Out from the shadows of racist anthropology…

Skull-300x205The skull was smaller than I expected it to be, shockingly light in my hands. Despite its yellow-stained surface it had the appearance of being well kept, almost as if it had been polished. On the forehead was a simple label: American Idiot. As if that told us everything we needed to know about the person whose thoughts it had once held. I stared at it for a while, then passed the skull on to the student next to me.

In the center of the class of bright-eyed first year grad students stood a cart containing specimens from a large collection of skulls owned by the university. They had been collected by Samuel George Morton who was famous for his craniometry studies, in which he classified human races by skull size. His ultimate argument was that “Caucasians” had larger skulls (and therefore larger brains) than the other races that he had studied.

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The image of the inscribed, unidentified skull is from Wellcome Images.

 

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