Iron Coffin Woman
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Woman in the Iron Coffin
Age 25 - 35
Sex F
Status working class
Height 5 feet, 2 inches tall (1.6 meters)
Culture American
Date(s) 1848-1854
Site Queens NY
Current Location
Catalog # n/a

Discovered in Elmhurst, Queens, NY in October 2011 by construction workers, who thought they had discovered a homicide victim in a pipe. Forensic archaeologists responding, however, realized the 'pipe' was an iron coffin some 150 years old. The well preserved body of a black woman dressed in a white shift and heavy white stockings was excavated and found to be covered in small pox lesions from head to toe, covering even the soles of the feet.


Buried in a patented, air tight, Fisk & Raymond iron coffin, she was naturally preserved.


Because of the good preservation of the mummy, the CDC was called in to see if the small pox evidenced could be a bio-hazard, but the virus was found to be dead.

Her hair was held by a delicate knit cap and an elaborate shell comb.

Isotope analysis of her teeth indicated showed that she came originally from the northeast US, and her hair analysis suggested she was probably from New York City.

The site where the coffin was discovered was found to have once been the site of the United African Society Church and cemetery on Dutch Lane.


Using CT scans, a virtual autopsy was conducted on the mummy, discovering small pox lesions even within her skull on the dura mater surrounding the brain.

Artist's facial reconstruction of the Iron Coffin Woman

The preservation was good enough to preserve the liver. There was evidence of slight arthritis in her lower back. The mummy's face was severely damaged by the excavator which uncovered it.


The mummy was reburied by the St Mark AME Church in Queens.

A Martha Peterson appeared in the 1850 census, 26 years old, living in the house of William Raymond, the manufacture of the iron coffins. Speculation suggests that the mummy might be this woman.

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