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Facts About the Human Skull

Posted by Joanna Culley on

It is not hard to imagine why our Nordic ancestors believed our heads, and even more the bones around our brain, were shaped like a bowl. And it is because this bone structure can really hold the organs in their rightful place and protect them from external damage. We tend to believe our skulls are so strong and rigid, that it is often forgotten that it is also made up of cartilage, which makes it malleable and flexible in some parts. Just imagine how fragile and compromised it would be if it were not attached to our atlas, the highest vertebra in our spine. We would not even be able to nod or turn our heads to the side.

On its website, the Encyclopedia Britannica defines the skull as “a skeletal framework of the head of vertebrates, composed of bones or cartilage, which form a unit that protects the brain and some sense organs”. This makes it one of the most important bone structures in the entire human body. It also forms the features of the face, and it is comprised by the following bones: frontal, parietal, occipital, temporal, sphenoid, palatal, vomer, zygomatic and maxilla. Unlike other mammals, our lower jaw is not part of the skull.

There are different parts to the skull

Two, to be precise. The neurocranium and the calvaria. The first one is define by the entirety of the bones that protect the brain. Those are: ethmoid, sphenoid, frontal, occipital, parietals and temporals. The calvaria has the same group of bones minus the ethmoid and the sphenoid, creating something similar to a skullcap.

Between the bones

Sutures are fibrous joints that are formed between the bones of the skull, and can lead to the appearance of “new”, small and unusual bones called “wormians”. They are named after Danish physician Ole Worm (1588-1654).

Bones decay faster with time

Bones from the ears and the nose are the most fragile one because they are made out of cartilage, and in old skeletons found after death, one of the few bones that remain are the ones from the nose bridge.

Which bones do you use when you chew?

If you place your finger in front of your ear, you can feel them. It is the temporomandibular joint, formed by the temporal bone, the mandibles and the ligaments that connect them together.

Hidden canals

The skull is full of them. Tiny apertures called foramina that allows veins and nerves to move and circulate through. The biggest foramen in our body allows the vertebral arteries and the spinal cord to pass through.

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