Ancient brain remains have been found four or five times before in Turkey, but this discovery marks the first time researchers have found skin still intact on ancient bodies there.
During an excavation in Turkey, archaeologists uncovered the startlingly well-preserved remains of two Bronze Age individuals — including brain and skin remnants.
As Arkeonews reported, the excavation took place at Tavşanlı Mound in western Turkey’s Kütahya province.
The mound is known as the “Heart of Western Anatolia” because, as the name suggests, it looks like a heart from above.
The discovery was made by researchers from Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University, who said that the find is particularly noteworthy because it is the first instance of skin remains being found during archaeological excavations in Turkey. Brain remains are also incredibly rare, having only been found four or five times before there.
Researchers identified one set of the brain and skin remnants as belonging to a young man between 15 and 18, and another middle-aged man between 40 and 45.
Both sets of remains were preserved through carbonization, a process in which extreme heat or compression turns a substance to carbon or charcoal during fossilization. Experts believe the two individuals were attempting to flee their homes around 1700 B.C.E. after they were set on fire during an assault that razed the city.
So far, researchers have not identified why the city was attacked, or who the attackers were, though an investigation is now underway.
The intense heat from the fires allowed the brain tissue to be preserved inside both individuals’ skulls, as well as skin remnants found between the chest and abdomen of one skeleton.
The discovery was presented at the European Association of Archaeologists conference that took place between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 of this year in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Tavşanlı Mound is an especially notable archaeological site in Turkey, as it is located on the transition route between Western Anatolia and Central Anatolia. Excavations at the mound can offer archaeologists critical information about how ancient cultures communicated between these regions.
The current round of excavations and research is being led by the Archeology Department of Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University chairman Professor Erkan Fidan. Fidan is accompanied by a team of 25 local and foreign experts working in conjunction with the university and the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Per the Daily Sabah, Excavation of the Tavşanlı Mound began as part of an executive decree in 2021 and is planned to continue on for about 30 years.
Sezer Seçer Fidan, a Hittitologist in charge of the site, also explained that the Tavşanlı Mound was once one of the largest settlements in western Anatolia.
“While previous settlements here were a conglomeration of a couple of villages, as the swamps were filled and drained, it becomes a site that could serve as the basis for urbanization and turn into a capital city,” she said. “This corresponds roughly to [a period] 4,0000 to 5,000 years earlier. Urbanization at this site of course does not consist of a single-phase, but a formation that continues to expand over time.”
The goal of the ongoing excavations, she explained, is to trace the history of Tavşanlı Mound and uncover city walls dating back to the Hittites. It is believed that the site could reveal more than 8,000 years worth of history.
“If we can detect buildings related to the Hittite period, then we can find written documents or findings. It would be a very important finding for western Anatolia since written documents are very rare in this region,” Fidan said.
After reading about this fascinating new discovery in Turkey, read about the Bronze Age funeral pyre that was found undisturbed in Italy. Or, learn about the 4,000-year-old brain that was preserved by boiling in its own fluids.