One of the missing brains is believed to have belonged to clock tower sniper Charles Whitman.
“We think somebody may have taken the brains, but we don’t know at all for sure,” psychology Professor Tim Schallert, co-curator of the collection, told the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/11R7vym ).
His co-curator, psychology Professor Lawrence Cormack, said, “It’s entirely possible word got around among undergraduates and people started swiping them for living rooms or Halloween pranks.”
The Austin State Hospital had transferred the brains to the university about 28 years ago under a “temporary possession” agreement. Schallert said his psychology lab had room for only 100 brains, so the rest were moved to the basement of the university’s Animal Resources Center.
“They are no longer in the basement,” Cormack said.
The ancient artwork could be the oldest known geometric carving made by a human ancestor, the researchers said.
It’s unclear what the engraving — a series of slashes and an “M”-shaped zigzag — means, but it could indicate that Homo erectus, the ancestor of modern humans, may have been smarter than was previously thought.
“We as humans tend to be a bit species-centric — we think we are so great and they must have been a bit more stupid than us, but I’m not sure,” said the study’s lead researcher, Josephine Joordens, a postdoctorial researcher of archaeology at Leiden University, in the Netherlands. “We need to appreciate the capacities of our ancestors a bit more.”
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