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Pictures | Wed Jul 12, 2017 | 6:00pm BST

Preserved brains found in Spanish grave

Archaeologists excavating a mass grave from Spain's 1936 to 1939 Civil War have found the naturally preserved brains of 45 people eight decades after they were shot and buried on a hillside in the northern province of Burgos.


REUTERS/Juan Medina

Archaeologists excavating a mass grave from Spain's 1936 to 1939 Civil War have found the naturally preserved brains of 45 people eight decades after they were shot and buried on a hillside in the northern province of Burgos. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Archaeologists excavating a mass grave from Spain's 1936 to 1939 Civil War have found the naturally preserved brains of 45 people eight decades after they were shot and buried on a hillside in the northern province of Burgos. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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The brains from some of the bodies in the La Pedraja grave were preserved by very specific environmental conditions after heavy rains seeped into bullet holes in their skulls. This "saponification" process turned them into a soap-like substance.

REUTERS/Juan Medina

The brains from some of the bodies in the La Pedraja grave were preserved by very specific environmental conditions after heavy rains seeped into bullet holes in their skulls. This "saponification" process turned them into a soap-like...more

The brains from some of the bodies in the La Pedraja grave were preserved by very specific environmental conditions after heavy rains seeped into bullet holes in their skulls. This "saponification" process turned them into a soap-like substance. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Site of the mass grave in the area known as La Pedraja, Burgos. Spain has hundreds of mass graves from the war and from ensuing decades of dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. Very few have been dug up due to a lack of funding and Spain's "pact of forgetting" on its return to democracy in the 1970s.


REUTERS/Juan Medina

Site of the mass grave in the area known as La Pedraja, Burgos. Spain has hundreds of mass graves from the war and from ensuing decades of dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. Very few have been dug up due to a lack of funding and Spain's...more

Site of the mass grave in the area known as La Pedraja, Burgos. Spain has hundreds of mass graves from the war and from ensuing decades of dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. Very few have been dug up due to a lack of funding and Spain's "pact of forgetting" on its return to democracy in the 1970s. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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A drawing depicting the remains of the bodies. 


REUTERS/Juan Medina

A drawing depicting the remains of the bodies. REUTERS/Juan Medina

A drawing depicting the remains of the bodies. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society works at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. 


REUTERS/Juan Medina

Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society works at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society works at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Some of the 45 brains saponified found in the mass grave, are seen at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. 

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Some of the 45 brains saponified found in the mass grave, are seen at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Some of the 45 brains saponified found in the mass grave, are seen at a laboratory in Verin, Spain. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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A saponified heart of one of the persons killed in 1936 by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco. 


REUTERS/Juan Medina

A saponified heart of one of the persons killed in 1936 by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco. REUTERS/Juan Medina

A saponified heart of one of the persons killed in 1936 by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Fernando Serrulla, a forensic anthropologist of the Aranzadi Science Society. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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A portrait of Rafael Martinez (C), one of those killed by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1936 in the area known as La Pedraja, is seen among other portraits at a family home in Briviesca, Spain. Martinez, the president of a socialist association, was recently identified as one of the bodies in La Pedraja.


REUTERS/Juan Medina

A portrait of Rafael Martinez (C), one of those killed by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1936 in the area known as La Pedraja, is seen among other portraits at a family home in Briviesca, Spain. Martinez, the president of a socialist...more

A portrait of Rafael Martinez (C), one of those killed by forces of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1936 in the area known as La Pedraja, is seen among other portraits at a family home in Briviesca, Spain. Martinez, the president of a socialist association, was recently identified as one of the bodies in La Pedraja. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Victoria Martinez, daughter of Rafael Martinez, poses with a portrait of her father. 

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Victoria Martinez, daughter of Rafael Martinez, poses with a portrait of her father. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Victoria Martinez, daughter of Rafael Martinez, poses with a portrait of her father. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Miguel Angel Martinez, grandson of Rafael Martinez, poses next to the mass grave. 

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Miguel Angel Martinez, grandson of Rafael Martinez, poses next to the mass grave. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Miguel Angel Martinez, grandson of Rafael Martinez, poses next to the mass grave. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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"If only those brains could tell of what happened there," his grandson said.

REUTERS/Juan Medina

"If only those brains could tell of what happened there," his grandson said. REUTERS/Juan Medina

"If only those brains could tell of what happened there," his grandson said. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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Forensic anthropologist Fernando Serrulla prepares to show one of the 45 brains. 

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Forensic anthropologist Fernando Serrulla prepares to show one of the 45 brains. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Forensic anthropologist Fernando Serrulla prepares to show one of the 45 brains. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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"Naturally preserved brains are very rare," Serrulla said. "There are only around 100 documented cases in the world." The brains are being kept in a laboratory in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where Serrulla works. They form the largest collection of naturally preserved human brains in the world, he says.


REUTERS/Juan Medina

"Naturally preserved brains are very rare," Serrulla said. "There are only around 100 documented cases in the world." The brains are being kept in a laboratory in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where Serrulla works. They form the largest collection of...more

"Naturally preserved brains are very rare," Serrulla said. "There are only around 100 documented cases in the world." The brains are being kept in a laboratory in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where Serrulla works. They form the largest collection of naturally preserved human brains in the world, he says. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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A placard showing the names of those killed next to the mass grave in the area known as of La Pedraja, Burgos. 

REUTERS/Juan Medina

A placard showing the names of those killed next to the mass grave in the area known as of La Pedraja, Burgos. REUTERS/Juan Medina

A placard showing the names of those killed next to the mass grave in the area known as of La Pedraja, Burgos. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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