(New Scientist) Shaken, scorched and boiled in its own juices, this 4000-year-old human brain has been through a lot.

It may look like nothing more than a bit of burnt log, but it is one of the oldest brains ever found. Its discovery, and the story now being pieced together of its owner’s last hours, offers the tantalising prospect that archaeological remains could harbor more ancient brain specimens than thought. If that’s the case, it potentially opens the way to studying the health of the brain in prehistoric times.

Brain tissue is rich in enzymes that cause cells to break down rapidly after death, but this process can be halted if conditions are right.

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