So for my first month I am choosing the human skull as I know this the best and have worked with many for my dissertation projects. I think it will also be good to use it as a reference point for future months to be able to compare the anatomy of other mammal to a human skull.
The human skull is probably one of the most iconic bones in the body as its image is used all of the time and everywhere. This could be as a grim reaper figure, on t-shirts, as tattoos or as posters. They are be in colour or plain, happy or sad, evil or fun and this just adds to the personality of the skull – I’ve always thought that the skulls are smiling when you look at them! The skull is made up of many bones, including the frontal (forehead), parietal (side), occipital (back/base), temporal (temples), the maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw). There are of course some others but these are the ones which are easy to distinguish and the ones you can see clearly on a complete skull
The shape of the human skull is very flat compared to most other mammals because it come up to sit above the spinal column when we started to walk to two legs. As our hominid ancestors started to walk up right, for a range of reasons, the skeleton had to go through a lot of change. If you compare a human skull to that of a gorilla or chimp you will see that the foreman magnum (hole at the base of the skull where it meets the spinal column ) is bought forwards in humans. As you work yourself up through the different species of Australopithecines and Homo this position can be seen in a gradual movement to the center of the skull base. I could go on to talk about the other effects of becoming bipedal had on humans but I would end up writing an essay – and no-one needs that, especially when there are some good articles and text books out there. (See recommended reading for suggestions).
The human skull, with its large brain case and grinning smile, is a beautiful thing. They are quite robust and amazing to hold and I am always fascinated by the skull and love looking at it. It is quite easy to forget that this was once the part of the body that held the person, the brain, and that this individual had once walked, talked and lived. Whenever I get to hold or touch a skull I feel privileged and am always struck with a sense of awe. This feeling is the reason why I love what studied and why I want to share it with others, I want people to be as interested and amazed by the products of nature, including ourselves, as I am. Perhaps one of the most beautiful things that I have seen was of a complete skull front of an infant when I was looking through boxes of skeletons during my master’s research. I remember unwrapping the tissue covering the infant and was amazed to see a tiny face looking up at me. I know that it sounds morbid, and it is incredibly sad this the child died so young (I can’t remember the exact age) but it was beautiful. So beautiful in fact that I had to take a picture of it! It is so rare to see an infant skull so complete as they are very fragile, perhaps this is why I found it so incredible?!
– L. Aiello & C. Dean ‘An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy’
– C. Lovejoy ‘Evolution of Human Walking’
– Tim White ‘Human Osteology’