Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A gaper is a stone black man's head on the front of a building in the Netherlands.
It is used to indicate that this building is a pharmacy.
The literal translation of gaper would be yawner; the figure is always displayed with an open mouth. Traditionally, the man depicted is of Moorish origin. The traveling salesmen of herbs and pills, the 'forefathers' of the pharmacies and drugstores now, used to have an assistant who would play the character of an ill man of stage. After taking the pill, the assistant (typically depicted as Moorish) would all of a sudden feel much better and perform a dance.
Later, when pharmacists opened shops instead of travelling through the country, the symbol of the Moorish man (often depicted with a pill on his tongue) would tell the analphabetic audience that this was the home of a pharmacist.
Nowadays these symbols are rare, next to collections in museums fewer than 50 can be seen on houses.
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