View Full Version : Oldest British Brain Found

Saturday, January 31st, 2009, 04:20 PM

Archaeologists have found the remains of what could be Britain's oldest surviving human brain.

The team, excavating a York University site, discovered a skull containing a yellow substance which scans showed to be shrunken, but brain-shaped.

Brains consist of fatty tissue which microbes in the soil would absorb, so neurologists believe the find could be some kind of fossilised brain.

The skull was found in an area first farmed more than 2,000 years ago.

More tests will now be done to establish what it is actually made of.

The team from York Archaeological Trust had been commissioned by the university to carry out an exploratory dig at Heslington East, where campus extension work is under way.

The skull was discovered in an area of extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, trackways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC.


The archaeologists believe the skull, which was found on its own in a muddy pit, may have been a ritual offering.

There is something unusual in the way the brain has been treated, or something that it's been exposed to that has preserved the shape of it

York Hospital neurologist

It was taken to the University of York where CT scans were used to look at the skull's contents.

Philip Duffey, the consultant neurologist who carried out the scans, said the find was "amazing".

"It's exciting that scanning has shown structures which appear to be unequivocally of brain origin.

"I think that it will be very important to establish how these structures have survived, whether there are traces of biological material within them and, if not, what is their composition."

He added: "This could be the equivalent of a fossil. The brain itself would generally not survive. Fatty tissues would be feasted on by microbes.

"This isn't like the remains found in bogs; it doesn't have any skin on the skull or any tissue remains elsewhere.

"There is something unusual in the way the brain has been treated, or something that it's been exposed to that has preserved the shape of it."

TB victim<

Dr Sonia O'Connor, research fellow in archaeological sciences at the University of Bradford added: "The survival of brain remains where no other soft tissues are preserved is extremely rare.

"This brain is particularly exciting because it is very well preserved, even though it is the oldest recorded find of this type in the UK, and one of the earliest worldwide."

The find is the second major discovery during investigations at the site.

Earlier this year, a team from the university's department of archaeology unearthed a shallow grave containing the skeleton of a man believed to be one of Britain's earliest victims of tuberculosis.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that the man died in the fourth century, the late-Roman period.

The vice-chancellor of the University of York, Professor Brian Cantor, said: "The skull is another stunning discovery and its further study will provide us with incomparable insights into life in the Iron Age."

Specialists now hope to carry out further tests on the skull to establish how it has survived for so long, and perhaps more about the person whose brain it was.

Anyone else remember better than I do what the Irish used to do with brains, as recounted in the Tain Bo Cuailnge? Mix them up with something to embalm them, I think. Yet another example of ancient links with Northern Britain... :thumb001:

Saturday, January 31st, 2009, 09:05 PM
Archaeologists have found the remains of what could be Britain's oldest surviving human brain.

this opening quote makes it seem a bit comical.... :D

*drops voice five octaves*
buried for thousands of years... hidden away from the world. until now!
Scientists have discovered more then they could handle... the OLDEST SURVIVING BRAIN... and it wants revenge!

Saturday, January 31st, 2009, 09:51 PM
Here's the Irish stuff I had in mind;

Ah, here we are! A weapon, yes!

King Conchobor of the Ulaid was killed by one!

Conor died by a brain ball that sunk into his skull - fired by the hand of Cet MacMagach, the Connaught champion, whom he had pursued after a Connaught cattle raid. The legend attached to Conor’s death is curious. The brain ball fired by Cet did not directly kill him. It sank into his skull - and his doctor, Faith Liag, would not remove it, because that would cause instant death. With care, Conor might live long, carrying the brain ball. Henceforth, however, he must be moderate in all things, avoiding violent emotion, which was rare in those days for kings. Under his doctor’s wise care he lived for seven years. But one time, his court was thrown into consternation by finding broad day suddenly turned into blackest night, the heavens rent by lightning, and the world rocked by thunder, portending some dread cataclysm. Conor asked his wise men for explanation of the fearful happening. The druids and wise men told him that there had been in the East, a singular man, more noble of character, more lofty of mind, and more beautiful of soul, than the world had ever before known, or ever again would know - he was the noblest and most beautiful, most loving of men. And now the heavens and the earth were thrown into agony because on this day the tyrant Roman, jealous of his power over the people, had nailed him high upon a cross, and between two crucified thieves, had left the divine man to die a fearful death. Conor was so fired to rage at this thought, that he snatched his sword and tried to fiercely hew down a grove of trees. Under the strain of the fierce passion that held him the brain ball burst from King Conor’s head - and he fell dead.

Curious speculations;

does anyone know offhand what the constellation opposite Orion is ? and could that possibly have some kind of significance to the Sky Warrior that the ancients considered him to be? could there be a Sky Monster or a Sky Giant opposed to the Warrior?

here are a few other thoughts...i'm wondering if perhaps the Sky Warrior could not be considered to be Lugh as well?

here is why: i've read somewhere....i think it was in Squire's Celtic Myth and Legend that the "Milky Way" was called "Lugh's Chain".....an allusion to his sling, perhaps? i've also read that in some versions of the story of Lugh and Balor, the slingstone the former uses in his sling is called a tathlum -- basically a concrete ball, said to be made out of, among other things, the cured brain of a fallen enemy. some mythologists assert it is a moon symbol.

some also say that the Eye of Balor is a sun symbol -- a theory i am less inclined to like because i like the motif of a Sun Hero rather than a Sun Villain. at any rate, Balor's whithering eye is said by some to be the unfriendly scorching Sun.

let's say the moon traces a track through Orion, through 'Lugh's Sling' to at some point eclipse the sun...and then we get celestial telling of the story of Balor and Lugh... there is also a version of the story that says that before Balor knew Lugh was the grandson that would kill him, he saw the child reach and pick up an apple, and that from Balor's subsequent comment is how Lugh recieves the epithet Lamfhada, or long-arm...i've read in some places that the apple can be considered a sun or a moon symbol -- is this the Sky Warrior whose reach can grasp the sun or moon as it passes through his constellation?


Many great chiefs fell on each side. Ogma, the champion of the Tuatha Dé Danann, killed Indech, the son of the goddess Domnu. But, meanwhile, Balor of the Mighty Blows raged among the gods, slaying their king, Nuada of the Silver Hand, as well as Macha, one of his warlike wives. At last he met with Lugh. The sun-god shouted a challenge to his grandfather in the Fomorian speech. Balor heard it, and prepared to use his death-dealing eye.

"Lift up my eyelid," he said to his henchmen, "that I may see this chatterer who talks to me.

The attendants lifted Balor's eye with a hook, and if the glance of the eye beneath had rested upon Lugh, he would certainly have perished. But, when it was half opened, Lugh flung a magic stone which struck Balor's eye out through the back of his head. The eye fell on the ground behind Balor, and destroyed a whole rank of thrice nine Fomors who were unlucky enough to be within sight of it.

An ancient poem has handed down the secret of this magic stone. It is there called a tathlum, meaning a "concrete ball" such as the ancient Irish warriors used sometimes to make out of the brains of dead enemies hardened with lime.

p. 113

"A tathlum, heavy, fiery, firm,
Which the Tuatha Dé Danann had with them,
It was that broke the fierce Balor's eye,
Of old, in the battle of the great armies.

"The blood of toads and furious bears,
And the blood of the noble lion,
The blood of vipers and of Osmuinn's trunks;--
It was of these the tathlum was composed.

"The sand of the swift Armorian sea,
And the sand of the teeming Red Sea;--
All these, being first purified, were used
In the composition of the tathlum.

"Briun, the son of Bethar, no mean warrior,
Who on the ocean's eastern border reigned;--
It was he that fused, and smoothly formed,
It was he that fashioned the tathlum.

"To the hero Lugh was given
This concrete ball,--no soft missile;--
In Mag Tuireadh of shrieking wails,
From his hand he threw the tathlum." 1

A Pre Indo European stratum in the mythology? Nothing similar in Germandom or further afield? :chinrub: