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In Photos: Ancient 'Noah' Skeleton Discovered in Iraq

Ancient Skeleton

A 6,500-year-old skeleton unearthed at the Ur site in Iraq. Here, the skeleton, which was coated in wax in the field and lifted whole along with surrounding dirt.

(Image credit: Penn Museum, 2014.)

A 6,500-year-old skeleton rediscovered in the basement of the Penn Museum in Philadelphia was originally unearthed in 1929-1930 by a team of scientists led by Sir Leonard Woolley at the site of Ur in what is now southern Iraq. Here, the skeleton, which was coated in wax in the field and lifted whole along with surrounding dirt.

Studying a skeleton

Janet Monge, curator-in-charge, physical anthropology section of the Penn Museum, and William Hafford, Ur Digitization Project Manager at Penn Museum, investigate the 6,500-year-old skeleton.

(Image credit: Kyle Cassidy, 2014.)

The skeleton was tucked away in a wooden box in a storeroom at the Penn Museum. It had no identifying numbers or catalog card. After the human remains were rediscovered, Janet Monge, curator-in-charge, physical anthropology section of the Penn Museum, and William Hafford, Ur Digitization Project Manager at Penn Museum, investigate the 6,500-year-old skeleton.

What Good Teeth ...

Here, a close-up of the upper body and skull of the 6,500-year-old skeleton discovered at the site of Ur. The teeth are well preserved.

(Image credit: Kyle Cassidy, 2014.)

Here, a close-up of the upper body and skull of the 6,500-year-old skeleton discovered at the site of Ur. The teeth are well preserved.

Original Crate

Composite image showing an overhead view of the 6,500-year-old skeleton in its original crate.

(Image credit: Penn Museum, 2014.)

Composite image showing an overhead view of the 6,500-year-old skeleton in its original crate.

Ur Pottery

Pottery found at the foot of the skeleton during the excavation at the site of Ur in Iraq, now housed in the Penn Museum's Near East Section storage.

(Image credit: Kyle Cassidy, 2014.)

Pottery found at the foot of the skeleton during the excavation at the site of Ur in Iraq, now housed in the Penn Museum's Near East Section storage.

Ur Burial

The burial of the 6,500-year-old skeleton discovered at the Ur site in Iraq.

(Image credit: Penn Museum Archival Photo #191484.)

The burial with the 6,500-year-old skeleton (along with the semi-crushed skull and pottery at the feet) in the silt deposits, as excavated at Ur during the 1929 to 1930 field season.

Plaster Protectoin

\A lightweight plaster mixture is placed over the covered skeleton, the 6,500-year-old human remains discovered at the Ur site in Iraq, in order to protect it during shipping.

(Image credit: Penn Museum Archival Photo #191487.)

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.

Carrying a Skeleton

Workers carry the complete Ur skeleton on its board up 50 feet (15 meters) of carved stairs and out of Pit F.

(Image credit: Penn Museum Archival Photo #191488.)

Workers carry the complete Ur skeleton on its board up 50 feet (15 meters) of carved stairs and out of Pit F.

Field Map

Pit F and the burial that held the 6,500-year-old skeleton shown here in a field map of the Ur site in Iraq.

(Image credit: Photo of Penn Museum archival map.)

Pit F and the burial that held the 6,500-year-old skeleton shown here in a field map of the Ur site in Iraq. The buildings occurred some 2,000 to 2,500 years later than the burial, but they reveal the pit in relation to the famous Ziggurat and Royal Cemetery.

Field Drawing

Field drawing showing depth of the burial at the Ur site, where the skeleton was located, within Pit F.

(Image credit: Photo of Penn Museum archival field drawing.)

The skeleton was discovered beneath the Ur site, about 10 feet (3 meters) above sea level within a silt layer. The top of the pit was at 56 feet (17 m), but the ground for most of the site was another 3 feet (1 m) higher still.

Field Lists

Father Legrain's division of finds list from the 1929/30 season, with notations placed by Dr. Hafford.

(Image credit: Photo of Penn Museum archival record.)

Father Legrain's division of finds list from the 1929/30 season, with notations placed by Dr. Hafford.