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Ivory phrenological head, Europe, 1910-1925

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The skull of this ivory head has been marked off into sections and used for phrenological consultations. Phrenologists believed that the shape and size of various areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. Phrenological heads were used as reference guides for people carrying out consultations. Although phrenology became popular with large numbers of people in the 1800s, it soon became controversial within medical circles and was eventually dismissed as quackery.

Object number:

A157056

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Glossary:

Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.

Glossary: phrenological head

A representation of a human head, on which the phrenological faculties are illustrated. Phrenologists believed that one could tell personality traits by examining the bumps of the skull. The practice is now regarded as a pseudo-science.