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In use since Neolithic times, a corbel is load-bearing projection built into a wall as a support structure. Corbels are used on exteriors (to hold ledges, balconies, parapets, etc.) and interiors (for mantels, cabinets, shelves, etc.) Historically, a corbel was a solid piece of the wall as opposed to something attached to it, but these days corbels have come to mean any chunky, decorative bracket made of a host of materials including wood, stone, metal, and plaster.
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