Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Skeleton of “the Irish giant”

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 24 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e556
  1. Martin Smith, lecturer in biological anthropology1,
  2. Christopher Knüsel, associate professor of bioarchaeology2,
  3. Andrew Chamberlain, professor of biological anthropology3,
  4. Piers D Mitchell, affiliated lecturer in biological anthropology, consultant orthopaedic surgeon45
  1. 1School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University, Poole BH12 5BB, UK
  2. 2Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QE, UK
  3. 3Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4ET, UK
  4. 4Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QH, UK
  5. 5Peterborough City Hospital, Peterborough PE3 9GZ, UK
  1. mjsmith{at}

We do not share Doyal and Muinzer’s views on Charles Byrne.1 Most early pathology museum displays are grave robbed specimens, executed criminals, or the unclaimed dead from workhouses.2 3 Reburial cannot change this. Rather, museum displays highlight the fact that such things no longer occur because of changes in societal attitudes. Anatomical preparations formed …

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