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Inferior view of the skull

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. List the bones seen on the inferior view of the skull.
  2. Identify the important bony features seen on the inferior view of the skull.
  3. Name the main foramina, fissures and canals and their contents.

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The human skull consists of 22 bones that come together to enclose and protect the most important organ of the body: the brain. By looking at the skull from the inferior aspect, we can see 13 of those bones, which, from anterior to posterior are: the maxillae, the zygomatic bones, palatine bones, vomer, sphenoid bone, temporal bones, parietal bones and occipital bone. All of these present distinct bony features, as well as passageways that allow blood vessels and nerves to enter and exit the cranial cavity. Learn all about them by watching the video below!

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Browse atlas

Take a closer look at these bones and their features by browsing our atlas galleries:


Key points about the inferior view of the base of the skull
Bones Zygomatic bones (2), maxillae (2), palatine bones (2), vomer, sphenoid bone, temporal bones (2), occipital bone and parietal bones (2)
Main features Maxilla: Incisive foramina, zygomatic process, palatine process, alveolar process
Zygomatic bone
: Temporal process
Palatine bone
: Horizontal plate, posterior nasal spine, transverse palatine suture, median palatine suture, pyramidal process, greater and lesser palatine foramen
Sphenoid bone: Body, greater wing, infratemporal crest, temporal surface, infratemporal surface, pterygoid process, lateral plate, medial plate, pterygoid fossa, pterygoid hamulus, scaphoid fossa, vaginal process, foramen ovale, foramen spinosum
Temporal bone
: Zygomatic process, articular tubercle, petrotympanic fissure, mandibular fossa, carotid canal, jugular foramen, stylomastoid foramen, styloid process, mastoid process, mastoid foramen, mastoid notch
Occipital bone
: Foramen magnum, condylar canal, inferior and superior nuchal line, external occipital protuberance, external occipital crest, occipital condyle, condylar fossa, pharyngeal tubercle
Main foramina and contents Incisive foramen: Nasopalatine nerve, sphenopalatine artery
Greater palatine foramen
: Greater palatine nerves, arteries and veins
Lesser palatine foramen
: Lesser palatine nerves, arteries and veins
Foramen ovale
: Mandibular nerve (CN V3), accessory meningeal artery, lesser petrosal nerve, emissary veins
Foramen spinosum
: Middle meningeal artery and vein, meningeal branch of mandibular nerve (CN V3)
Jugular foramen
: Internal jugular vein, inferior petrosal sinus, posterior meningeal artery, glossopharyngeal nerve, vagus nerve, accessory nerve (CN IX, X, XI)
Stylomastoid foramen
: Stylomastoid artery, facial nerve
Foramen magnum: Medulla oblongata, vertebral artery
Main fissures and contents Inferior orbital fissure: Infraorbital nerve, zygomatic nerve, infraorbital nerve, artery and vein, inferior branch of inferior ophthalmic vein
Petrotympanic fissure
: Chorda tympani, anterior tympanic artery
Main canals and contents Carotid canal: Internal carotid artery, internal carotid plexus
Condylar canal
: Emissary veins, meningeal branch of occipital artery

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