Anatomical models were used for teaching purposes and for students to practise their manual dexterity. The earliest specimens were dissections of real human heads.
People have always sought better ways to illustrate and understand the structure and functions of the internal body. Before the discovery of x-rays in 1895, the only practical way to see inside the human body was to observe an operation or a dissection.
Cultural and religious beliefs about dissection often made the practice illegal, and even when dissection was acceptable, cadavers were difficult to obtain. Moreover, lack of refrigeration meant that bodies decayed swiftly. Dissections had to be performed during the cooler months, and were impossible in warmer climates. Artificial bodies made from varying materials were produced instead.