Abstracts: Pecha Kucha Session 2
Dyfed Archaeological Trust
Displaying the infant dead: public engagement with non-adult skeletons at St Patrick’s Chapel, Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
Between 2014 and 2016, three seasons of fieldwork by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the University of Sheffield provided a rare opportunity for public engagement with the rescue excavation of an early medieval cemetery and other features below St Patrick’s Chapel, Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire. As the fieldwork progressed, it became apparent that an unusually high percentage of the exceptionally well-preserved burials were of non-adults. This paper discusses issues surrounding public engagement with the high-profile excavation of a particularly emotive mortuary context. It describes the experiences of visitors and volunteers, and also of the professional archaeologists managing the public, and public expectation, while undertaking excavation of an extremely complex, sensitive and nationally important archaeological site.
Cancer, a Disease in Flux: Attitudes and Perceptions from Antiquity to the Modern Period
Institute of Archaeology, University College London
This paper reviews and examines ancient and historical sources to explore the idea of cancer as a disease in flux, not in its clinical presentation, but in its public perception, influenced by societal and cultural beliefs.
Cancer is commonly believed to be a modern disease brought on as a bi-product of increased industrialization. Modern understandings of cancer’s aetiology and treatment are quite recent, with major advancements starting at the beginning of the 20th century. Prior to this, cancer was largely a mystery. Multiple theories and explanations have been given for its cause and treatment, which not only altered our perceptions of the disease, but also those who were diagnosed.
In antiquity and the medieval ages, cancer was viewed as a result of a humoral imbalance or a physical manifestation of depression and fear. Later in the early modern period, more theories were brought forward questioning the role of a patient’s social status and gender. At the same time, a confirmed diagnosis was an assurance of death, unless the patient was brave enough to face the surgeon. With modern understandings of the disease, society is now faced with the ‘war on cancer’ and the rhetoric that, everyone knows of (or lost) someone to the disease; if not, they soon will. These changes in social perception led to shaming and ostracization in the past and to new identities as survivors or victims today.
Cancer was an internal, private disease that over centuries was magnified by social imagination and transitioned to the public sphere. In this way, our understanding of cancer has been in flux for millennia. This has had implications on not only how we approach the disease, but also how we define the social identity of cancer patients.
The Demand for John ‘Dough’: Victorian Sensationalism and The Anatomy Act
Rachel Louise Mace
University of Leeds
During the 1860s and 1870s in particular, perceptions of the dead body were influenced by earlier laws and movements like the Poor Law, the Contagious Diseases Acts, and the Protection of Women Act (1849). This legislation subsequently raised the public’s awareness regarding the disparity of treatment between upper and lower class bodies. Therefore, writers of Victorian sensational fiction were just as concerned with the control, treatment and presentation of bodies within their pages as the public was about the bodies in its prisons, work-houses, or even the family home. Alison Bashford, in her book Purity and Pollution: Gender, Embodiment and the Victorian Novel (1998), discusses the corpse in relation to the Victorian gaol and remarks upon the fact that ‘for a considerable time medical men, scientists and anatomists received their bodies from the gallows’. This would imply that the exposed and scrutinised corpse was both a symbol of immorality, and a profitable object that had economic value. Bashford goes on to discuss The Anatomy Act, passed in 1832, which permitted the removal of bodies by medical practitioners from workhouses and hospitals for the purpose of dissection. In this sense, like the bodies received from the gallows, the body is simultaneously judged, classed and subject to public surveillance. Hence, the exposed corpse has connotations of working-class life and/or morally low conduct. In this presentation I will attempt to address the following questions: How was the corpse represented in Victorian sensation fiction? In what ways was the corpse a profitable object during the nineteenth century. What connections can be established between the dead body, class/morality and The Anatomy Act?
Bashford, Op. Cit., p. 109. Following the Anatomy Act of 1832 doctors could also ‘gain their bodies from those who died in government workhouses and hospitals’, and this remained the case for much of the century, p. 110.
It is kind of true….. but not quite - Treatment of the dead at an eighteenth century independent anatomy school in London
Dr Tania Kausmally
University College London
When investigating the role of anatomy schools in the past, we are frequently presented with images of the macabre and distasteful. In the eighteenth century anatomy schools are for the most parts documented through public media and caricatures showing anatomist stealing and ripping apart bodies whilst throwing unwanted organs to dogs. These images are vivid, just think of Hogarth’s fourth stage of cruelty from 1751. Turning to concurrent manuals on dissection such as Lyser and Thomson’s “The Art of Dissecting the Human Body” from 1740, an entirely different image emerges. We are reminded that bodies were expensive and hard to obtain commodities. Throughout the literature we are repeatedly made aware of the battle against putrefaction, the shortage of bodies and the clandestine risky nature of the body trade. We must therefore ask ourselves, how these schools actually treated the dead? In recent decades, archaeological excavations of dissected human and animal skeletal remains have been uncovered across Britain, making important contributions to our understanding of anatomy schools in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Craven Street is one such excavation, providing a rare insight into an independent anatomy school. Anatomist William Hewson’s (1739-1774) schools was one of many that coexisted alongside hospital anatomy schools in London during this period. Presented with evidence of disposal strategies at the school, it becomes increasingly clear that any relationship with the dead was guided by practicality and financial considerations as well as a notable absence of administration. Through archaeological and historical deliberations, it is evident cadaver treatment from acquisition to disposal needs to be disentangled, in order to enhance our understanding of the treatment of the dead in an anatomy school environment.
Dissections, prosections and technology: can we ever replace cadavers in a medical setting?
University of Central Lancashire
We entered into a profession attracted by its perfection only to realize that the reality is opposite. The magic of this profession is that it makes imperfections look like perfections. Being at the bottom of this unique food chain we must provide ourselves with every opportunity to strive for perfection. Medicine is a course requiring not only academic competence but more importantly our control over emotions and development of skills. It is a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Technology holds the potential for extinction of cadavers. But the question to be addressed is “would we want technology to overpower cadavers? “ Coming from a medical school consisting of anatomage tables and stimulated patient models along with exposure to cadavers, I believe that technology alone is insufficient for the development of practical skills. Galen had insisted that the only way to gain appreciation of medicine was to not bury oneself in books but to see for oneself. The learning achieved from observing each organ in its entirety is unique to dissection and prosection. Technology further stimulates the learning gained by dissections and prosections by providing us with a medium to revisit topics. Further cadavers allow us to be more respectful by maintaining the integrity of the patient. In a health setting, death becomes a part of our regular regime. Working on cadavers allow us to not be intimidated by something so drastic. It allows us not only to gain practical skills but to develop emotional maturity. Technology then provides us with the opportunity to continually practice and refine skills. Answering the question stated at the beginning, we cannot replace cadavers in a medical setting especially at the cost of technology. Both technology and cadavers in conjunction allow us to develop skills in the most efficient way.
Colegio de Doctores y Licenciados de Valencia
Anthropological Analysis and Facial Reconstruction of the Pompeii Victims: Archaeology of Death in Pompeii
The anthropologists and archaeologists of the research project of the necropolis of Porta Nola, Pompeii, directed by Llorenç Alapont (CDLV), Stephen Kay (BSR) and Rosa Albiach (MuVIM), have been carrying out the study of skeletons preserved in casts since 2011.
The bodies of individuals preserved in casts in Pompeii are some of the most important archaeological remains of the world because they represent a faithful image, full of the realiaties the victims of Pompeii during the eruption. The casts are a great fortune for archeology and anthropology because in addition to preserving the image of bodies, they have preserved the skeletons of the individuals, and in many cases jewelry, instruments, and objects that they carried with them.
Noninvasive techniques must be used on the invaluable casts. Exposed bones can be studied using conventional anthropological methods, but the bones hidden inside can only be studied by radiological analysis.
The problem is the density of the plaster; in limbs or crania, for example, conventional X-Ray analysis gives satisfactory results, but in other parts, the plaster’s density precludes diferentiation between bones and other objects. This problem is solved with computerized three-dimensional tomography. The TAC gives a three-dimensional image of the skeleton with high resolution allowing observation and analysis of miniscule details of the bones, so significant measurements can be taken.
The anthropological and paleopathological study of the victims of Pompeii preserved in casts, along with diverse modern techniques like laser scanning, photogrammetry, TAC, etc. allow estimation of sex, age, physical constitution, diseases caused by daily activity, paleo-diet, physical appearance, facial reconstruction, and the last moments of life in Pompeii.
A Review of Death by Thomas Nagel
University of Southampton
Thomas Nagel argues that life is good, and since death is the termination of life, death is necessarily a bad event. He points out three counter arguments to the idea of death being a bad event which he feels are brought about by a faulty understanding of what it means to be misfortuned.
Nagel argues that misfortune should not be seen as a temporal concept in regards to the present circumstance of an individual; rather misfortune should be seen with respect to the early termination of future possibilities that could have been actualized for said individual. He then responds to the idea that the non-actualization of future possibilities is not necessarily bad because death is inevitable. The response is that whilst death is inevitable, life is potentially indefinite, so whenever someone dies they could have lived longer.
Whilst Nagel’s arguments are nuanced, there are two key issues which undermine the strength of his arguments. Firstly, his contention that life is always profitable to non-life is not self-evident, and there are in fact good reasons to think that death can be preferable to life in some instances. Secondly, and perhaps most devastatingly, his argument rests on the assumption that there is no conscious survival after death, which is a thoroughly contested issue in itself and therefore cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, his argument is not convincing since he offered no arguments to support the underlying assumption that there is no conscious survival after death. argument cannot be built unless good arguments are given to suggest conscious survival entire argument is .
This essay will consider these two critiques of Nagel’s argument further and conclude that Nagel has failed to demonstrate that death is necessarily a bad event.