I'm a PhD student researching the role of mortuary archaeology in contemporary British society. Think of this as a scrapbook of all the interesting links, snippets of information and random bits and bobs I come across pertaining to death, dying and the dead. Enjoy?!


‘Body Worlds: Pulse’ at Discovery Times Square
A man and woman, stripped of skin, are balanced in a balletic embrace, but their skulls and thoracic and abdominal cavities are open from behind and their spines are pulled backward, with organs and muscles attached.
A woman stands erect, also skinless, a slightly melancholy expression emerging from her facial musculature, her belly sliced vertically so we can see her liver and intestines, along with a 5-month-old fetus in her womb.
Another flayed body welcomes us into this new exhibition, “Body Worlds: Pulse” at Discovery Times Square, holding aloft, with pride, the complete coat of skin that has been removed from his body.
These are not models (or allusions to “The Silence of the Lambs”) but actual people who, since 1983, have donated their bodies for such preservation and display. More than 13,200 of the living made such promises; 1,254 of them are deceased, and some of them (with organs from other sources) appear among the 200 specimens displayed here.
You might assume that sliced and pulled-apart human cadavers, preserved in all the freshness of death by infusions of plastics and resin, no longer have the power to shock or amaze. After all, since the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens invented the process he calls plastination in 1977, then started the donation program with his Institute of Plastination, and finally began mounting specimens in “Body Worlds” exhibitions in 1995, some 36 million people have seen the shows in nearly two dozen countries in 11 different incarnations. (This one, “Pulse,” was designed for New York.) A competitor arose, Premier Exhibitions, and opened a series of successful exhibitions in the United States (including one that has been closed at the South Street Seaport since Hurricane Sandy.

(Source: The New York TImes)

‘Body Worlds: Pulse’ at Discovery Times Square
A man and woman, stripped of skin, are balanced in a balletic embrace, but their skulls and thoracic and abdominal cavities are open from behind and their spines are pulled backward, with organs and muscles attached.
A woman stands erect, also skinless, a slightly melancholy expression emerging from her facial musculature, her belly sliced vertically so we can see her liver and intestines, along with a 5-month-old fetus in her womb.
Another flayed body welcomes us into this new exhibition, “Body Worlds: Pulse” at Discovery Times Square, holding aloft, with pride, the complete coat of skin that has been removed from his body.
These are not models (or allusions to “The Silence of the Lambs”) but actual people who, since 1983, have donated their bodies for such preservation and display. More than 13,200 of the living made such promises; 1,254 of them are deceased, and some of them (with organs from other sources) appear among the 200 specimens displayed here.
You might assume that sliced and pulled-apart human cadavers, preserved in all the freshness of death by infusions of plastics and resin, no longer have the power to shock or amaze. After all, since the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens invented the process he calls plastination in 1977, then started the donation program with his Institute of Plastination, and finally began mounting specimens in “Body Worlds” exhibitions in 1995, some 36 million people have seen the shows in nearly two dozen countries in 11 different incarnations. (This one, “Pulse,” was designed for New York.) A competitor arose, Premier Exhibitions, and opened a series of successful exhibitions in the United States (including one that has been closed at the South Street Seaport since Hurricane Sandy.

(Source: The New York TImes)

‘Body Worlds: Pulse’ at Discovery Times Square

A man and woman, stripped of skin, are balanced in a balletic embrace, but their skulls and thoracic and abdominal cavities are open from behind and their spines are pulled backward, with organs and muscles attached.

A woman stands erect, also skinless, a slightly melancholy expression emerging from her facial musculature, her belly sliced vertically so we can see her liver and intestines, along with a 5-month-old fetus in her womb.

Another flayed body welcomes us into this new exhibition, “Body Worlds: Pulse” at Discovery Times Square, holding aloft, with pride, the complete coat of skin that has been removed from his body.

These are not models (or allusions to “The Silence of the Lambs”) but actual people who, since 1983, have donated their bodies for such preservation and display. More than 13,200 of the living made such promises; 1,254 of them are deceased, and some of them (with organs from other sources) appear among the 200 specimens displayed here.

You might assume that sliced and pulled-apart human cadavers, preserved in all the freshness of death by infusions of plastics and resin, no longer have the power to shock or amaze. After all, since the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens invented the process he calls plastination in 1977, then started the donation program with his Institute of Plastination, and finally began mounting specimens in “Body Worlds” exhibitions in 1995, some 36 million people have seen the shows in nearly two dozen countries in 11 different incarnations. (This one, “Pulse,” was designed for New York.) A competitor arose, Premier Exhibitions, and opened a series of successful exhibitions in the United States (including one that has been closed at the South Street Seaport since Hurricane Sandy.

(Source: The New York TImes)


The Plastinarium of Dr. von Hagens
From a German border town on the banks of the river Neisse, the anatomist Gunther von Hagens commands a fortress of death. The former textile mill has glorious skylights and a facade of dark red brick, but inside it’s faded and forlorn. A spray of Allied bullets left dents in the metalwork, and grenade blasts have chipped the masonry. The end of World War II split the town of Guben right down its gut like a miniature Berlin, a wound from which it never quite recovered, and von Hagens’ palace seems to have suffered from its own, more private reconfiguration: Dormant forklifts dot the courtyard next to bits of fencing and piled rebar; water drips from 20-foot ceilings in the dormitories; floral wallpaper sags off yellowed plaster.
This wilted splendor gives way, in places, to the fundamental work of von Hagens’ business—the extraction of body parts and sale of preserved remains. A few years ago, he spent $50 million to turn this run-down site into a global headquarters for his Body Worlds exhibits, fitted out with tanks of acetone (for defatting tissue), high tech freezers, and a morgue. In one corner of the yard, a refrigerated warehouse holds a band saw big enough to rip an elephant in half. In another, the carcass of a giraffe lies at the bottom of a swimming pool, its spots turned pale in a solution of ethanol and water. The animal’s tail is tucked between its legs, and its neck lies along the pool’s diagonal—the only way it fits. The giraffe is being kept pliable for dissection. But it could just as soon have been frozen whole and sliced into millimeter-thick sheets. Preserved with plastic, these could end up in lecture halls or museum displays, or added to an archive in the rooms upstairs, where parts of animals and people are kept in bins marked BRAIN and FOOT and SCROTUM.
The 68-year-old scientist who runs this factory of desiccation and dissection spends his days shuffling through its corridors with his lapdog, Bella. They are often the only living things in sight, and Bella’s yaps echo among the carved-up corpses that line the halls in obscene and fabulous poses. One looks like a flayed Harry Potter, riding on a twisted broomstick that is, upon closer examination, his own spinal cord. Another sits with a rod in hand, dangling a fish, while his body has been exploded into parts that hang from a rack on fishing lines. There are horse heads too, their flesh corroded to reveal clouds of blood vessels, and yaks and pigs with their ribs spread out like wings. Von Hagens calls the place his Plastinarium. It’s the first permanent display of specimens from his stupendously successful traveling exhibition of flesh preserved with plastic. Body Worlds has made its way to London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Boston, and scores of other cities since the 1990s; it has inspired copycats and lawsuits and sold more than 35 million tickets.
As a young lecturer at the University of Heidelberg in 1977, von Hagens developed a laboratory trick that at first seemed of interest only to a dwindling cadre of macroscopic anatomists: a way to impregnate slices of kidney tissue with plastic. Soon he’d made the process work for whole dissected bodies. He starts with regular embalming—the injection of formaldehyde into femoral arteries—and then submerges the body in acetone, which dissolves its fat and water. After that he drops the corpse into a basin filled with liquid polymer. It’s placed inside a vacuum chamber, where the acetone bubbles off as plastic pushes in to take its place.
It took years to get the details right, but eventually von Hagens figured out a way to turn his method into a morbid empire, devoted to the processing of animal and human cadavers, with outposts in Kyrgyzstan and China. At its busiest, the complex in Guben employed 220 people and churned out specimens for exhibition, along with those that could be sold to medical schools around the world—limbs and joints for orthopedics, jaws for dentistry, spinal columns for neurology, and $75,000 plastic-filled corpses for gross anatomy.
But on the morning of December 29, 2010, the anatomist, inventor, and entrepreneur stood at the center of his factory, before his army of employees, and began to cry. The business that he’d worked so hard to build was crumbling. Revenue from Body Worlds had begun to taper off, and sales of body parts to universities had always been propped up by the exhibits. His plastination plant in China was nearly defunct, and his would-be partnership in Siberia had ended in a scandal. Here in Guben, the operation had gotten to the verge of bankruptcy. The staff would have to be cut back, von Hagens said; two-thirds of his employees would be let go.

This is a really fascinating and poignant article that charts both the decline of von Hagens’ empire and his health - he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. You can read the rest here.

The Plastinarium of Dr. von Hagens
From a German border town on the banks of the river Neisse, the anatomist Gunther von Hagens commands a fortress of death. The former textile mill has glorious skylights and a facade of dark red brick, but inside it’s faded and forlorn. A spray of Allied bullets left dents in the metalwork, and grenade blasts have chipped the masonry. The end of World War II split the town of Guben right down its gut like a miniature Berlin, a wound from which it never quite recovered, and von Hagens’ palace seems to have suffered from its own, more private reconfiguration: Dormant forklifts dot the courtyard next to bits of fencing and piled rebar; water drips from 20-foot ceilings in the dormitories; floral wallpaper sags off yellowed plaster.
This wilted splendor gives way, in places, to the fundamental work of von Hagens’ business—the extraction of body parts and sale of preserved remains. A few years ago, he spent $50 million to turn this run-down site into a global headquarters for his Body Worlds exhibits, fitted out with tanks of acetone (for defatting tissue), high tech freezers, and a morgue. In one corner of the yard, a refrigerated warehouse holds a band saw big enough to rip an elephant in half. In another, the carcass of a giraffe lies at the bottom of a swimming pool, its spots turned pale in a solution of ethanol and water. The animal’s tail is tucked between its legs, and its neck lies along the pool’s diagonal—the only way it fits. The giraffe is being kept pliable for dissection. But it could just as soon have been frozen whole and sliced into millimeter-thick sheets. Preserved with plastic, these could end up in lecture halls or museum displays, or added to an archive in the rooms upstairs, where parts of animals and people are kept in bins marked BRAIN and FOOT and SCROTUM.
The 68-year-old scientist who runs this factory of desiccation and dissection spends his days shuffling through its corridors with his lapdog, Bella. They are often the only living things in sight, and Bella’s yaps echo among the carved-up corpses that line the halls in obscene and fabulous poses. One looks like a flayed Harry Potter, riding on a twisted broomstick that is, upon closer examination, his own spinal cord. Another sits with a rod in hand, dangling a fish, while his body has been exploded into parts that hang from a rack on fishing lines. There are horse heads too, their flesh corroded to reveal clouds of blood vessels, and yaks and pigs with their ribs spread out like wings. Von Hagens calls the place his Plastinarium. It’s the first permanent display of specimens from his stupendously successful traveling exhibition of flesh preserved with plastic. Body Worlds has made its way to London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Boston, and scores of other cities since the 1990s; it has inspired copycats and lawsuits and sold more than 35 million tickets.
As a young lecturer at the University of Heidelberg in 1977, von Hagens developed a laboratory trick that at first seemed of interest only to a dwindling cadre of macroscopic anatomists: a way to impregnate slices of kidney tissue with plastic. Soon he’d made the process work for whole dissected bodies. He starts with regular embalming—the injection of formaldehyde into femoral arteries—and then submerges the body in acetone, which dissolves its fat and water. After that he drops the corpse into a basin filled with liquid polymer. It’s placed inside a vacuum chamber, where the acetone bubbles off as plastic pushes in to take its place.
It took years to get the details right, but eventually von Hagens figured out a way to turn his method into a morbid empire, devoted to the processing of animal and human cadavers, with outposts in Kyrgyzstan and China. At its busiest, the complex in Guben employed 220 people and churned out specimens for exhibition, along with those that could be sold to medical schools around the world—limbs and joints for orthopedics, jaws for dentistry, spinal columns for neurology, and $75,000 plastic-filled corpses for gross anatomy.
But on the morning of December 29, 2010, the anatomist, inventor, and entrepreneur stood at the center of his factory, before his army of employees, and began to cry. The business that he’d worked so hard to build was crumbling. Revenue from Body Worlds had begun to taper off, and sales of body parts to universities had always been propped up by the exhibits. His plastination plant in China was nearly defunct, and his would-be partnership in Siberia had ended in a scandal. Here in Guben, the operation had gotten to the verge of bankruptcy. The staff would have to be cut back, von Hagens said; two-thirds of his employees would be let go.

This is a really fascinating and poignant article that charts both the decline of von Hagens’ empire and his health - he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. You can read the rest here.

The Plastinarium of Dr. von Hagens

From a German border town on the banks of the river Neisse, the anatomist Gunther von Hagens commands a fortress of death. The former textile mill has glorious skylights and a facade of dark red brick, but inside it’s faded and forlorn. A spray of Allied bullets left dents in the metalwork, and grenade blasts have chipped the masonry. The end of World War II split the town of Guben right down its gut like a miniature Berlin, a wound from which it never quite recovered, and von Hagens’ palace seems to have suffered from its own, more private reconfiguration: Dormant forklifts dot the courtyard next to bits of fencing and piled rebar; water drips from 20-foot ceilings in the dormitories; floral wallpaper sags off yellowed plaster.

This wilted splendor gives way, in places, to the fundamental work of von Hagens’ business—the extraction of body parts and sale of preserved remains. A few years ago, he spent $50 million to turn this run-down site into a global headquarters for his Body Worlds exhibits, fitted out with tanks of acetone (for defatting tissue), high tech freezers, and a morgue. In one corner of the yard, a refrigerated warehouse holds a band saw big enough to rip an elephant in half. In another, the carcass of a giraffe lies at the bottom of a swimming pool, its spots turned pale in a solution of ethanol and water. The animal’s tail is tucked between its legs, and its neck lies along the pool’s diagonal—the only way it fits. The giraffe is being kept pliable for dissection. But it could just as soon have been frozen whole and sliced into millimeter-thick sheets. Preserved with plastic, these could end up in lecture halls or museum displays, or added to an archive in the rooms upstairs, where parts of animals and people are kept in bins marked BRAIN and FOOT and SCROTUM.

The 68-year-old scientist who runs this factory of desiccation and dissection spends his days shuffling through its corridors with his lapdog, Bella. They are often the only living things in sight, and Bella’s yaps echo among the carved-up corpses that line the halls in obscene and fabulous poses. One looks like a flayed Harry Potter, riding on a twisted broomstick that is, upon closer examination, his own spinal cord. Another sits with a rod in hand, dangling a fish, while his body has been exploded into parts that hang from a rack on fishing lines. There are horse heads too, their flesh corroded to reveal clouds of blood vessels, and yaks and pigs with their ribs spread out like wings. Von Hagens calls the place his Plastinarium. It’s the first permanent display of specimens from his stupendously successful traveling exhibition of flesh preserved with plastic. Body Worlds has made its way to London, Tokyo, Istanbul, Boston, and scores of other cities since the 1990s; it has inspired copycats and lawsuits and sold more than 35 million tickets.

As a young lecturer at the University of Heidelberg in 1977, von Hagens developed a laboratory trick that at first seemed of interest only to a dwindling cadre of macroscopic anatomists: a way to impregnate slices of kidney tissue with plastic. Soon he’d made the process work for whole dissected bodies. He starts with regular embalming—the injection of formaldehyde into femoral arteries—and then submerges the body in acetone, which dissolves its fat and water. After that he drops the corpse into a basin filled with liquid polymer. It’s placed inside a vacuum chamber, where the acetone bubbles off as plastic pushes in to take its place.

It took years to get the details right, but eventually von Hagens figured out a way to turn his method into a morbid empire, devoted to the processing of animal and human cadavers, with outposts in Kyrgyzstan and China. At its busiest, the complex in Guben employed 220 people and churned out specimens for exhibition, along with those that could be sold to medical schools around the world—limbs and joints for orthopedics, jaws for dentistry, spinal columns for neurology, and $75,000 plastic-filled corpses for gross anatomy.

But on the morning of December 29, 2010, the anatomist, inventor, and entrepreneur stood at the center of his factory, before his army of employees, and began to cry. The business that he’d worked so hard to build was crumbling. Revenue from Body Worlds had begun to taper off, and sales of body parts to universities had always been propped up by the exhibits. His plastination plant in China was nearly defunct, and his would-be partnership in Siberia had ended in a scandal. Here in Guben, the operation had gotten to the verge of bankruptcy. The staff would have to be cut back, von Hagens said; two-thirds of his employees would be let go.

This is a really fascinating and poignant article that charts both the decline of von Hagens’ empire and his health - he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. You can read the rest here.

fuckyeahforensics:

Controversial anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens has taken a hacksaw to one of his own exhibitions, to get around German decency laws.

Officials in Augsburg had banned him from displaying one of his trademark BodyWorlds exhibits, where corpses are injected with a plastic to preserve them and skinned to show muscles and organs.

But it wasn’t the gore they objected to, or the fact the bodies were in a reverse cowgirl sexual position, but apparently the faces they were pulling.

As a result Von Hagens said he will cut the off the limbs and then put only the most intimate parts on display, no-one could have a problem with that, right?

The bodies used in the reverse cowgirl goriest are said to be those of lung cancer patients who volunteered their bodies to Von Hagens before they died.

Part Two!

You’ve probably heard the controversy surrounding the international exhibitions that display plastinated human bodies—a controversy over where the bodies came from.

Well now, an inside source has told NTD that Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai were involved in facilitating the sale of unclaimed human bodies—people who did not give consent.

We’re talking about Bo Xilai, the ousted Chinese Communist Party secretary, and his wife Gu Kailai, who was recently tried for murdering a British citizen.

So we set out to verify this information. We’ll tell you what we know, what’s unconfirmed but is logically the most likely, and what still needs further investigation.

Intriguing…


Chinese Internet Abuzz About Origin of Plastinated Bodies
The Chinese Internet is buzzing with speculation over the source of bodies used to make plastinated corpses that have been touring in exhibitions around the world. The intense discussion on microblogs, major Chinese news portals, and in the mainland press, was set off by a series of articles in the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.
Netizens have grieved over what these revelations mean for China, but they and the Chinese press have steered clear of the political dynamite contained in The Epoch Times reports.
The articles linked Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai, with the provision of the corpses of Falun Gong practitioners to factories set up in Dalian City for plastination—the replacement of bodily fluids with polymers for the purpose of turning a corpse into an object of exhibition.
The conversation on the Chinese Internet began about one week after The Epoch Times first published on this story on Aug. 10 (The Epoch Times website is censored in China and no print version can be distributed in the mainland. Print versions of The Epoch Times in Chinese and English are published in Hong Kong), and the volume has become heavy.
A search for “Hagens”—the pioneer in the plastination business—on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Aug. 16 at 10 a.m. New York time produced more than 218,000 results; an hour later, there were 17,000 more posts.

Full story here.

Chinese Internet Abuzz About Origin of Plastinated Bodies
The Chinese Internet is buzzing with speculation over the source of bodies used to make plastinated corpses that have been touring in exhibitions around the world. The intense discussion on microblogs, major Chinese news portals, and in the mainland press, was set off by a series of articles in the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.
Netizens have grieved over what these revelations mean for China, but they and the Chinese press have steered clear of the political dynamite contained in The Epoch Times reports.
The articles linked Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai, with the provision of the corpses of Falun Gong practitioners to factories set up in Dalian City for plastination—the replacement of bodily fluids with polymers for the purpose of turning a corpse into an object of exhibition.
The conversation on the Chinese Internet began about one week after The Epoch Times first published on this story on Aug. 10 (The Epoch Times website is censored in China and no print version can be distributed in the mainland. Print versions of The Epoch Times in Chinese and English are published in Hong Kong), and the volume has become heavy.
A search for “Hagens”—the pioneer in the plastination business—on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Aug. 16 at 10 a.m. New York time produced more than 218,000 results; an hour later, there were 17,000 more posts.

Full story here.

Chinese Internet Abuzz About Origin of Plastinated Bodies

The Chinese Internet is buzzing with speculation over the source of bodies used to make plastinated corpses that have been touring in exhibitions around the world. The intense discussion on microblogs, major Chinese news portals, and in the mainland press, was set off by a series of articles in the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.

Netizens have grieved over what these revelations mean for China, but they and the Chinese press have steered clear of the political dynamite contained in The Epoch Times reports.

The articles linked Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai, with the provision of the corpses of Falun Gong practitioners to factories set up in Dalian City for plastination—the replacement of bodily fluids with polymers for the purpose of turning a corpse into an object of exhibition.

The conversation on the Chinese Internet began about one week after The Epoch Times first published on this story on Aug. 10 (The Epoch Times website is censored in China and no print version can be distributed in the mainland. Print versions of The Epoch Times in Chinese and English are published in Hong Kong), and the volume has become heavy.

A search for “Hagens”—the pioneer in the plastination business—on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Aug. 16 at 10 a.m. New York time produced more than 218,000 results; an hour later, there were 17,000 more posts.

Full story here.

Interesting behind-the-scenes photo set of a Chinese workshop, where they ‘plastinate’ bodies for exhibition. 
Interesting behind-the-scenes photo set of a Chinese workshop, where they ‘plastinate’ bodies for exhibition. 

Interesting behind-the-scenes photo set of a Chinese workshop, where they ‘plastinate’ bodies for exhibition.