An ancient brain

Manasseh was King of Judah; Athens got rid of its kings and started on the road to democracy; Rome had just been founded.  And a British criminal was executed (or maybe sacrificed), having been both hanged AND beheaded.   We now have his brain.

A human skull dated to about 2,684 years ago with an “exceptionally preserved” human brain still inside of it was recently discovered in a waterlogged U.K. pit, according to a new Journal of Archaeological Science study.

The brain is the oldest known intact human brain from Europe and Asia, according to the authors, who also believe it’s one of the best-preserved ancient brains in the world.

“The early Iron Age skull belonged to a man, probably in his thirties,” lead author Sonia O’Connor told Discovery News. “Cause of death is rarely possible to determine in archaeological remains, but in this case, damage to the neck vertebrae is consistent with a hanging.”

“The head was then carefully severed from the neck using a small blade, such as a knife,” added O’Connor, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Bradford. “This was used to cut through the throat and between the vertebrae and has left a cluster of fine cut marks on the bone.” . .

She and her colleagues suggest that a fortuitous series of events — for the brain and science, not the victim — led to the organ’s preservation. Shortly after the man was killed, his head must have been placed, or fallen into, the waterlogged pit that was free of oxygen. While other soft human body parts may not preserve well under such conditions, the wet environment appears to be perfect for keeping brains “fresh,” “due to the very different chemistry of brain tissue,” O’Connor said.

via Prehistoric Human Brain Found Pickled in Bog : Discovery News.

And thanks to this timeline.

I don’t recommend putting this brain into a body and trying to animate it.  Bronze Age criminals were no doubt pretty formidable.  This would, however, make for a good superhero movie.

Still, this makes ancient history, from Biblical times no less, very tangible and fills us with wonder.

 

brain

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    This reeks of (among other things, no doubt) hoax. I can’t preserve cheese in a 21st century refrigerator for two weeks and Doctor O’Connor of Bradford U. would have me believe this is a brain from the Iron Age. This isn’t the only head that needs to be examined.

  • Pete

    This reeks of (among other things, no doubt) hoax. I can’t preserve cheese in a 21st century refrigerator for two weeks and Doctor O’Connor of Bradford U. would have me believe this is a brain from the Iron Age. This isn’t the only head that needs to be examined.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I read a similar story of a brian found in a frozen cadaver from the Bronze Age. The brian was quite a bit smaller than the average size of the contemporary human…and just slightly larger than Joe Biden’s brain.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I read a similar story of a brian found in a frozen cadaver from the Bronze Age. The brian was quite a bit smaller than the average size of the contemporary human…and just slightly larger than Joe Biden’s brain.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    ok, ok…I deserved that…’BRAIN’…not brian.

    LA City public skool. I have a valid excuse.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    ok, ok…I deserved that…’BRAIN’…not brian.

    LA City public skool. I have a valid excuse.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#1 If this were the typical CNN or FOXnews “science” article, I’d be inclined to agree with you. However, the source is a legit peer review article so I am more inclined to think this is legit.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @#1 If this were the typical CNN or FOXnews “science” article, I’d be inclined to agree with you. However, the source is a legit peer review article so I am more inclined to think this is legit.

  • fjsteve

    The article says the brain has a “resilient, tofu-like consistency”. I want to know who verified that and exactly how.

  • fjsteve

    The article says the brain has a “resilient, tofu-like consistency”. I want to know who verified that and exactly how.

  • reg

    Could this be Abby Normal’s brain that went missing in Transylvania some years ago?

  • reg

    Could this be Abby Normal’s brain that went missing in Transylvania some years ago?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Pete, some bogs have remarkable powers of preservation. The high acidity, anerobic conditions and low temperature of some northern European bogs are ideal conditions for the (very) long term preservation of Mammalian tissue.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Pete, some bogs have remarkable powers of preservation. The high acidity, anerobic conditions and low temperature of some northern European bogs are ideal conditions for the (very) long term preservation of Mammalian tissue.

  • Pete

    KK @7
    I’m sure that’s true. I was actually trying to project a somewhat feigned skepticism. Nevertheless, I am (almost) old enough to remember Piltdown Man.

  • Pete

    KK @7
    I’m sure that’s true. I was actually trying to project a somewhat feigned skepticism. Nevertheless, I am (almost) old enough to remember Piltdown Man.

  • Jon

    Pete@1, and some dinosaur bones that are dated at 60+ MYO are preserved with soft tissue and blood cells in them.

  • Jon

    Pete@1, and some dinosaur bones that are dated at 60+ MYO are preserved with soft tissue and blood cells in them.


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