Osteoarchaeological evidence for medical dissection in 18th to 19th century Aberdeen, Scotland

Rebecca Crozier* (Corresponding Author), Alison Cameron, Bruce Mann, Elizabeth Ashcroft, Rachel Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper describes the analysis of a small assemblage of fragmentary human
remains discovered during renovations in a residential property in Aberdeen City, Scotland. Two sets of cranial remains display clear evidence for dissection/autopsy activities; a craniotomy and a trephination. Radiocarbon dating places them in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, arguably contemporary with the passing of the Anatomy Act of 1832. Drawing together evidence from osteological analysis, radiocarbon dating, historical sources and the context of discovery, it is argued that the assemblage may have been generated by ‘resurrectionist’ activities associated with the clandestine acquisition of cadavers for anatomical dissection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159–175
Number of pages17
JournalPost-Medieval Archaeology
Issue number2
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Open access via T&F agreement

We would like to thank Police Scotland and Detective Sergeant Stephen Beattie for their initial response to the discovery, and to Jamie Grieve, Margaret Bruce and Leighanne Deboys for their assistance and expert advice in identifying the skeletal remains. Thanks to the owners of the property who allowed access. Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service kindly facilitated and funded the work.


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