it rested in a wooden box with no catalog card, or identifying number, for 85 years — one of 150,000 bone specimens in the museum's possession