25 Days of Skeletal Facts: Day 23 – The Viscerocranium

The viscerocranium is composed of the 14 bones that make up your facial skeleton, most of which are paired (see image below). They include, the mandible (1), nasal bones (2), inferior nasal conchae (2), maxillae (2), zygomatic bones (2), lacrimal bones (2), the vomer (1), and the palatine bones (2). The ethmoid and the sphenoid are also sometimes included. These bones make up the lower portion of the orbit, the nasal cavity, and the oral cavity.

Bones of the viscerocranium

We have already discussed the mandible and maxilla in some detail (see Day 20 for teeth and Day 18 for the mandible). Your palatine bone articulates with your maxilla and forms the back portion of your hard palate (the bony part you can feel when you run your tongue on the roof of your mouth). Your lacrimal bone is very thin and sits on the inside corner of your orbit, this is where the opening to your lacrimal duct sits and where tears drain.

Bones of the nasal septum

Most of the nose is made of cartilage anteriorly, but the nasal bones form the top of the opening into your nasal cavity (see the image the left). The vomer forms part of the bony nasal septum, and the inferior nasal conchae extend along the lateral wall.

The zygomatic is your cheek bone, sitting laterally to the maxilla and forming part of the inferior and lateral border of your eye orbit. Injury to the viscerocranium can help bioarchaeologists identify interpersonal violence in the past. Researchers studying battlefield archaeology examined a mass grave of the Battle of Lützen (1632) for injuries sustained during the Thirty Years War. Many of the 47 individuals had evidence of trauma or disease consistent with battlefield injury or lifestyle, including a couple individuals with blunt force (see image below) and sharp force trauma to the zygomatic bone around the time of death (Nicklisch et al. 2017). Due to the overall number of cranial injuries, the researchers hypothesize that the men had little or insufficient head protection during this battle.

Figure 5 from Nicklisch et al. 2017 displaying blunt force trauma to the zygomatic bone (left)

That’s a wrap for the viscerocranium, tomorrow we will discuss the remaining part of the skull – the neurocranium.

REFERENCES & MORE TO EXPLORE

Viscerocranium. Sieroslawska. KenHub Anatomy. Last reviewed October 2020

The face of war: Trauma analysis of a mass grave from the Battle of Lützen (1632). Nicklisch et al. PLOS ONE. 2017

The Human Bone Manual. White & Folkens. 2005

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