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Ivory plaque showing a dissection scene in ebony frame, Europe, 1601-1700

The plaque depicts an anatomical dissection scene. The scene shows four men in wigs and fine clothes watching another man perform the dissection. Such dissections were often observed by an audience because cadavers were in short supply and not every student could perform their own dissections. Anatomy was an important part of the medical curriculum of European universities in the 1600s. Public dissections were performed, often in purpose-built theatres such as those at Padua and Bologna in Italy and Montpellier in France. Students and the educated general public were admitted.

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    Glossary: anatomy

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

    Glossary: plaque

    An ornamental tablet of metal, porcelain etc that depicts a person, scene or inscription. Often fixed to a building in commemoration of a person or notable historical occurence.

    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: cadaver

    A dead body, usually one being used in medical research.