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Pathobiology. 2012;79(5):239-46. doi: 10.1159/000334353. Epub 2012 Jun 21.

A paleoneurohistological study of 3,000-year-old mummified brain tissue from the mediterranean bronze age.

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Department of Prehistory, Ancient History and Archaeology, Hospital Clínic and Institut d'Investigacions August Pi i Sunyer, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.



Mummified nervous tissue is very rarely found in ancient remains and usually corresponds to corpses which were frozen or preserved in bogs, conditions which limit tissue autolysis and bacterial degradation. Here, we show the unusual finding of spontaneously mummified brain tissue from several individuals from the little known megalithic talaiotic culture of the island of Minorca, dating approximately 3,000 years before present and corresponding to the late Mediterranean Bronze Age.


These individuals were part of an intact burial site containing 66 subjects. Intracraneal samples were carefully rehydrated with Sandison's solution. We used classical histochemical as well as 2D and 3D (scanning) electron-microscopic techniques.


We provide evidence of the nervous nature of the samples as well as a detailed description of the morphological features of these ancient tissues. The intracranial material consisted of well-preserved eosinophilic reticular tissue and, although mostly absent, some exceptional pigment-containing neurons were identified.


We present a detailed morphological analysis which can provide valuable information and guidelines for the interpretation of this scarce type of mummified samples and provide explanations for this surprising preservation.

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