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posted by hubie on Saturday March 30, @09:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the if-I-only-had-a-brain dept.

Ancient brains archive created as Oxford boffins challenge historic theory:

Oxford University researchers have created a new archive of ancient human brains.

The record of ancient brains highlights the different environments they can be saved in, ranging from the frozen Arctic to deserts.

The collection of shrunken, discoloured samples was found preserved in all manner of people including Egyptian and Korean royalty as well as explorers and victims of war.

It gives researchers the chance to analyse the early evolution of humans.

Many of the brains were up to 12,000 years old and found in records dating back to the mid-17th century.

The ancient human brains were found across a range of different sites, including the shores of a lakebed in Stone Age Sweden and the depths of an Iranian salt mine around 500 BC.

Experts say preservation of soft tissue such as brains is relatively rare in the geological record.

[...] The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, bring together the records of more than 4,000 preserved human brains from some two hundred sources, across six continents.

The analyses revealed patterns in the environmental conditions associated with different modes of preservation through time.

More than 1,300 of the human brains were the only soft tissues preserved, prompting questions as to why the brain may persist when other organs perish.

These brains also represent the oldest in the archive with several dating to the last Ice Age.

Alexandra Morton-Hayward, lead author of the study, said: "In the forensic field, it's well known that the brain is one of the first organs to decompose after death yet this huge archive clearly demonstrates that there are certain circumstances in which it survives.

"Whether those circumstances are environmental, or related to the brain's unique biochemistry, is the focus of our ongoing and future work.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Saturday March 30, @10:13PM (2 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 30, @10:13PM (#1351055) Journal
    The brain typically is way more protected than any other soft organ. For a scavenger to get at the brain, it needs to be able to get through the skull either able to enter through an existing hole or be strong enough to break the skull and make their own hole.

    For example, consider a human who dies to environmental accident untended and subsequently gets buried. If the burial happens at the moment of death, then it's possible that most scavengers won't have a chance to get at the corpse - such as dying in a mudslide. If burial happens days later, then scavengers probably will be all over the body with only the most protected parts having the potential to survive till burial - like someone dying in a crevasse of a glacier or drowning in a swamp.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 30, @11:53PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 30, @11:53PM (#1351065)

      Found the brain-eater!

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by c0lo on Saturday March 30, @10:19PM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 30, @10:19PM (#1351056) Journal

    ... we're seeing the remains of closed minds, more specifically those enclosed in concrete heads.