Oldest brain found in Turkey
(by Haohao Wu, 04/11/2013)

It may look like a charred log, but much more than that, it is in fact a human brain from 4000 years ago which is amongst the oldest brains ever found. This ancient human brain was found, surprisingly,during an archeological excavation near the city Kütahya in Western Turkey. As is known to all, the human tissuesstart to decompose rapidly after death, then, how could this brain be preserved well for 4000 years?

The unearthed brain with distorted fronto-temporal structures

Fig. 1: Superior view of an unearthed brain with distorted fronto-temporal structures.

Meriç Altinoz and colleagues figured out the secret in the ground. Since scorched wooden objects were also found in the sediment layer together with the skeletons containing ancient brains, M.A. Altinoz et al. speculated that this sediment layer is tectonically active and an earthquake buried people before fire went through rock and debris. The fire consumed oxygen and boiled brains in their own juice, thus the lack of oxygen and moisture had prevented brains from fast decomposing process.

Another secret was hidden in the specific soil fromKütahya region, famous for tile production.Meriç Altinoz and colleagues found that the soil around the skeletons was rich in potassium, magnesium and aluminum, which are significant for the adipocere formation, thus preserving the brain tissues. Beside this, the high level of boron in the soil created ainsect-repellant, anti-bacterial and fire-resistance environment.

Thanks to the coincidence of all these factors, this ancient brain could survive for 4000 year and become a valuable specimen for scientists. The discovery of this oldest brain would contribute not only to archeological anthropology but also to the understanding of history of neurological diseases.

Original article:

Altinoz, M. A., B. Ince, A. Sav, A. Dincer, S. Cengiz, S. Mercan, Z. Yazici, and M. N. Bilgen. "Human brains found in a fire-affected 4000-years old Bronze Age tumulus layer rich in soil alkalines and boron in Kutahya, Western Anatolia.", HOMO-Journal of Comparative Human Biology(2013).