13 Dec 2008

Brain Found in 2000 Year Old Skull Excavated in York



Archaeologists have found what they say is the oldest brain ever discovered in Britain, or at least the shriveled remnant of one, in a decapitated skull that dates back more than 2,000 years.

Inside the skull, the scientists found “a yellow substance which scans showed to be shrunken, but brain-shaped,” according to a University of York statement.

“I’m amazed and excited that scanning has shown structures which appear to be unequivocally of brain origin,” said Philip Duffey, a neurologist at York Hospital who scanned the skull. …

The skull was found in a muddy pit unearthed during excavations on the site of the University of York’s campus expansion at Heslington East and is thought to have been a ritual offering. Nobody is sure how the brain remained preserved for so long. …

York Archaeological Trust dig team member Rachel Cubitt reached in and, while she cleaned the soil-covered skull’s outer surface, “she felt something move inside the cranium. Peering through the base of the skull, she spotted an unusual yellow substance.”

“The survival of brain remains where no other soft tissues are preserved is extremely rare,” said Sonia O’Connor, research fellow in archaeological sciences at the University of Bradford. “This brain is particularly exciting because it is very well preserved, even though it is the oldest recorded find of this type in the U.K., and one of the earliest worldwide.”

Daily Mail:

Archaeologists have found Britain’s oldest surviving human brain in a field where it was buried 2,000 years ago during the Iron Age.

It was discovered inside a decapitated skull placed in a small pit near York.

Researchers studying the remains believe they could be from a human sacrifice…

Dr Richard Hall, director of archaeology at the York Archaeological Trust, said: ‘From the size, it was probably an adult but we can’t say whether it was a man or woman.

There is no obvious cause of death because the skull is still intact.

‘The skull must have been removed from the body.

‘We are confident that the skull was buried in this small pit and that it has lain undisturbed since the Iron Age.’

Dr Hall added: ‘It is possible that a living person has been killed and their (sic) head put into a pit for some religious purpose.’

Darker material near the top is the shrunken brain


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