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Based on an illustration in Treatise of Anatomy by Guy de Chauliac (c. 1300-68), a French surgeon, this diorama shows a dissection taking place at the University of Montpellier, France. As preservation of bodies was difficult, dissection began with the parts that would decay first, namely the abdomen, then the chest, head, neck, limbs, muscles and finally the bones. Dissections would normally be carried out in winter as the cold slowed down decay. Only executed criminals could be dissected at this time.

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    Glossary: anatomy

    A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

    Glossary: dissection

    The cutting apart and separation of body tissues for the purposes of critical examination. Dissection of corpses is often carried out for the study of anatomy.

    Glossary: diorama

    A model with three-dimensional objects, often sculpture, with a realistic painted background.