Pitt-Rivers craniometer

19th century

Archaeologist General Pitt-Rivers owned two craniometers to measure the size and shape of skulls. Pitt-Rivers incorrectly thought that racial characteristics could be seen in skull shapes and sizes and that measuring them would help to recognise different groups of early settlers. For this reason the General had a deep interest in finding and recording human skeletons.

‘I have contrived an instrument for taking the profiles with perfect accuracy. The skull is fixed by means of a blunt point into the ear openings on either side . . . The scale . . . enables . . . any point on the profile of the skull and lower jaw, to be read off with great precision . . . The instrument is made of aluminium, and the legs are removable, so as to be light enough for use with a living subject’.

Other items in the Pitt-Rivers collection