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Exceptionally Preserved 2,600-Year-Old Brain Found

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the fire-that-bad-boy-up dept.

Science 167

TrueSatan writes with this quote from Discovery News: "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 (PDF). 'The early Iron Age skull belonged to a man, probably in his thirties,' according to lead author Sonia O'Connor. '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.'"

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167 comments

Intact human brain? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023265)

"The brain is the oldest known intact human brain from Europe and Asia" – So I take it the brain still works?

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023287)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

Re:Intact human brain? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41023413)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

Convicted of a crime he didn't commit, of course...

Re:Intact human brain? (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#41023983)

"Now, that brain that you gave me, was it Hans Delbruch's?"

"Who's Brain Was it?"

Re:Intact human brain? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024191)

Abby somebody.

Re:Intact human brain? (3, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41024099)

If that doesn't scream mid-season replacement, I don't know what does!

Re:Intact human brain? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023435)

I could make a joke about presidential candidates here, but they already have fossilized brains.

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#41024169)

I could make a joke about presidential candidates here, but they already have fossilized brains.

I was considering an alegory to Tea Party members, but it would fall flat as I suspect everyone immediately made that association by now and has moved on to Young Frankenstein, Frankenstein and FRAHNK-en-STEEN.

It's tough luck coming late to the party.

Re:Intact human brain? (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about 2 years ago | (#41023499)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

Starring Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023675)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

Starring Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.

Or Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle. The criminal could have been the infamous Abby Normal.

Take your pick (3, Funny)

Dareth (47614) | about 2 years ago | (#41023967)

Take your pick:
A: He chiseled state secrets on a cave wall.
B: He had consensual group sex with one of his students.
C: Headbutted his wife, star of a campfire reality show.
D: Was really Cowboy Neal using his new time machine.

Re:Intact human brain? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023525)

Please don't, We don't need another politician.

Re:Intact human brain? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41023797)

whatcouldpossiblygowrong...

I smell a movie script for a very bad B-Movie. Working title "They saved prehistoric Hitler's brain"

IN 3D!

Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023895)

You don't want to do that. It will terrorize the neighborhood until they come running out with pitchforks and poor Dr Frankenstein will have to leave town.

Re:Intact human brain? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#41023981)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

You know, I'll never forget my old dad. When these things would happen to him... the things he'd say to me.

Re:Intact human brain? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024283)

Maybe after they transplant the brain in a brainless body, we'll find out why he was hanged in his time.

I'm sure we can find a lawyer somewhere who can finally serve a purpose.

Re:Intact human brain? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023497)

Intact and working are disjunct. After a shot to your heart your brain is still intact, but will soon cease working. On the other hand it can still be working after a severe trauma.

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023767)

After a shot to your heart your brain is still intact, but will soon cease working.

"Will soon cease working" != "Doesn't work".

Guess why it will stop working? Because it will cease being intact (due to missing oxygen).

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023979)

"Intact" is from the Latin word "intactus, intacta," which literally means "untouched" and figuratively means "physically whole." A deoxygenated brain might be physically whole on the macro level, and it would be perfectly fair to describe that as "intact," in much the same way that a house with all the furniture and fittings removed might still be called "intact," but not be habitable.

Re:Intact human brain? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024081)

And "idiot" comes from the greek word "idiotes" which means "private citizen". So I'm sure you're not offended if I call you an idiot.

Re:Intact human brain? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023667)

Quick, someone send it to the Houses of Parliament! An intact brain there will revolutionise our system of government!

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024005)

Commander Shepard has been recovered. The Lazarus Project will proceed as planned.

Re:Intact human brain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024029)

So it is one more intact brain than we have in Congress.

*bah dum dum!* Thank you!

Re:Intact human brain? (4, Interesting)

readin (838620) | about 2 years ago | (#41024049)

Something that occasionally bothers me is the question of how much a brain works after it is dead. We don't really understand consciousness so we don't know how much of the brain is responsible for it. In fact the only way we know (suspect?) our fellow humans are conscious is they tell us - ok I'm wondering in to Turing test territory which isn't where I want to go.

Suppose we were to hit this old intact brain with a jolt of electricity - would it feel it? Would it be conscious at some level for a brief moment but completely unable to inform us? Would it suffer a brief horrible dream? It makes me feel like I want to have my brain completely obliterated somehow when I die so I can be sure there is nothing left that is capable of suffering.

Re:Intact human brain? (5, Interesting)

schlachter (862210) | about 2 years ago | (#41024325)

The brain being intact at a gross level doesn't mean that it's intact at a cellular level...so I doubt the network topology of the brain is still in place. Besides, the brain has state which decays without active maintenance, so network topology alone is not sufficient.

Re:Intact human brain? (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#41024101)

"The brain is the oldest known intact human brain from Europe and Asia" – So I take it the brain still works?

The card reads Abby Normal. Should be OK, what could go wrong?

Re:Intact human brain? (4, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 2 years ago | (#41024205)

We know that he didn't weigh the same as a duck - those people were burned.

Re:Intact human brain? (4, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | about 2 years ago | (#41024349)

Not only does it work, it is setting educational policy in Kentucky.

Roughly 2684 years old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023281)

What, no time of death?

Re:Roughly 2684 years old? (5, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41023309)

Around the time he was hanged.

Re:Roughly 2684 years old? (3, Funny)

metalmaster (1005171) | about 2 years ago | (#41023395)

they couldnt get a good liver temp

2,684 years ago??? (5, Funny)

al3 (1285708) | about 2 years ago | (#41023283)

But it's only 2012!

Re:2,684 years ago??? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023321)

Earth is 6000 years old, you silly.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023357)

Good one!

Re:2,684 years ago??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023359)

Are you... serious?

Re:2,684 years ago??? (2)

al3 (1285708) | about 2 years ago | (#41023477)

Re:2,684 years ago??? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41023821)

History, n: TV channel nobody watches. No other meanings known to mankind.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 2 years ago | (#41024195)

I'm not sure what is more sad. That some people might believe that or that some people who think they are smart believe that those people believe that. When someone posts that to #ImAFuckingDumbass or with a retarded cookie monster profile it's clearly a form of sarcasm, but since that doesn't communicate well some other dumb asses think they are being serious.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (5, Funny)

ccguy (1116865) | about 2 years ago | (#41023371)

But it's only 2012!

I'll use an analogy to explain how this is possible. Imagine a game that is set in medieval times in which you are exploring castles 500 years old. The game is new, but the castles in it were old right from the start.

God played the same trick with us. The universe is 6000 years old, but when it was created (when he inserted the CD, if it makes you feel more comfy) it already had extinct species, people that had been dead for a few centuries and so on.
Clear now?

Re:2,684 years ago??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023521)

Sorry, but you're wrong. First, the world was not created by God, but by Higgs Entertainment Inc. And that was not 6000 year ago, but yesterday.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (1)

schitso (2541028) | about 2 years ago | (#41023669)

+1 "Poe's law"

Re:2,684 years ago??? (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about 2 years ago | (#41024015)

+1 "Poe's law"

I apologize. I'd like to add

:-)

To my original comment.

You never know who's going to google you.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41023841)

EA wants to have a word with that "God" you talk about for copyright infringement. He clearly stole their idea.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023505)

They're using metric years.

Re:2,684 years ago??? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41023851)

They didn't account for leap years. Yes, yes, we only have one every 4 years, but in the older days when everything was better we had a LOT more of them!

*sigh* Oh the good ol' times...

Re:2,684 years ago??? (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | about 2 years ago | (#41024405)

It might only be 2012, but here's an article [livescience.com] about this same brain from 2011, and it was actually discovered in 2008. "Old news," indeed.

Abby someone (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023285)

Abby . . . Normal. I'm almost sure that was the name.

Re:Abby someone (1)

CptNerd (455084) | about 2 years ago | (#41023429)

He probably had an enormous schwanstucker...

Re:Abby someone (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 2 years ago | (#41023705)

........sed-a-give?!?!?!?!?

Re:Abby someone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023789)

Well that goes without saying...

Re:Abby someone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023873)

..woof...

Zombie Apocalypse... (5, Funny)

25or6to4 (739028) | about 2 years ago | (#41023315)

Apparently the zombie apocalypse will last longer than expected if their food source stays preserved for 2000 years!

you would hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023335)

I know, it might be a bit sci-fi but with medical science breaking new ground almost every day, you'd hope that one day they could read out the stored information in that brain. Would be cool to solve murder cases. I mean,.. they've unraffled the protocol our eyes use to send data to the cortex.. some day perhaps, we might be able to read brains :)

Re:you would hope (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023415)

'Unraffled'? Good luck with that. Hope you win the brain raffle. You need it.

Re:you would hope (1)

tylikcat (1578365) | about 2 years ago | (#41023855)

It's science fiction, but not utterly fantasy.

The visual decoding is all about electrical impulse carried through neurons. (And good luck resurrecting long dead neurons - especially in the CNS!*) But long term memory storage is looking to be more about protein conformation change... and it's barely conceivable that in a well enough preserved brain there might be enough residual information to decode. Kind of the biggest baddest hard drive forensics project ever.

Mind you, we aren't even close to being able to "read" memory information even under ideal circumstances.

* The CNS tends to suppress neuron regrowth. Sucks for people with spine or brain injuries, though I suppose it's a boon in terms of fewer tumors.

Re:you would hope (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#41023875)

As far as I know, the brain works like RAM. In other words, once you pull the plug, it's only a matter of seconds 'til you can't read anything meaningful anymore.

Re:you would hope (2)

tylikcat (1578365) | about 2 years ago | (#41024303)

And that's what makes the more recent data about protein conformational changes so interesting - it gives the impression that there could be something vaguely equivalent to a hard disk, that it's not all electrical signals needing to be maintained, but something a little more enduring.

Re:you would hope (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41024339)

You are wrong, please never speak of it again.

Makes me wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023337)

Was it in a glass vase and labeled "Abby Normal" ?

Er... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023389)

...can I have it back please?

Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (1, Flamebait)

sinij (911942) | about 2 years ago | (#41023427)

3000 years is less than human civilization. This brain is younger than parts of Old Testament.

If you want to study human brains like that, why not take a trip to a morgue? We are in no short of cadavers donated to science.

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41023511)

Your hypothesis is that brains haven't changed much in 3,000 years. This brain is a good test of your hypothsis. What exactly is your problem with that?

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (2, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about 2 years ago | (#41023621)

Thing is, there is very little you could test unless you get this 3,000 year old brain to boot up. Think of it this way - you are handed 2 non-working CPUs, could you tell if they are different? Perhaps if they have physically different (but human brains naturally deviate from the norm), but unless you have an ability to reverse-engineer these CPUs (and we don't have that ability for human brains) both would be just chunks of silicon.

Related: Have you seen TED talk by Juan Enriquez?
http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_will_our_kids_be_a_different_species.html [ted.com]

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023939)

You've brillantly and entirely missed the point. You must be a slashdot regular.

They can disect the brain to study it. Things like size and shape, as well as general structure can provide some insight. You are right that its not a gold mine. Just the same, iron and copper mines are still of value.

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41024371)

Oh, For the love of Jean-Martin Charcot, never compare the brain to a computer in that way.

"and we don't have that ability for human brains"
Stop it, jsut STOP! gah.

Shape, size, topology, chemical makeup all have meaningful information, even if we can't get to the memories.

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023517)

Because its a democrat brain and its hard to believe it lasted that long since they are so dumb dumb, general theory is it should have rotted long before the body died.

Re:Why is 3000 year old brain is a big deal? (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#41024149)

Not civilization in northern and western Europe. That region was a barbaric, uncivilized backwater until the 16th century. When the Chinese built the Forbidden City they invited dignitaries from the entire known world, as far away as Timbuktu, to witness the opening ceremonies. Not only were they not invited, news of the event didn't even reach France and Germany for almost a century. It wasn't until the discovery of the Americas and the looting of the Aztec and Inca gold and silver that the region actually gained a place on the world map.

Brain and brain! What is brain? (2)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#41023509)

Oblig Trek reference.

Re:Brain and brain! What is brain? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41023613)

"I should have never reconnected his mouth."
  "Well, we took the risk, doctor."

Abby Someone's Brain (1)

khr (708262) | about 2 years ago | (#41023529)

If he was probably hanged, then he may have been unfit for society (although that's not conclusive, as whoever did the hanging could easily have been the one unfit for society) so from this we can figure out the guy's name was probably Abby Someone, and his brain can be used for experiments.

Re:Abby Someone's Brain (1)

mtempsch (524313) | about 2 years ago | (#41024079)

If he was probably hanged, then he may have been unfit for society (although that's not conclusive, as whoever did the hanging could easily have been the one unfit for society).

Not necessarily either of them - it could have been ritual sacrifice, of a valued member, by other valued members, of society...

Re:Abby Someone's Brain (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41024389)

He might be unfit for THAT society. Most modern civilized people would be considered unfit in a lot of societies 3000 years ago.

It was in a jar... (1)

SailorSpork (1080153) | about 2 years ago | (#41023535)

...next to a sign with his name on it. I think it was something like "Abby Normal."

Re:It was in a jar... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#41023745)

Its Alive! [youtube.com]

that explains everything (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#41023553)

So, unnaturally preserved brain and they were executed by hanging...clearly this evidence is consistent with this individual being a witch, lol.

Re:that explains everything (2)

Siberwulf (921893) | about 2 years ago | (#41023607)

No evidence they weighed as much as a duck....

Re:that explains everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023653)

But, a brain weighs as much as a duck, therefore... A WITCH! Burn him! Then hang him again!

Re:that explains everything (4, Informative)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#41024059)

Actually there are quite a number (hundreds) of preserved corpses of people that were hanged from this period which have been recovered from bogs in northern Europe. The tannins in bog water preserve the skin quite well, in several cases police were called first because the discoverers thought it was a recent murder. Some of them still have the rope around their neck. This site was probably anoxic as well if the soft tissues were also preserved. A quick search on "bog bodies" will bring up a plethora of information.

There can only be one! (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 2 years ago | (#41023591)

Calling it now, it is someone Connor MacLeod killed.

Why am I suddenly craving... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023597)

Brownies?

Sounds like... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | about 2 years ago | (#41023617)

...it's in better shape than mine.

Let's (1)

trevc (1471197) | about 2 years ago | (#41023625)

Fire it back up and see if it still works.

Let's find out if it works! (0)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#41023631)

Just transplant into the next helmet-less motorcycle accident victim and viola! Maybe he can even recall what it was that got him hanged.

Only a scientist could talk like this (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#41023637)

"The cranium is well designed to protect the brain in life and can, under the right circumstances, remain on duty long after the normal expectation of service," he said.

"Normal expectation of service"! Gotta remember that one.

"about"??? (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#41023711)

".. dated to about 2,684 years ago"

Saying that it happened about 2684 years ago implies (at least to me) that they can date it between precisely 2683 and 2685 years. Does it not strike anyone else as odd that they could pinpoint something that long ago so precisely?

Re:"about"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023953)

It had a label right on it that said 672 BC!

Re:"about"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024071)

The number 2684 appears nowhere in the academic article. They do note that, "[a] calibrated radiocarbon date of
673 - 482BC was obtained from collagen extracted from the mandible (OxA-20677: 2469 +- 34 bp)."

I assume that the author at Discovery News took the liberty to assume the oldest date (and the existence of a year zero, btw).

Re:"about"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024117)

Doh! I failed on the year zero correction. Always off by one, never to be a real programmer.

Re:"about"??? (2)

Minwee (522556) | about 2 years ago | (#41024387)

There are three types of errors that programmers make: Logic errors, and off-by-one errors.

Re:"about"??? (1)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | about 2 years ago | (#41024109)

They probably used dendrochronology from some piece of wood found nearby. There are databases of ring growths going back thousands of years so it's possible to date to an exact year.

Re:"about"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024147)

".. dated to about 2,684 years ago"

Saying that it happened about 2684 years ago implies (at least to me) that they can date it between precisely 2683 and 2685 years. Does it not strike anyone else as odd that they could pinpoint something that long ago so precisely?

The journal article dates it as 673-482BC by means of a calibrated radiocarbon method. So that's between 2493-2684 years old.

"a waterlogged U.K. pit" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023777)

Oh come on. Why not just say London.

Re:"a waterlogged U.K. pit" (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41024263)

Specifically, at 10 Downing Street.

Normally... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41023793)

> death was...consistent with hanging.

Scientist: I can't wait to study this wonderfully preserved brain specimen! Was there any other information with the corpse?

Assistant: There was a chisled rock with his name on it.

Scientist: Really! What was his name?

Assistant: Abby something.

This is good news for Chris Dodd (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#41023853)

We have a spare brain for the man's [wikipedia.org] empty head.

Re:This is good news for Chris Dodd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023899)

LOL

take that chris dadd

Abby Something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41023935)

And what are they going to do with the brain really?

Family Member (1)

OldGunner (2576825) | about 2 years ago | (#41024073)

"...but in this case, damage to the neck vertebrae is consistent with a hanging."
I'll have to dig out the old family trees and see if it is a relative. Knowing my family lines, it probably is.

Date (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41024189)

What year was this news?

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