Scientists Find 2,000-Year-Old Brain in Britain

Experts ask if head was severed by sacrifice or ritual burial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 12, 2008 5:28 PM CST
Scientists Find 2,000-Year-Old Brain in Britain
This image issued by the York Archaeological Trust on Friday Dec. 12, 2008 shows brain material as dark folded matter at the top of the head in this computer-generated view into the skull.   ((AP Photo/York Archaeological Trust, Ho))

British archaeologists have unearthed an ancient skull carrying a startling surprise—an unusually well-preserved brain. Scientists said today that the mass of gray matter was more than 2,000 years old, making it the oldest ever discovered in Britain, the AP reports. One expert unconnected with the find called it "a real freak of preservation."

Experts say the skull was severed from its owner sometime before the Roman invasion of Britain and found in a muddy pit during a dig at the University of York in northern England this fall. It remains a mystery why the skull was buried separately from its body, suggesting human sacrifice and ritual burial as possible explanations. (More Britain stories.)

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