A human brain, believed to be the oldest ever discovered, was unearthed in 2008 at an Iron Age dig site near York in England. The brain, which was removed from a decapitated skull, was found alongside remains believed to be from the 6th century BC.
Despite being roughly 2,600 years old, the organ was remarkably well preserved and the tissue still soft and spongy. Although the exact reason for the brain’s long shelf-life remains unknown, archaeologists believe the mud may have preserved it, according to BBC News.
The York Archaeological Trust said the skull had been buried in wet, clay-rich earth that could have helped conserve the organs. Another theory states that the brain’s unusual state may have been the result of a prompt burial.
The skull was found face-down in a pit at the dig site, and the brain was only discovered later when it was being cleaned. Research suggests the skull belonged to a man between the ages of 26 and 45, who died after suffering a blow to the neck and having his head removed by a small, sharp knife.
Rachel Cubitt, collection projects officer, said: “I peered though the hole at the base of the skull to investigate and to my surprise saw a quantity of bright yellow spongy material.
“It was unlike anything I had seen before.”
A team of 34 experts have been working to study and conserve the brain since its discovery, the trust said.