Archaeologists Find 4K-Year-Old Brain

It was likely preserved by earthquake, fire
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2013 8:57 AM CDT
Archaeologists Find 4K-Year-Old Brain
Stock image.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Archaeologists in Turkey have uncovered one of the oldest human brains ever found, New Scientist reports. The 4,000-year-old organ was found in Seyitömer Höyük, a Bronze Age settlement, and researchers think its owner was likely killed when an earthquake buried him under rubble. A fire probably then spread, eating up any oxygen in the rubble, and basically boiling the brain inside the skull. The lack of oxygen and moisture would explain how the brain tissue, which is soft and full of fat and typically breaks down quickly, was preserved.

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The soil also helped: It contains a lot of potassium, magnesium, and aluminum, which, when combined with human tissue and the fatty acids it contains, forms a substance known as "corpse wax," which helped to preserve brain tissue. "The level of preservation in combination with the age is remarkable," says one expert, who adds that brains like this can give us valuable information about the history of neurological disorders. Smithsonian points out that two years ago, a 2,600-year-old brain was found in a bog, whose similarly wet, moist conditions helped preserve it. (Another cool recent archaeological find: a town named in a well-known Bible story.)

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