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Skull Anatomy - want to learn more about it?

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Skull Anatomy

Skull - anterior viewA house of the soul, a seat of power, and a commemoration of the dead; the skull has always had a great symbolic status across many cultures in history. In modern days, whenever we think of students in the medical field, an image of a person holding a skull and a giant anatomy textbook instantly pops up in our minds.

With its complex structure that has over sixty foramina and over twenty bones, the skull can be one of the most challenging yet fun human anatomy topics to study. This article will serve as a study guide to help you understand how to approach the external anatomy of the skull. Let’s get started!

Overview of the bones

The human skull is the skeletal structure of the head consists of between 22 to 30 single bones which are mostly connected together by ossified joints, so-called sutures. It is subdivided into the facial bones (facial skeleton) and the braincase (cranial vault or cerebral cranium). The facial skeleton protects and supports the underlying facial structures, and encloses the eyeballs, whilst the cranial vault houses the brain, as well as the middle and inner ear structures. 

Key Facts
Developmental classification Neurocranium: occipital bone, temporal bones (2), parietal bones (2), sphenoid bone, ethmoid bone, frontal bone
Viscerocranium: vomer, nasal conchae (2), nasal bones (2), maxilla, mandible, palatine bones (2), zygomatic bones (2), lacrimal bones
Regional classification

(1) Region of the cranium, subregions:

- cranial vault - upper portion of the skull

- cranial base - inferior portion of the skull

- cranial cavity - interior of the skull (subregions: anterior, middle, posterior cranial fossae)

- facial skeleton - bones that make up the face

- acoustic skeleton - ear ossicles

(2) Region of the mandible

Clinical relations Fractures, osteoporosis, osteoradionecrosis, osteomalacia, osteomyelitis, pneumatization, circumstantial bone resorption

Watch this video to master the bones of the skull!

Recommended video: Bones of the skull
Main bones of the head.

Anterior (frontal) view

Skull labeled

The frontal bone is found superiorly while the mandible lies inferiorly, giving the skull an ovoid shape when looked at anteriorly. The frontal bone underlies the forehead; above the orbital cavities, the nasal bridge (which is formed jointly by the two nasal bones), and the frontal process of the zygomatic bone. 

The two maxillary bones (maxillae) occupy most of the space in the middle part of the facial skeleton. Together with the nasal bones, they form the boundaries of the anterior nasal aperture. Inferiorly, the mandible and the alveolar processes of the maxillary bones form the lower part of the anterior skull. 

If this sounds like a lot to handle, we have you covered with our comprehensive video tutorial.

Recommended video: Anterior and lateral views of the Skull
Structures seen on the anterior and lateral views of the skull.

Further, read our detailed article, and take our interactive quiz.

Anterior and Lateral Views of the Skull
Anterior view of the skull

Lateral (side) view

Skull - lateral view

The lateral aspect of the skull can be divided into three regions:

  1. The face
  2. The temporal region, which we will cover in detail in this section.
  3. The occipital region

The temporal region is subdivided by the zygomatic arch into the temporal fossa and the infratemporal fossa. The frontal bone, the parietal bone, the greater wing of the sphenoid bone, and the squamous part of the temporal bone meet at the pterion, forming the floor of the temporal fossa. The following videos, articles, and quizzes will cover everything you need to know about the temporal region of the skull, so make sure to check them out!

Temporal bone introduction
Sphenoid bone
The Temporal Bone
The Temporal Fossa
Infratemporal Fossa
Temporal bone

Posterior view

Skull - posterior view

The posterior aspect of the skull is formed by the parietal bone superolaterally, the temporal bone inferolateral, and the occipital bone centrally. Sometimes this view of the skull is referred to as the occipital view.

Recommended video: Posterior and lateral views of the skull
Structures seen on the posterior and lateral views of the skull.

Superior view

Skull - superior view

From above, we can see the ellipsoid-shaped part of the skull called the calvaria. It is formed by four bones; the frontal bone, the two parietal bones, and the occipital bone. These bones articulate through three sutures:

  1. The coronal suture: between the frontal and parietal bones.
  2. The lambdoid suture: between the occipital and parietal bones.
  3. The sagittal suture: between the two parietal bones.
Recommended video: Calvaria
Structures seen on the superior and inferior views of the calvaria.

To better understand the anatomy of this region, don’t forget to watch our corresponding video tutorial, read our articles, and further strengthen your knowledge with our quiz. 
 

Calvaria
Parietal bone
Calvaria
The Cranial Sutures
Calvaria

Base of the skull (inferior view)

Base of the skull - inferior view

The base of the skull extends from the superior nuchal lines of the occipital bones posteriorly to the upper incisors teeth anteriorly. This aspect of the skull contains a lot of important structures, including the largest skull foramen; the foramen magnum. We can divide this part of the skull into five, to make it easier to study:

  1. Anterior part: the hard palate and the upper jaw.
  2. Middle part: the sphenoid bone, petrous processes of the temporal bones, and the basilar part of the occipital bone.
  3. Lateral parts: the zygomatic arches, mandibular fossae, tympanic plates and the styloid and mastoid processes.
  4. Posterior part: the occipital bone.

Learn all the parts of the skull with our video and bones of the skull quiz (inferior view).

Recommended video: Inferior view of base of the skull
Structures seen on the inferior view of the base of the skull.
Inferior View of the Base of the Skull
Inferior view of base of the skull

Video tutorials

Overview of the skull bones
Anterior and lateral views of the Skull
Temporal bone introduction
Sphenoid bone
Posterior and lateral views of the skull
Calvaria
Parietal bone
Superior view of base of the skull
Inferior view of base of the skull
Neurocranium
Viscerocranium
Soft palate
Hard palate
Lacrimal bone
Overview of the ethmoid bone
Vomer

Skull anatomy quizzes

Inferior view of base of the skull
Calvaria
Temporal bone
Anterior view of the skull
Superior view of base of the skull
Midsagittal skull
Ethmoid bone
Sphenoid bone
Temporal bone
Mandible


 

Skull Anatomy - want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 960,586 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

Article, review and layout:

  • Sami Dai
  • Nicola McLaren
  • Jana Vaskovic

Illustrations:

  • Skull - anterior view - Yousun Koh
  • Skull - anterior view - Mohammed Albakkar
  • Skull - lateral view - Mohammed Albakkar
  • Skull - posterior view - Mohammed Albakkar
  • Base of the skull - superior view - Johannes Reiss
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Related diagrams and images

Anterior view of the skull

Posterior and lateral skull

Superior view of base of the skull

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