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Oldest brain in Britain 'found'

india Updated: Dec 12, 2008 20:11 IST

PTI
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Archaeologists have discovered the remains of what could be the first brain of Britain, which they claim survived 2,000 years in an Iron Age skull.

In fact, a team at York Archaeological Trust found the oldest surviving human brain inside a decapitated skull in a field near York, where it was buried 2,000 years ago during the Iron Age.

"It jogged my memory of a university lecture on the rare survival of ancient brain tissue. We gave the skull special conservation treatment as a result and sought expert medical opinion," team leader Rachel Cubitt said.

Subsequently, the skull was sent to the York Hospital, where a CT revealed a blob of tissue around a third the size of a normal brain with patterns and folds closely resembling a modern human organ, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

"This brain is particularly exciting because it is very well preserved, even though it is the oldest recorded find of this type in the United Kingdom and one of the earliest worldwide," Dr Sonia O'Connor of Bradford University, who studied the remains, said.

According to the archaeologists, the brain appears to come from the late Iron Age between 300 BC and one BC, and the the victim probably died by beheading or that the head was cut off soon after death.

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. It's possible that a living person has been killed and their head put into a pit for some religious purpose."