Graveyard Shift All The Gruesome Ways Scientists Removed Skeletons From Human Bodies  

Erin Wisti
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The history of skeleton extraction is not for the faint of heart. While most skeletons used in medical research today are plastic, just a few centuries ago medical students were working with actual human skeletons. Where did these skeletons come from? Techniques for skeleton removal varied and bodies were sometimes obtained via some sort of sketchy means. Whichever method was used, the process was always pretty gruesome

How scientists removed skeletons from bodies varied depending on the time period, as well as a scientist's own personal preference. Chemical substances or boiling water were used to strip down the corpse, and any excess flesh was removed. While most skeletons were used in medical research, some were put on display for public amusement or education. Regardless of how the skeletons were used, the work of stripping away the flesh was a grisly, gruesome task. 

In Centuries Past, Medical Students Studied On Actual Human Skeletons


In Centuries Past, Medical Stu... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list All The Gruesome Ways Scientists Removed Skeletons From Human Bodies
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The vast majority of skeletons medical students use now to study anatomy are made of plastic or a similar material. However, a couple of centuries ago, medical students frequently studied on actual human skeletons. Skeletons were created in a variety of ways and distributed to universities, and occasionally private collectors, for medical and other purposes.  

To Start The Process, Flesh Was Manually Stripped Away


To Start The Process, Flesh Wa... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list All The Gruesome Ways Scientists Removed Skeletons From Human Bodies
Photo: Unknown/WikiMedia Commons /CC BY-SA 2.5

One of the oldest conventional methods of creating a skeleton dates back to 1543. To start, as much flesh as possible was stripped away without cutting into the joints, bones, or ligaments. It was necessary to keep the ligaments and joints intact to prevent the skeleton from breaking apart during the drying process.

Corpses Were Soaked With Quicklime For A Week


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Corpses were then placed in body-length boxes, similar to coffins, but with holes cut throughout. After the initial stripping of flesh, bodies were covered in quicklime and left to sit for a week.

Running Water Removed The Remaining Flesh


Running Water Removed The Rema... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list All The Gruesome Ways Scientists Removed Skeletons From Human Bodies
Photo: Francesco Bertinatti and Mecco Leone/WikiMedia Commons /Public Domain

The box was then placed in a stream or any other body of running water. The boxes were left out for a week, giving the water enough time to wash away the excess flesh. Afterward, skeletons were left in the sun until they were dry.