Super Resilient Protein Structures Preserved a Chunk of Brain for 2,600 Years
By Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com
In the summer of 2008, archaeologist Rachel Cubitt was in the middle of a routine cleanup procedure when she noticed something peculiar.
The oddity wasn’t the ancient, mud-caked human skull she held in her hands. (As an employee of the York Archaeological Trust, Cubitt considered such specimens par for the course.) Rather, it was what Cubitt noticed inside the grubby noggin that left her baffled. Enclosed within the cranium—dug up earlier that year near modern day York, England—was a loose, spongy lump that in a baffling twist of fate would turn out to be a shockingly well-preserved piece of a 2,600-year-old brain.
Over the following decade, analyses yielded more questions than answers about the ancient organ—now known as the Heslington brain—and the mysterious Iron Age man to whom it once belonged. But as Ashley Strickland reports for CNN, researchers may have finally solved one of the biggest mysteries of all: namely, how such delicate tissue survived so many centuries underground in its natural state.