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Calliper for measuring the head in criminal identification system, Paris, France, 1867-1899

Known as a compass d’epaisseur, this calliper was used to measure the thickness of the neck. Held horizontally, the two branches were applied to the neck and the measurement in millimetres read from the scale. Neck thickness was just one measurement taken of the human body by anthropologists in the 1800s, who attempted to classify humans into different types and races. Devised by Paul Broca (1824-80), a French surgeon and anthropologist, the calliper was made by Mathieu, a French surgical instrument maker.

Object number:

1980-1101/1

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Glossary:

Glossary: anthropometry

The measuring of body parts so that comparisons can be made. The aim is to measure normal and abnormal development. In the past, it has also been used in attempts to measure racial difference.

Glossary: calliper

Instruments consisting usually of a pair of hinged legs used for measuring dimensions, for example thickness or diameters.

Glossary: physical anthropology

The study of humans, mainly their biological and physical make-up as well as their evolutionary history.

Glossary: anthropology

The social, cultural and geographical study of humans and humankind.