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Delicious Decay: Digging into baking and decomposition

Sherbet ‘cremains’, skeleton shortbread and the scent of death all feature in a festival focusing on bodily decay at Barts Pathology Museum, part of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

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Delicious Decay will engage the public with this terrifying yet fascinating topic via more palatable means and will be held during the run-up to Halloween on October 28 and 29.

The event is inspired in part by the unusual chemical indole, which is present in coffee and chocolate as well as the decomposing deceased.

Opening evening on Friday 28 October will include talks on body farms and how funerary cannibalism relates to cakes, while themed cocktails will also be available. Throughout the Saturday event there will be goods to purchase and decomposition ‘experiences’ included in the ticket, such as digging through edible soil to excavate consumable body parts made by food artists and smelling the chemicals currently used to train cadaver dogs. There will also be mini lectures to educate on what each of the unusual consumables represents and how they relate to decomposition.

Carla Valentine, Technical Curator at Barts Pathology Museum, said: “In our modern society the general public rarely interact with reminders of mortality, instead using images of decomposition as symbols of fear, frequently in the form of the ‘zombie’. Alongside this there is also an increased interest in the forensics of human decay as it pertains to body farms (Taphonomy Research Facilities) and other scientific enquiry, and it’s important to engage the public with the processes which happen after death in order to promote environmentally friendly burial and cadaver donation to facilities such as that at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.”

The Museum is attempting to re-engage the public with natural decay as well as educate on artificial preservation and disposal. This is the perfect opportunity to peruse its anatomical collection, consisting of over 5000 specimens, and learn how they stay preserved after 200 years.

Delicious Decay will be hosted in collaboration with Annabel de Vetten-Peterson (highly acclaimed food artist) and Dr Anna Williams (Forensic Anthropologist currently championing the use of real human remains for taphonomic research).

Delicious Decay is part of the Museum’s Autumn/Winter seminar season ‘Remains to be Seen’.

Information and Booking:

Friday 28 October – Introductory evening event split into several 15 minute talks Carla Valentine – “Mourning Coffee: how funerary cannibalism led to death cakes, death cookies, and funeral biscuits”

Dr Anna Williams – “Nauseating or Necessary? Why we need Body Farms in the UK”

Jamie Upton – “What’s Your Poison? Death Cocktails”

Doors open 6:30pm for your free cocktail and chance to view the specimens, the event starts at 7pm and the talks end around 8pm with half an hour or so to view the specimens again. Evening ends 8:45 latest.


Saturday 29 October - Daylong event 12:00 to 19:00 with one hour time slots, each costing around £9.99 for entry. This includes several decomposition experiences:

• Excavating edible soil for free consumable body parts
• A chance to view the second floor, normally not open to the public.
• A short poster lecture with Dr Anna Williams and her ghastly chemicals used to train cadaver dogs to detect human remains.
• A make-up artist who will make you look ‘decomposed’!

Scattered throughout our incredibly decorated Body Farm will be tables of incredible edibles for you to purchase – either consume on site or take them to Halloween parties and scare all the guests!


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