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20 January 2009
Oldest known human brain from Old World found in Armenia

Scientists have uncovered in an Armenian cave what may be the oldest preserved human brain from an ancient society, which dates back to 6,000 years. The cave overlooks southeastern Armenia's Arpa River, just across the border from Iran. The researchers found a trio of Copper Age human skulls, each buried in a separate niche inside the three-chambered, 600-square-meter cave. The skulls belonged to 12- to 14-year-old girls, according to anatomical analyses conducted independently by three biological anthropologists. Fractures identified on two skulls indicate that the girls were killed by blows from a club of some sort, probably in a ritual ceremony, according to Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles. Remarkably, one skull contained a shriveled but well-preserved brain. "This is the oldest known human brain from the Old World," Areshian said.
     Scientists now studying the brain have noted preserved blood vessels on its surface. Surviving red blood cells have been extracted from those hardy vessels for analysis. The cave has also offered surprising new insights into the origins of modern civilizations, such as evidence of a winemaking enterprise and an array of culturally diverse pottery. Excavations in and just outside of Areni-1 cave during 2007 and 2008 yielded an extensive array of Copper Age artifacts dating to between 6,200 and 5,900 years ago, according to Areshian. The finds show that major cultural developments occurred during the Copper Age in areas outside southern Iraq, which is traditionally regarded as the cradle of civilization, Areshian noted. Additional discoveries at the site include metal knives, seeds from more than 30 types of fruit, remains of dozens of cereal species, rope, cloth, straw, grass, reeds and dried grapes and prunes.

Source: New Kerala (13 January 2009)

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