human skull

Human Skull: Anatomy And Physiology

We will examine the parts of the human skull, its bones, muscles, and sutures

The human skull is a bony structure that contains the brain with its cerebral hemispheres, cerebellum, and nervous system and one of the primary functions of the skull is to protect from injury. 

We will examine the different parts of the human skull, the muscles associated with them and their different functions and answer the questions: "How many bones are in the human skull?" and "How thick is the human skull?". 

Human skull - Parts and function 

Skulls are a typical structure in all vertebrate animals.  The human skull is formed with the help of articulations called brain sutures, and the main tasks of the skull are to protect and support the brain and all the nervous systems that are encased in it. 

From an anatomical perspective, the skull is divided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. These are also called neurocranium -  braincase,  and viscerocranium - facial skeleton. 

The upper side of the brain includes the frontal bone, the occipital, parietal and temporal bones and together they form the neurocranium.

Another possible division of the human skull is to differentiate between the  endocranium - inner part of the skull, and the ectocranium - outer portion of the skull. 

Human skull - Bones 

The human skull is generally considered to consist of twenty-two boneseight cranial bones and fourteen facial skeleton bones.

The average  thickness of a male skull is 0.25 inches (6.5 millimeters), while the average thickness of a  female skull is 0.28 inches (7.1 millimeters).

The neurocranium, also known as the braincase, is the upper and back part of the skull, which forms a protective case around the brain and it contains the following bones:

  • two temporal bones
  • two parietal bones
  • a frontal bone
  • an occipital bone
  • the sphenoid
  • ethmoid bone

On the other hand, the facial skeleton, the lower half of the human skull, is comprised of the mandible, the maxilla, and the rest of the nasal bones. 

The human skull bones are connected via a series of suture joints. Sutures form a tight union that prevents movement between the bones. Most sutures are named for the bones they articulate, and the main four brain sutures are the following:

  • the coronal suture - joins the frontal bone to the parietal bones
  • the sagittal suture - joins the two parietal bones to each other
  • the lambdoid suture - joins the parietal bones to the occipital bone
  • the squamous suture - joins the parietal bones to the temporal bone


Skull anatomy - bones of the skull.

1. Frontal

The frontal bone of the human skull is  a bowl-shaped bone in the forehead region of the skull. It also connects to the base of the skull and the ocular orbits.

2. Temporal 

The temporal bones are situated at the sides and base of the skull, and lateral to the temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex. 

3. Parietal 

The parietal bones are two bones in the human skull which, when joined together at a fibrous joint,  form the sides and roof of the skull.

4. Occipital

The occipital bone is the bone found at the lower-back area of the cranium.  The occipital muscle is cupped like a saucer to accommodate the back part of the brain. Here, we find the foramen magnum which connects the base of the skull with the spinal cord. 

5. Ethmoid

The ethmoid bone is a small bone located between the frontal and the sphenoid and separates the skull from the nasal cavity. 

6. Sphenoid

The sphenoid bone is  an unpaired bone  of the neurocranium. It is situated in the middle of the skull towards the front, in front of the temporal bone and the base of the occipital bone. 

7. Nasal

The nasal bones are two small rectangular bones; they are placed side by side at the middle and upper part of the face and by their junction,  form the bridge of the nose.

8. Vomer

The back portion of the bridge of the nose is formed by the vomer bone which separates the two nostrils.

9. Lacrimal

The lacrimal bone is a small bone of the facial skeleton; it is  roughly the size of the little fingernail. It is situated at the front part of the medial wall of the orbit. 

10. Zygomatic

In the human skull, the zygomatic bone (cheekbone or malar bone) is a paired irregular bone which articulates with the maxilla, the temporal bone, the sphenoid bone, and the frontal bone.

11. Maxilla

The maxilla bone is  the most important bone of the face (in the viscerocranium). It contains the maxillary sinus, a cavity whose walls are lined with a mucous membrane. 

12. Mandible

The mandible, lower jaw or jawbone is the largest, strongest and lowest bone in the human face. It forms the lower jaw and holds the lower teeth in place. The mandible sits beneath the maxilla.


human skull facial muscles
Muscles of the head.

Human skull - Facial muscles

The facial muscles are a group of striated skeletal muscles that control facial expressions and allow us to chew our food. The muscles located on our skull are the following:

  • Occipitofrontalis muscle - the large muscle of the forehead

  • Temporalis muscle  - a thick muscle that closes the mouth and assists the jaw to move side-to-side to grind up food

  • Procerus muscle  - a small pyramidal slip of tissue in between the eyebrows, helps flare the nostrils and express anger

  • Nasalis muscle -  the muscle responsible for "flaring" of the nostrils

  • Depressor septi  nasi  muscle - this muscle arises from the incisive fossa of the maxilla, closes the nasal septum 

  • Orbicularis oculi muscle -  muscle in the face that closes the eyelids

  • Corrugator supercilii muscle - muscle functions to move the eyebrow down and inward toward the nose and inner eye, creates vertical lines or wrinkles

  • Auricular muscles (anterior, superior and posterior) - the outer ear, external ear, or auris externa is the external portion of the ear, which consists of the auricle (also pinna) and the ear canal. It gathers sound energy and focuses it on the eardrum

  • Orbicularis  Oris  muscle - this muscle brings our lips together so we can pucker up for a kiss

  • Depressor  anguli  oris  muscle - facial muscle associated with frowning, starts from the mandible and inserts into the angle of the mouth.

  • Risorius - a very thin and delicate muscle that pulls the lips horizontally creating a broad, albeit insincere smile

  • Zygomaticus major muscle - draws the angle of the mouth superiorly and posteriorly to allow one to smile

  • Zygomaticus minor muscle - it brings the upper lip backward, upward, and outward and is used in smiling

  • Levator labii superioris alaeque nasi  - this muscle dilates the nostrils and raises the upper lip. It’s often referred to as the ‘Elvis muscle’ in homage to Elvis Presley.

  • Depressor  labii  inferioris  muscle  - this muscle pulls down the bottom lip allowing us to sulk

  • Levator  anguli  oris - the happy muscle, making the corners of our mouth turn upwards into a smile

  • Buccinator muscle - known as the ‘trumpeter muscle,’ the Buccinator’s role is to puff out the cheeks and prevent food from passing to the outer surface of the teeth during chewing

  • Mentalis - called the ‘pouting muscle,’ contraction of the Mentalis raises and thrusts out the lower lip to make us pout

Check out the original article: Cráneo humano: partes, huesos, músculos y anatomía at 


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