2,500 year-old preserved human brain discovered





A 2,500-year-old human skull uncovered in England was less of a surprise than what was in it: the brain. The discovery of the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain prompted questions about how such a fragile organ could have survived so long and how frequently this strange type of preservation occurs.

Except for the brain, all of the skull's soft tissue was gone when the skull was pulled from a muddy Iron Age pit where the University of York was planning to expand its Heslington East campus.

When it was found, the skull — which belonged to a man probably between 26 and 45 years old — was accompanied by a jaw and two neck vertebrae, bearing evidence of hanging and then decapitation. Cut marks on the inside of the neck indicate that the head was severed while there was still flesh on the bones, O'Connor said. There is, however, no indication of why he was hanged, and the rest of his remains have yet to be found.

More than a decade earlier, O'Connor was involved in the discovery of 25 preserved brains within medieval-era remains from Kingston-upon-Hull in England. Aside from the brains, only bones remained, and all other soft tissue was gone.

In this regard, the so-called Heslington brain and the medieval remains are quite different from mummies, frozen bodies, or intentionally preserved remains because in these cases other soft tissue — skin, muscles and so on — is preserved as well. None of the recently discovered remains showed any signs that they were intentional preserved....



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