The Hoshino wooden skeleton, the first wooden model of a human skeleton, made during the Edo era in Japan

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Abstract

The wooden model of the human skeleton, called the wooden skeleton, is a distinguished original craft object from the Edo era, in Japan, when medical doctors were unable to keep a human skeleton for study and teaching purposes. There are three types of wooden skeletons: (i) Hoshino made in 1792; (ii) Kagami made by 1810; and (iii) Okuda made around 1820. The former two are of adult males and the latter is of a female. The wooden skeletons were made with surprising accuracy compared with figures that appeared in the medical books available in Japan at that time, which suggests a scientific readiness of the doctors and the skill of the craftsmen. In the cases of the Hoshino and Kagami wooden skeletons, it is hard to consider that all wooden bones were assembled to show the entire body. Conversely, the Okuda wooden skeletons were made for showing in the sitting position. The skull of the Hoshino wooden skeleton is of special interest: the skull cap was not cut, yet the internal structures of the skull, such as the sella turcica, foramina for nerves and vessels, and the sulci for venous sinuses, were made with considerable accuracy. The skull caps of the Kagami and Okuda wooden skeletons were cut, as those used in modern medical education.

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