University of Botswana History Department
"El Negro of Banyoles"

El Negro: post-mortem report

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Summary of post-mortem report on the body of El Negro, 1993

The post-mortem examination, including a whole-body scan, was conducted by a dozen people - all medical scientists except one, a lawyer with anthropological interests, who made the "ethnic" identification. The full report was written in Catalan, amounting to a couple of hundred pages. The summary here was written by Ms Concepcion Mora, curator of the national museum of anthropology in Madrid, Spain, [see note] and was distributed to interested parties in Botswana on 26 September 2000.


In 1830 the Verreaux brothers, Edouard and Jules [,] preserved the body of the Bechuania [sic] man using taxidermal techniques. The body had been eviscerated, and muscles, the testicles and most of the bone structure had been removed. Later the cavities in the body were filled with material made of vegetable fibre, except for the penis which was filled with more consistent, radio-opaque materials in order to better substitute its morphology. Finally, the body was mounted on a metal structure.

That was the traditional method of preparation in accordance with the practices of the time (1830), consisting of a metal structure to which some bones were attached. Flesh was likewise attached to the bones, giving the body the same form as when alive. The soft parts such as eyes and tongue were replaced by other materials - for example, glass, plastic [sic], plaster, etc.; the lips were also modelled and painted dark crimson. The present colour of the skin is not natural, on account of the application of a layer of stucco onto it, which was later painted in a dark colour. The discolouring of the skin took place as a result of the products containing arsenic that were used to prevent the body's putrefaction.

Macroscopic examination indicates that there are no signs of violence. The toes appear to be separated, open and webbed [?translation?], probably on account of the long distances that the man had to walk.

The body is of a young man, approximately 27 years old, belonging to the negroid race and with features typical of the African bushman. The height, calculated on the basis of the long bones, was about 135cm +/- (during life the height must have been slightly more). Death was possibly caused by a pulmonary illness of parasitic origin.

The figure of "El Negro" is mounted on a wooden base to which iron pegs [?rods?] are nailed to hold up the legs and arm bones. The iron pegs traverse the body from skull to feet bones and also attach it to the base.

At present the only human remains that are preserved, according to the documents to which it was possible to have access, are: practically the whole of the skull, the two humeri, the two femurs, the two tibiae, foot bones (tarsal, metatarsal and phalanges) and hand bones (carpal, metacarpal and phalanges).

Signed: Concepcion Mora


  1. See our Verreaux page [pending] for taxidermy techniques.
  2. The remains of flesh and stucco were cleaned from the bones repatriated to Botswana. Colour photographs indicate that the stuccoed flesh was repainted black at the Francesc Derder Museum perhaps on a number of occasions.
  3. The vegetable matter, said to be grass or hay, if it has not been discarded, should indicate the locality in southern Africa where the body was stuffed.
  4. "Webbed" feet is surely a misnomer, alternatively an individual genetic aberration.
  5. Being negroid with Khoesan ("Bushman") features covers a broad swathe of southern African population of many pre-colonial languages and polities.
  6. Death from pulmonary (i.e. chest) infection. Pneumonia was and is a major cause of death in southern Africa, in the extreme cold of desert winter and because of chills caught after exercise.
  7. The skull and few bones named here were cleaned in a Madrid museum before being repatriated to Botswana. Other bones were presumably discarded at the original time of taxidermy.
  8. The skull as seen overnight on October 4th-5th, 2000, had eye-sockets and nasal cavity filled with plaster. The dentition indicated that two bottom incisors had been removed during childhood, with the gap later diminishing. (As a cultural trait this is today more characteristic of Namibia, but was common among early Iron Age people in the southern African interior. Functionally, it is a precaution which precludes dental overcrowding when wisdom teeth later appear.

Note (correction):

Ms Concepcion Mora was curator of the national museum of anthropology in Madrid, Spain; and not, as originally stated on this page, Curator of the Francesc Darder Museum of Natural History, Banyoles. The error is regretted. (23 November 2004). [Return to text]

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Last updated 23 November 2004