Old features with new characters

Modified according to Matsushima et al. 2014Studies in cranial morphology which consider at the same time soft and hard tissues are an indispensable source of information in medicine and evolutionary biology. Generally, medical studies use to provide rather descriptive analyses with direct relevance for, e.g. surgical treatment. However, combining different complementary approaches like computed tomography in living humans, microsurgery of cadavers, macroscopic inspection of dry skulls etc.,  we can supply quantitative data to understand normal and rare skeletal features, and assess the importance of specific traits in biological anthropology. A patent example is represented by the anatomical studies of blood vessels, analysing directly the vascular tissues but also their traces left on the cranial bones.

For instance, several types of intracranial orifice connections of posterior condylar emissary vein in the cranial base were recently identified. Following different course of condylar canal through which the vein is transferred through the bone it could be assessed with which venous structure the vein was interconnected. Additionally, the shifted location of the intracranial orifice can in specific cases indicate the presence of other venous structures as marginal sinus or occipital sinus which rarely leaves any visible routes in occipital bone although the actual prevalence in humans is high. Condylar canal belongs to skeletal nonmetric foraminal variants used as markers of phenotypic distances in various bioarchaeological targets. Traditionally, the major distinguishing value ascribed to nonmetric traits is their presence or absence; nevertheless, foramina express lower hereditary values in comparison with nonmetric traits of hyperostotic background. This could be explained by composite character of foraminal traits manifesting high variation in several aspects (e.g. number, branching patterns, ramification, bone position, size and length of orifices). Accordingly, it can be difficult to understand if and which specific morphological character can be used to evaluate biodistance discriminatory values. Medical and anatomical studies are essential in evidencing new unconsidered phenotypic variations which may become important in further bioarchaeological research, representing a promising way to improve our understanding of past populations.

                                                                                                     Hana Pisova


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