Britain's Oldest Brain!

Although we have plenty of fantastic artefacts on show in our attractions, there are also many fascinating objects which are too fragile to be on public display.

In achaeology it is very rare to find any soft tissue remains: no skin, no flesh, no hair and definitely no brains. However, in 2009, the archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust (YAT) found something very surprising at a site in Heslington, York.


During the excavation of an Iron Age landscape at University of York, a skull, with the jaw and two vertebrae still attached was discovered face down in a pit, without any evidence of what had happened to the rest of its body. At first it looked like a normal skull. It was not until Rachel Cubitt, from the Finds Department, was cleaning the skull and turned it over that she realised there was something loose inside. 

“I peered though the hole at the base of the skull to investigate and to my surprise saw a quantity of bright yellow spongy material. It was unlike anything I had seen before.”

Sonia O'Connor, from Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, was able to confirm that this was brain. With the help of York Hospital’s Mortuary they were able to remove the top of the skull in order to get their first look at this astonishingly well-preserved human brain.


Read more about this fascinating discovery in the York Archaeological Trust ‘Yorkshire Archaeology Today’ publication - Click here to download the issue.

ConservationDavid Scott