• Susan Elaine Jones

Meeting a new skull

So last month I had a chance to meet a new skull. And was invited by a pro to "say what I see". Let's see what I can tell you about a person just on looking at their skull. Please enjoy my amateurish tour of the bits and bobs that I noticed.

The first thing I noted was the obvious damage to the frontal bone - probably post mortem and post preparation as a display skull.

Also obvious from this angle are the fairly prominent suture lines which indicate this was probably an adult, but not elderly. Also the wide parietal bone shape at the back of the head indicates probable African ethnicity. There is a hint of a number of strange features above the skull's left eye.

Looking face on, one of those features is more obvious - just above the left eye and slightly off the temple. There are a couple more just to the side of the cracked area (which incidentally had some "bug cases" in it - which the expert on the day found very interesting too. It all got a bit Silence of the Lambs at that point).

Sticking my thumb into the eye socket I could say that it was fairly smooth - at least not sharply angled - which indicative of male skull.

Obviously damage to the fragile internal bones of the sinuses, which I would expect from the wear and tear of non-expert handling by amateurs like myself.

A slight indication of eye brow ridges again is indicative of a male skull, though it is fairly subtle.

The nasal shape (height to width index is fairly small) again indicates origins in hot regions - and likely Africa.

Looking from the back, there is a slight dip in the area of the parietal suture, a feature which I can't remember the name of. A gap in the suture line between parietal and occupital bone on the right I noted, and was informed was an ossicle that had fallen out. I love ossicles, but had never seen a skull where one was missing. How cool is that?

I also noted that there was clear signs of the strong neck muscle attachment points on the back of the occupital bone making an M shape - another indicator of male gender.

Looking from the side you can also see the extended line of the temporalis muscle attachment, a final indicator of male gender. Despite being introduced to this skull of an African female, I was confident enough to bet a starburst sweet that she was no lady!

This angle also shows facial prognathism, also a common feature in African osteology. This angle also shows the weird features above the eye much better, as well as an unexplained hole in the temporal bone (well above the ear hole, in case you were confused).

I could also note the teeth, and flipping the skull over you can clearly see the three root holes for the molars, including wisdom teeth - which confirms this was an adult.

I know I should by now know things about the shape of the eye hole, make more note of cheek bones and such. However, I think that will come if I am well enough to pop down to London to get on one of those facial reconstruction courses!

So that's my quick run down of what I know of skulls so far. Anything you can add?

#skeleton #skull #anatomy #osteology #deathandthemaiden #death #conference #skullidentification #skullfeatures