Luthiery techniques for studying cranial anatomy

The CENIEH researcher Emiliano Bruner has participated in a study, published in the journal Anthropological Science, which proposes measuring the distribution of the thickness of the cranial vault in archaeological samples using the Hacklinger calliper, a tool used by luthiers to verify thickness in violins and guitars.

The quality of the sound of stringed instruments depends on many factors, including the thickness of the wood comprising the soundbox. Due to the complicated (and delicate) architecture of a musical instrument, measuring that thickness can be very complex.

The Hacklinger calliper is a device capable of measuring a distance in a magnetic field. This is certainly a very useful tool for musicians but it can also be so for anthropologists as an alternative to computerized tomography, according to this study, whose lead author is Irene del Olmo, of the Past Populations Laboratory (LAPP), at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM).

As Bruner explains: “Computerized tomography is an unparalleled technique for measuring cranial thickness, but it is very costly, requires time and a lot of organization, and in addition it is not always easy to employ in museum collections, while the Hacklinger calliper is cheap and portable”.