The Jar and the Coffin: Keeping and Disposing of the Dead

  • Tinne ClaesEmail author
Part of the Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Modern History book series (MBSMH)


What happened to bodies after they left the autopsy or dissecting room? This chapter follows the trajectories of anatomised bodies and body parts, whether they ended up in museums (as preserved body parts), in a grave or down the drain (as medical waste). By studying distinct ways of preservation and disposal together, this chapter sketches a multifaceted view of the fate of anatomical remains that was not necessarily disgraceful or abhorrent. The final disposal of anatomical remains, so this chapter argues, was a compromise, in which divergent meanings of the dead body in different areas of life came together. The division of the body into different categories—scientifically valuable specimens, significant parts associated with the deceased or medical waste—allowed anatomists to reconcile the social requirement of a decent burial with the medical use and exhaustion of other parts.


Anatomical collections Anatomy burial Medical waste 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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