On December 1, 1948, an unknown man was found lying dead on the sand on Somerton Beach next to the neighborhood of Glenelg, about 7 miles (11 km) southwest of Adelaide, South Australia. He had no money or identification on him, the labels in his clothing were cut off, and his minimal possessions yielded no clues. Further adding to the mystery, a rolled-up scrap of paper with the Persian phrase "tamám shud
," translating to "is over" or "is finished," was found in the man's watch pocket around the time of his autopsy. The scrap was later discovered torn from a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
, a circa 11th-century collection of poems by Khayyam, known as "the Astronomer-Poet of Persia." The book found tossed into a car after a public appeal by the police appeared to have previous writing indentations on a page adjacent to the torn-out one, revealing a local phone number and text speculated to be a coded message. With no further clues as to the Somerton Man's identity other than an abandoned suitcase left at the Adelaide railway station, a plaster cast was made of the man's bust following the coroner's inquest, and the body was embalmed nine days after its discovery and buried. For almost 74 years, the mystery of the Somerton has intrigued authorities, amateur sleuths, and the general public, including physicist, Electrical and Electronic Engineering professor Dr. Derek Abbott. For over a decade, Dr. Abbott and his team of grad students at the University of Adelaide worked on cracking the code found in the Rubaiyat
and attempting to arrange a genetic DNA analysis. In partnership with internationally recognized forensic genealogist Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, Abbott and Fitzpatrick announced on July 26, 2022, that they have finally uncovered the identity of Australia's most famous "John Doe." Extracting DNA from chest hairs found in the Somerton Man's plaster cast has led them to a name and an occupation. But will this name lead to solving the remaining puzzle pieces? Pathologists at the time believed he was likely poisoned, but why, and by whom? Was there a Cold War connection, and why did he spend his last day in Adelaide? Circling back to the alternate name for this case, tamám shud
, is this mystery really over, is it finished?
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