Sutural complexity in artificially deformed human (Homo sapiens) crania

Susan C. Anton, Carolyn R. Jaslow, Sharon M. Swartz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The pattern of complexity of cranial sutures is highly variable both among and within species. Intentional cranial vault deformation in human populations provides a controlled natural experiment by which we were able to quantify aspects of sutural complexity and examine the relationship between sutural patterns and mechanical loading. Measures of sutural complexity (interdigitation, number, and size of sutural bones) were quantified from digitized tracings of 13 sutures and compared among three groups of crania (n = 70) from pre‐European contact Peru. These groups represent sample populations deformed in (1) anteroposterior (AP) and (2) circumferential (C) directions and (3) an undeformed population. Intergroup comparisons show few differences in degree or asymmetry of sutural interdigitation. In the few comparisons which show differences, the C group is always more interdigitated than the other two while the AP group has more sutural bones. The sutures surrounding the temporal bone (sphenotemporal, occipitotemporal, and temporoparietal) most frequently show significant differences among groups. These differences are related to the more extreme binding of C type deformation and are consistent with hypothesized increases in tension at coronally oriented sutures in this group. The larger number of sutural bones in the AP group is consistent with the general broadening of the cranium in this group and with experimental evidence indicating the development of ossicles in areas of tension. We suggest that so few changes in sutural complexity occurred either because the magnitude of the growth vectors, unlike their direction, is not substantially altered or because mechanisms other than sutural growth modification are responsible for producing the altered vault shapes. In addition, the presence of fontanelles in the infant skulls during binding and the static nature of the binding may have contributed to the similarity in complexity among groups. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)321-332
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Morphology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Dec 1992

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Developmental Biology


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