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Conserved Corpses: From Egypt to Evita

This illustrated talk will discuss the mechanisms of natural and deliberate preservation of the human body from ancient times to the present.

In keeping with its tradition, this year's Annual Dr Death Lecture at Brompton Cemetery is not for the squeamish. It begins by considering the reasons why the exceedingly perishable human body can, under certain natural conditions, be preserved almost indefinitely, such as in extremes of coldness or dryness, or where suitable chemicals or anaerobic conditions exist. It will examine specific cases where bodies from bogs, deserts and frozen wastes have turned into immortal versions of their former selves. The second half of the lecture will look at how human ingenuity has been employed over the centuries to produce the same effect for religious or political purposes. In Egypt, a culture that celebrated death on a massive scale, outrageous amounts of time were spent in preserving the bodies of certain individuals. In medieval Europe the bodies of the nobility were specially treated to give them an extended shelf life so they could survive long journeys and the elaborate funerals of the era. Recent history has seen the exhibition of conserved corpses as artistic objects and some governments, perhaps with more sinister agendas, have sought to legitimise their positions by using the ultimate in embalming techniques to turn worshipped national figures into permanent icons. Finally, the question will be asked: are all these conserved corpses just farcical parodies of once sentient and intelligent people or are they meaningful cultural artefacts that can tell us something about the human condition over the centuries and are still capable of imparting useful scientific information now and in the future?


City of London guide Robert Stephenson | talks | www


Date and Time:

16 August 2007 at 6:30 pm


1 hour



Brompton Cemetery Chapel
Brompton Cemetery
Fulham Road
SW10 9UG
020 7351 1689
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Organised by:

Friends of Brompton Cemetery
See other talks organised by Friends of Brompton Cemetery...




Available from:

Pay on the door

Additional Information:

The nearest Tube is West Brompton on District Line - turn right out of the station.

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