Craniotomy along the axial plane of an adult female skull that was dissected at the University of Cambridge.

Jenna Dittmarn / University of Cambridge

An assumption has long existed that 19th century doctors interested in dissection prized male cadavers over female, due to the greater average musculature in men’s bodies. A new analysis by two archaeologists, however, suggests that women and men may have been more equal in this postmortem practice than anyone realized.

Human dissection began as a way to acquire medical knowledge about anatomy. In early 16th century England, when the practice of Western medicine began to take off in earnest, hanged felons were allowed by King Henry VIII to be dissected. This precedent established a tradition of dissecting men, as those condemned to death were almost exclusively male. By the mid-18th century, the 1752 Murder Act further sanctioned dissection as a form of eternal punishment, but was reserved for murderers; women were rarely convicted of this crime and almost never sentenced to death. Given the legal system of historic England, it is unsurprising that the dissection of female cadavers was limited.

Archaeologists have recently begun investigating the history of this postmortem medical practice by excavating hospital cemeteries and analyzing the skeletal remains. In both the US and the UK, archaeologists have found that the bodies of men were dissected two or three times as often as those of women. While the gender disparity in life is in many ways unsurprising, a new study asks whether women and men were treated differently after death.

Jenna Dittmar and Piers Mitchell, researchers with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, detail their analysis of historical dissections in a new article in the journal Bioarchaeology International. In order to investigate the “startling gender disparity” in dissected bodies, Dittmar and Mitchell studied 99 skeletons – 74 male and 25 female – dating to the second half of the 19th century from the Royal London Hospital and the University of Cambridge. Each skeleton was confirmed to have tool marks on the bones from the process of dissection.

In order to systematically assess the dissection procedures used on each body, Dittmar and Mitchell precisely recorded each tool mark and compared the patterns with historical descriptions of human dissection and surgery.

The researchers discovered several intriguing patterns in the remains. Many skulls had been sawed open “with a type of surgical saw that had teeth that were organized at opposing angles, with alternating teeth angled away from the midline,” and the cuts commenced on the left side. Knife marks elsewhere “appear to have been created by a straight, single-bladed instrument with no evidence of serrated edges.” Even the face was dissected, including the eyes. “In addition, three men and three women had their heads removed by sawing through the cervical vertebrae,” Dittmar and Mitchell note.

In looking at potential gender differences in the treatment of the cadaver, though, the researchers found none. “In both men and women, evidence of a craniotomy was the most commonly identified postmortem surgical procedure,” they report. “There is also evidence that certain facial features (eyes, ears, mouth) were sometimes examined more extensively on both men and women, often resulting in substantial fragmentation and disfiguration of the corpse.” Dittmar and Mitchell did assess evidence of cut marks in the chest cavity; however, they conclude that, because internal organs could have been accessed via the diaphragm, there were few obvious tool marks on any skeleton.

Medical students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School perform a dissection on a donated cadaver in a lab at the school (AP Photo)

University of South Carolina bioarchaeologist Carlina de la Cova agrees with the findings of Dittmar and Mitchell, noting that their results are consistent with other anatomical collections that have a higher number of males than females. De la Cova suggests that one reason for this longstanding gender disparity may be due to socioeconomic status, as “indigent, unclaimed women were not dissected at the same rates as males. Low socioeconomic status males – wage laborers, the homeless, or those living in boarding houses – may have been transient, without local family ties, resulting in their bodies not being claimed at death.”

Some skeletons, however, showed evidence of amputated limbs and sectioning after death. Dittmar and Mitchell explain this as a process of “cadaver sharing” in a time when bodies were few and far between. Further, though, the researchers suggest that “the evidence of cadaver sharing on female skeletal remains provides convincing support for equitable treatment of the bodies of the dissected.” That is, women were not treated differently in dissection; they were no longer viewed as vulnerable or in need of protection. “By dividing the body into parts, educators and anatomists created a situation in which sections of the body could be divorced from their antemortem gendered identities,” they note.

De la Cova agrees that the severing of limbs and heads postmortem could be related to a distancing of the anatomists from their human subjects. “This attitude,” she tells me, “is probably why few differences exist in regard to the ways in which males and females were anatomized in Dittmar and Mitchell’s sample.” Based on the language anatomists used during this time period, they would have viewed both sexes as little more than specimens, a dehumanization that she says “eases the anatomist into cutting, severing, disemboweling, and dismembering the human body for detailed dissection,” according to de la Cova.

Some differences in dissection did occur, and de la Cova points to a desire of anatomists in the 18th century to dissect pregnant women. However, “the main difference between dissection of men and women,” Dittmar and Mitchell found in historical records, “was the examination of the sexual organs, which leaves no evidence on the skeletal remains.”

Dittmar and Mitchell’s examination of dissected female bodies therefore shows that “within the specific confines of the dissection room, the inequality of the sexes experience during life ended in death. Women were not given any special treatment by their dissectors, who were almost certainly exclusively male.”

Rebecca Gibson, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Notre Dame, sums up the research study succinctly by concluding that it “demonstrates that we need to question our assumption about the practice of dissection, bring in historical data, and do proper biocultural analyses of the skeletons to truly see the whole picture” the way that Dittmar and Mitchell do.

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(******** )Craniotomy along the axial aircraft of an adult female skull that was dissected at the University of Cambridge.

Jenna Dittmarn/ University of Cambridge

A presumption has actually long existed that 19 th century medical professionals thinking about dissection valued male cadavers over woman, due to the higher average musculature in males’s bodies. A brand-new analysis by 2 archaeologists, nevertheless, recommends that ladies and males might have been more equivalent in this postmortem practice than anybody recognized.

Human dissection started as a method to get medical understanding about anatomy. In early 16 th century England, when the practice of Western medication started to remove in earnest, hanged felons were permitted by King Henry VIII to be dissected. This precedent developed a custom of dissecting males, as those condemned to death were nearly solely male. By the mid-18 th century, the 1752 Murder Act even more approved dissection as a type of everlasting penalty, however was booked for killers; ladies were seldom founded guilty of this criminal offense and nearly never ever sentenced to death. Offered the legal system of historical England, it is unsurprising that the dissection of female cadavers was restricted.

Archaeologists have actually just recently started examining the history of this postmortem medical practice by excavating health center cemeteries and evaluating the skeletal remains. In both the United States and the UK, archaeologists have actually discovered that the bodies of males were dissected 2 or 3 times as typically as those of ladies. While the gender variation in life remains in lots of methods unsurprising, a brand-new research study asks whether ladies and males were dealt with in a different way after death.

(************ )Jenna Dittmar and Piers Mitchell, scientists with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Study at the University of Cambridge, information their analysis of historic dissections in a brand-new post in the journal Bioarchaeology International In order to examine the “surprising gender variation” in dissected bodies, Dittmar and Mitchell studied 99 skeletons – 74 male and 25 woman – dating to the 2nd half of the 19 th century from the Royal London Health Center and the University of Cambridge. Each skeleton was validated to have tool marks on the bones from the procedure of dissection.

In order to methodically examine the dissection treatments utilized on each body, Dittmar and Mitchell exactly tape-recorded each tool mark and compared the patterns with historic descriptions of human dissection and surgical treatment.

(***************** )

The scientists found a number of interesting patterns in the remains. Numerous skulls had actually been sawed open “with a kind of surgical saw that had teeth that were arranged at opposing angles, with rotating teeth angled away from the midline,” and the cuts started on the left side. Knife marks in other places “appear to have actually been produced by a directly, single-bladed instrument without any proof of serrated edges.” Even the face was dissected, consisting of the eyes. “In addition, 3 males and 3 ladies had their heads gotten rid of by sawing through the cervical vertebrae,” Dittmar and Mitchell note.

In taking a look at prospective gender distinctions in the treatment of the cadaver, however, the scientists discovered none. “In both males and females, proof of a craniotomy was the most frequently determined postmortem surgery,” they report. “There is likewise proof that specific facial functions (eyes, ears, mouth) were in some cases taken a look at more thoroughly on both males and females, typically leading to considerable fragmentation and disfiguration of the remains.” Dittmar and Mitchell did examine proof of cut marks in the chest cavity; nevertheless, they conclude that, due to the fact that internal organs might have been accessed by means of the diaphragm, there were couple of apparent tool marks on any skeleton.

(*******************

)

(******* )

Medical trainees at the University of Massachusetts Medical School carry out a dissection on a contributed cadaver in a laboratory at the school (AP Picture)

University of South Carolina bioarchaeologist Carlina de la Cova concurs with the findings of Dittmar and Mitchell, keeping in mind that their outcomes follow other physiological collections that have a greater variety of males than women. De la Cova recommends that a person factor for this longstanding gender variation might be because of socioeconomic status, as “indigent, unclaimed ladies were not dissected at the very same rates as males. Low socioeconomic status males– wage workers, the homeless, or those residing in boarding homes– might have been short-term, without regional household ties, leading to their bodies not being declared at death.”

Some skeletons, nevertheless, revealed proof of amputated limbs and sectioning after death. Dittmar and Mitchell discuss this as a procedure of “cadaver sharing” in a time when bodies were rare. Even more, however, the scientists recommend that “the proof of cadaver sharing on female skeletal remains offers persuading assistance for fair treatment of the bodies of the dissected.” That is, ladies were not dealt with in a different way in dissection; they were no longer considered as susceptible or in requirement of security. “By dividing the body into parts, teachers and anatomists produced a scenario in which areas of the body might be separated from their antemortem gendered identities,” they keep in mind.

De la Cova concurs that the severing of limbs and heads postmortem might be associated with a distancing of the anatomists from their human topics. “This mindset,” she informs me, “is most likely why couple of distinctions exist in regard to the methods which males and women were anatomized in Dittmar and Mitchell’s sample.” Based upon the language anatomists utilized throughout this time duration, they would have seen both sexes as little bit more than specimens, a dehumanization that she states “relieves the anatomist into cutting, severing, disemboweling, and dismembering the body for in-depth dissection,” according to de la Cova.

Some distinctions in dissection did take place, and de la Cova indicate a desire of anatomists in the 18 th century to dissect pregnant ladies. Nevertheless, “the primary distinction in between dissection of males and females,” Dittmar and Mitchell discovered in historic records, “was the evaluation of the sexual organs, which leaves no proof on the skeletal remains.”

Dittmar and Mitchell’s evaluation of dissected female bodies for that reason reveals that “within the particular boundaries of the dissection space, the inequality of the sexes experience throughout life ended in death. Ladies were not provided any unique treatment by their dissectors, who were probably solely male.”

Rebecca Gibson, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Notre Dame, summarize the research study succinctly by concluding that it “shows that we require to question our presumption about the practice of dissection, generate historic information, and do correct biocultural analyses of the skeletons to genuinely see the entire photo” the manner in which Dittmar and Mitchell do.

” readability =”132
4595849659″ >

.

Craniotomy along the axial aircraft of an adult female skull that was dissected at the University of Cambridge.

Jenna Dittmarn/ University of Cambridge

.

.

A presumption has actually long existed that 19 th century medical professionals thinking about dissection valued male cadavers over woman, due to the higher average musculature in males’s bodies. A brand-new analysis by 2 archaeologists, nevertheless, recommends that ladies and males might have been more equivalent in this postmortem practice than anybody recognized.

Human dissection started as a method to get medical understanding about anatomy. In early 16 th century England, when the practice of Western medication started to remove in earnest, hanged felons were permitted by King Henry VIII to be dissected. This precedent developed a custom of dissecting males, as those condemned to death were nearly solely male. By the mid – 18 th century, the 1752 Murder Act even more approved dissection as a type of everlasting penalty, however was booked for killers; ladies were seldom founded guilty of this criminal offense and nearly never ever sentenced to death. Offered the legal system of historical England, it is unsurprising that the dissection of female cadavers was restricted.

Archaeologists have actually just recently started examining the history of this postmortem medical practice by excavating health center cemeteries and evaluating the skeletal remains. In both the United States and the UK, archaeologists have actually discovered that the bodies of males were dissected 2 or 3 times as typically as those of ladies. While the gender variation in life remains in lots of methods unsurprising, a brand-new research study asks whether ladies and males were dealt with in a different way after death.

Jenna Dittmar and Piers Mitchell, scientists with the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Study at the University of Cambridge, information their analysis of historic dissections in a brand-new post in the journal Bioarchaeology International In order to examine the “surprising gender variation” in dissected bodies, Dittmar and Mitchell studied 99 skeletons – 74 male and 25 woman – dating to the 2nd half of the 19 th century from the Royal London Health Center and the University of Cambridge. Each skeleton was validated to have tool marks on the bones from the procedure of dissection.

In order to methodically examine the dissection treatments utilized on each body, Dittmar and Mitchell exactly tape-recorded each tool mark and compared the patterns with historic descriptions of human dissection and surgical treatment.

The scientists found a number of interesting patterns in the remains. Numerous skulls had actually been sawed open “with a kind of surgical saw that had teeth that were arranged at opposing angles, with rotating teeth angled away from the midline,” and the cuts started on the left side. Knife marks in other places “appear to have actually been produced by a directly, single-bladed instrument without any proof of serrated edges.” Even the face was dissected, consisting of the eyes. “In addition, 3 males and 3 ladies had their heads gotten rid of by sawing through the cervical vertebrae,” Dittmar and Mitchell note.

In taking a look at prospective gender distinctions in the treatment of the cadaver, however, the scientists discovered none. “In both males and females, proof of a craniotomy was the most frequently determined postmortem surgery,” they report. “There is likewise proof that specific facial functions (eyes, ears, mouth) were in some cases taken a look at more thoroughly on both males and females, typically leading to considerable fragmentation and disfiguration of the remains.” Dittmar and Mitchell did examine proof of cut marks in the chest cavity; nevertheless, they conclude that, due to the fact that internal organs might have been accessed by means of the diaphragm, there were couple of apparent tool marks on any skeleton.

.

.

Medical trainees at the University of Massachusetts Medical School carry out a dissection on a contributed cadaver in a laboratory at the school (AP Picture)

.

.

University of South Carolina bioarchaeologist Carlina de la Cova concurs with the findings of Dittmar and Mitchell, keeping in mind that their outcomes follow other physiological collections that have a greater variety of males than women. De la Cova recommends that a person factor for this longstanding gender variation might be because of socioeconomic status, as “indigent, unclaimed ladies were not dissected at the very same rates as males. Low socioeconomic status males– wage workers, the homeless, or those residing in boarding homes– might have been short-term, without regional household ties, leading to their bodies not being declared at death.”

Some skeletons, nevertheless, revealed proof of amputated limbs and sectioning after death. Dittmar and Mitchell discuss this as a procedure of “cadaver sharing” in a time when bodies were rare. Even more, however, the scientists recommend that “the proof of cadaver sharing on female skeletal remains offers persuading assistance for fair treatment of the bodies of the dissected.” That is, ladies were not dealt with in a different way in dissection; they were no longer considered as susceptible or in requirement of security. “By dividing the body into parts, teachers and anatomists produced a scenario in which areas of the body might be separated from their antemortem gendered identities,” they keep in mind.

De la Cova concurs that the severing of limbs and heads postmortem might be associated with a distancing of the anatomists from their human topics. “This mindset,” she informs me, “is most likely why couple of distinctions exist in regard to the methods which males and women were anatomized in Dittmar and Mitchell’s sample.” Based upon the language anatomists utilized throughout this time duration, they would have seen both sexes as little bit more than specimens, a dehumanization that she states “relieves the anatomist into cutting, severing, disemboweling, and dismembering the body for in-depth dissection,” according to de la Cova.

Some distinctions in dissection did take place, and de la Cova indicate a desire of anatomists in the 18 th century to dissect pregnant ladies. Nevertheless, “the primary distinction in between dissection of males and females,” Dittmar and Mitchell discovered in historic records, “was the evaluation of the sexual organs, which leaves no proof on the skeletal remains.”

Dittmar and Mitchell’s evaluation of dissected female bodies for that reason reveals that “within the particular boundaries of the dissection space, the inequality of the sexes experience throughout life ended in death. Ladies were not provided any unique treatment by their dissectors, who were probably solely male.”

Rebecca Gibson, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Notre Dame, summarize the research study succinctly by concluding that it “shows that we require to question our presumption about the practice of dissection, generate historic information, and do correct biocultural analyses of the skeletons to genuinely see the entire photo” the manner in which Dittmar and Mitchell do.