Experts Explained Why This Ancient Human Brain Remained Intact for 2,600 Years
Sat, April 17, 2021

Experts Explained Why This Ancient Human Brain Remained Intact for 2,600 Years


Naturally, our human organs gradually deteriorate when we die. While complete skeletonization is expected within five to 10 years, the putrefaction of the human body after death usually starts within 36 to 72 hours. However, this was not the case for this man’s brain, which remained largely intact for over 2,600 years. The man was discovered by archaeologists in 2008 at an excavation site in the UK. The brain was called the “Heslington brain” since it was found in the British village of Heslington. 


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


The researchers suggested that the man most likely died by hanging based on the damage to the neck vertebrae. A study investigated how the brain managed to stay intact for so long. The findings suggested that the Heslington brain, which is considered the oldest brain specimen ever discovered in the UK, has an unknown “blocker” that prevented the proteases, the destructive enzyme, from attacking the Heslington brain.

“Combined, the data suggest that the proteases of the ancient brain might have been inhabited by an unknown compound which had diffused from the outside of the brain to the deeper structures,” the researchers wrote. 


Photo Credits: BBC Science Focus


The researchers also reported that the Heslington brain appeared to possess shorter and narrower weaves of intermediate filaments (IFs), which maintain the connection between our neurons and their long bodies, mimicking those of a living brain. They found this after closely monitoring the progressive breakdown of proteins in another modern brain specimen and comparing it with the degradation of the Heslington brain.


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the blocker allowed the brain’s proteins to form stabilized aggregates that made it harder for the material to break down — even in warm temperatures. They also emphasized that its preservation at ambient temperature is not possible for millennia in free nature. Also, the researchers clarified that the Heslington brain is nonfunctional at all despite its good condition. It’s still braindead at the end of the day. 




GiAnn Esgana

Rubisco Plant Enzyme Engineered into E. Coli Bacteria Speeds Up Photosynthesis