The resurrection of a mortsafe that protected a corpse from body snatchers and saved the bones for archaeologists.
The theft of dead bodies in England was a common occurrence in the early 19th century because medical schools could only dissect the bodies of executed criminals, which were in short supply. As medical schools expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries, and more people attended universities, the need for cadavers far exceeded the supply of condemned prisoners, so anatomy lecturers had to resort to doing business with unsavory resurrection men. Resurrection men, or body snatchers, would sneak into graveyards at night and exhume the bodies of people who had just died and sell them to medical schools. It was important that the cadavers were fresh since the anatomy lecturers needed to dissect the remains.
Body snatching became so widespread that people came up with ways to deter resurrection men from stealing the bodies of family members. Relatives would guard a body before burial, some cemeteries installed watchtowers to discourage body snatchers after interment, and some families purchased iron contraptions, called mortsafes, in which to bury their dead.
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Top Image: Mortsafe at in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Middle Image: Mortsafe at a church yard in Logierait, south of Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland.
Bottom Image: 19th century skeletal remains of a woman found buried in a mortsafe