Scientists are getting a rare look at the brain of a mummy thanks to an imprint left inside the skull of someone who lived more than 2,000 years ago in Egypt.
The mummy, found in 2010 with more than 50 others in the Kom al-Ahmar/Sharuna necropolis, is unique in that blood vessels of the brain were imprinted into the skull, according to Live Science.
"This is the oldest case of mummified vascular prints," Dr. Albert Isidro, co-author of a study on the mummy, told Live Science.
During mummification, the brain was removed through the nose. Live Science reports that it's rare for any brain tissue to be left behind, but something must have happened during the process in this case that didn't happen in the others.
Archaeology Magazine reports that the inside of the skull of the mummy, referred to as W19, was coated with a preservative during mummification. That, in turn, appears to be what left the impression in the skull.
Since the same imprints weren't found in the other mummies, scientists aren't sure just how it happened. They believe there may have been a change in the temperature or acidity of the preservative.
"The conditions in this case must have been quite extraordinary," the researchers wrote in the journal Cortex, according to Live Science. The result is what they described as "exquisite anatomical details," specifically a look at the middle meningeal artery, the website reported.
The mummy is believed to be from somewhere between 550 and 150 BC.