UAMS Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences - Bones of the Head and Neck

Gross Anatomy


Bones and Cartilages of the Head and Neck - Listed Alphabetically

Bone/Cartilage Structure Description Notes
arytenoid cartilage a pyramid shaped cartilage located on the superior margin of the cricoid lamina paired; each is connected to the epiglottis above via the aryepiglottic m. and to the thyroid cartilage anteriorly via the vocal ligament; paired arytenoid cartilages are pulled together (adducted) by the arytenoid m.
corniculate cartilage a small cartilage located on the apex of the arytenoid cartilage corniculate cartilage is found in the base of the aryepiglottic fold; it is yellow elastic cartilage
cricoid cartilage the inferior & posterior cartilage of the larynx; it forms a complete cartilaginous ring; its arch projects anteriorly and its lamina is broad and flat posteriorly connected: above to the thyroid cartilage via the inferior horn of the thyroid cartilage, to the conus elasticus, to the arytenoid cartilages which sit atop the lamina; connected below to the first tracheal ring via the cricotracheal ligament
cuneiform cartilage small cartilaginous nodule located in the aryepiglottic fold cuneiform cartilage is yellow elastic cartilage
epiglottis the superior part of the larynx epiglottic cartilage is covered by a mucous membrane
ethmoid delicate bone located between the two orbits highly pneumatized bone that contains the ethmoid air cells; forms the fragile medial wall of the orbit
cribriform plate perforated portion of ethmoid bone on either side of the crista galli perforated for passage of the olfactory nerves
crista galli superior midline projection of the ethmoid bone into the anterior cranial fossa; it arises between the cribriform plates "cock's comb"; anterior anchor point of the falx cerebri
perpendicular plate midline process projecting inferiorly into the nasal cavity forms the superior part of the bony nasal septum
superior nasal concha medial projection of the ethmoid bone from the superolateral wall of the nasal cavity forms the superior nasal meatus below it and the sphenoethmoidal recess above it
middle nasal concha portion of the ethmoid bone that projects inferomedially from the lateral wall of the nasal cavity forms the superior nasal meatus above it and the middle nasal meatus (which overlies the bulla ethmoidalis and hiatus semilunaris) below it
bulla ethmoidalis rounded elevation on the lateral wall of the nasal cavity located under cover of the middle nasal concha; middle ethmoidal air cells drain at its apex
ethmoidal air cells pneumatized spaces (3-18 in number) within the ethmoid bone; located between the orbits three groups may be identified: anterior (drain into the hiatus semilunaris in the middle nasal meatus), middle (drain onto the apex of the bulla ethmoidalis in the middle nasal meatus), posterior (drain into the superior nasal meatus)
ethmoidal foramen, anterior opening in the medial wall of the orbit transmits anterior ethmoidal vessels and nerve
ethmoidal foramen, posterior opening in the medial wall of the orbit transmits posterior ethmoidal vessels and nerve
hiatus semilunaris groove in the ethmoid portion of the lateral nasal wall between the uncinate process below and bulla ethmoidalis above receives the frontonasal duct anterosuperiorly, opening of the maxillary sinus posteroinferiorly, and the openings of the anterior ethmoidal air cells in between
frontal the anterior bone of the skull which underlies the forehead articulates with the parietal bone posteriorly; zygomatic, ethmoid and sphenoid bones inferiorly; maxilla, nasal and lacrimal bones anteriorly; it is formed from two ossifications centers which normally fuse in the midline - if they do not fuse, a midline "metopic suture" is the result
orbital plate flat portion of frontal that forms the roof of the orbit a very thin portion of the frontal bone which is like an egg shell in thickness
foramen cecum opening near the anterior end of the crista galli transmits an emissary vein which may result in transfer of infectious materials from the nasal cavity to the cranial cavity with resulting meningitis
frontal sinus pneumatized space in the frontal bone usually paired; each drains through the frontonasal duct into the uppermost part of the hiatus semilunaris in the middle nasal meatus
superior orbital margin arch of bone above the orbital opening skin over this region is supplied by branches of the frontal nerve (supraorbital and supratrochlear nn.)
superciliary arch the ridge of bone above the orbital margin located deep to the eyebrow, blunt trauma to this region often results in cuts within the eyebrow
glabella midline point between the paired superciliary arches
supraorbital notch notch in the superior orbital margin occasionally present as a foramen; opening for the passage of the for supraorbital neurovascular bundle
hyoid a "U"-shaped bone consisting of several parts: body, 2 greater horns, 2 lesser horns the hyoid bone ossifies completely in middle life; the body articulates with the greater horns via cartilage and with the lesser horns via fibrous joints prior to ossification; an important site for muscle attachments (suprahyoid and infrahyoid muscle groups)
body the middle portion of the "U"-shaped bone the body of the hyoid bone articulates with the greater horns posteriorly
greater horn (cornu) posteriorly directed limbs of the "U"-shaped bone each greater horn articulates with the body and lesser horns anteriorly; origin of middle pharyngeal constrictor m. and hyoglossus m.
lesser horn (cornu) articulates with the greater horn at its junction with the body the inferior end of the stylohyoid ligament attaches to the lesser horn
inferior nasal concha a separate bone on the lateral wall of the nasal cavity it articulates with the maxilla; forms the inferior nasal meatus below it and the middle nasal meatus above it
lacrimal small bone forming part of the medial wall of the orbit articulates: anteriorly with frontal process of maxilla, superiorly with frontal bone, posteriorly with ethmoid, inferiorly with orbital process of maxilla; forms part of the canal for the nasolacrimal duct
mandible the U-shaped bone forming the lower jaw contains the inferior teeth; formed from the mesenchyme of the 1st pharyngeal arch, and its muscles are innervated by the nerve of the 1st arch (mandibular division of cranial nerve V)
body the anterior part of the mandible paired halves are fused in the midline at the symphysis menti
symphysis menti the midline symphysis between the two halves of the mandible the two halves of the mandible fuse during the first postnatal year
mental protuberance the projection on the anterior midline of the mandible the bone of the chin; mental means relating to the mind, a reference to the act of resting the chin on the hand while thinking (see the sculpture by Rodin: "The Thinker")
mental spines (genial tubercles) the spines on the inner surface of the mandible posterior to the mental protuberance attachment site for the genioglossus and geniohyoid mm.
mylohyoid line the ridge running obliquely from posterosuperior to anteroinferior on the medial surface of the body of the mandible attachment site for the mylohyoid muscle; the submandibular gland is located inferior to this line and the sublingual gland is located superior to this line
mental foramen the opening on the anterior surface of the body of the mandible inferior to the premolar teeth transmits the mental neurovascular bundle; covered superficially by the depressor anguli oris and depressor labii inferioris mm.
ramus the angled portion of the mandible that joins the posterior portion of the body it rises nearly vertically from the body; the chondyloid process and the coronoid process extend from the superior end of the ramus; the mandibular foramen is located on the medial surface of the ramus; the medial pterygoid m. attaches to the medial surface and the masseter m. attaches to the lateral surface of the ramus
angle the posteroinferior bend formed by the union of the body and the ramus
mandibular foramen the opening on the medial surface of the ramus it is the opening into the mandibular canal; it transmits the inferior alveolar neurovascular bundle
mandibular canal the canal that runs through the body of the mandible it transmits the inferior alveolar neurovascular bundle from the infratemporal fossa to the mandibular teeth and gingivae
lingula the projection of bone medial to the mandibular foramen it is the attachment site of the inferior end of the sphenomandibular ligament
coronoid process the process that projects anterosuperiorly from the ramus of the mandible it is the attachment site of the temporalis m.
condylar process the rounded process that projects posterosuperiorly from the ramus of the mandible it articulates with the mandibular fossa of the temporal bone
mandibular notch the notch between the coronoid and condylar processes it transmits the masseteric neurovascular bundle from the infratemporal fossa to the deep surface of the masseter m.
mandibular neck the constriction below the articular chondyle on the chondylar process of the mandible part of the lateral pterygoid m. inserts into the pterygoid fossa of the mandibular neck
pterygoid fossa of the neck a shallow depression on the anterior surface of the neck of the mandible part of the lateral pterygoid m. inserts into the pterygoid fossa of the mandibular neck
maxilla bone forming the midface it forms the inferior orbital margin and contains the teeth and maxillary sinus
frontal process the part of the maxilla that projects superiorly medial to the orbit it articulates with the nasal bone, the frontal bone and the lacrimal bone; it forms part of medial orbital wall & margin; it forms the anterior part of the canal for the nasolacrimal duct
orbital process the part of the maxilla that forms the floor of the orbit also known as the orbital surface of the maxilla; it contains the infraorbital groove and canal; it forms the roof of the maxillary sinus
zygomatic process the lateral projection of the maxilla it articulates with the zygomatic bone
infraorbital groove groove in orbital process of the maxilla located in the posterior part of the orbit transmits the infraorbital neurovascular bundle from the infraorbital fissure to the infraorbital canal
infraorbital canal canal in orbital process of the maxilla located in the anterior part of the orbit the direct continuation of the infraorbital groove; transmits the infraorbital neurovascular bundle from the infraorbital groove to the infraorbital foramen
infraorbital foramen opening at the anterior end of the infraorbital canal located inferior to the orbit it transmits the infraorbital neurovascular bundle
alveolar process "U"-shaped process of bone that holds the maxillary teeth contains sockets (alveoli) for the roots of the maxillary teeth
maxillary tuberosity the roughened posterior aspect of the body of the maxilla the posterior superior alveolar nn. Enter the maxilla directly superior to this structure
anterior nasal spine anterior projection of bone in the midline, inferior to the anterior nasal aperture the cartilaginous part of the nasal septum sits atop this structure
maxillary sinus pneumatized hollow center of the body of the maxilla paired; each maxillary sinus drains through the hiatus semilunaris into the middle nasal meatus
palatine process shelf of bone that projects horizontally to meet at the midline in the intermaxillary suture paired; together, they form the roof of the oral cavity (hard palate) and the floor of the nasal cavity
incisive foramen opening in the midline, posterior to the maxillary incisor teeth it transmits the terminal branches of the nasopalatine nn. & sphenopalatine aa.; it marks the point of union during development of the primary and secondary palate
nasal thin bone that forms part of the bridge of the nose articulates with the frontal bone superiorly, the frontal process of the maxilla laterally and the contralateral nasal bone medially
occipital the bone forming the posterior surface of the skull it articulates superolaterally with the parietal bones through the lambdoid suture, anteroinferiorly with the temporal bone and anteriorly with the body of the sphenoid bone
pharyngeal tubercle projection located anterior to the foramen magnum attachment site for the superior pharyngeal constrictor m.
squamous part the flat, thin portion of the occipital bone located posterior to the foramen magnum it articulates with the petrous part of the temporal bone anteroinferiorly and the parietal bones superolaterally at the lambdoid suture
external occipital protuberance a projection on the external surface of the squamous part of the occipital bone in the midline it is the attachment site of the ligamentum nuchae and the trapezius m.; its highest point is called the inion
inferior nuchal line a low ridge that runs transversely on the external surface of the squamous part of the occipital bone inferior to the superior nuchal line it is an attachment site for deep neck muscles
superior nuchal line a low ridge that runs transversely on the external surface of the squamous part of the occipital bone it is the attachment is the for the trapezius and splenius mm.
foramen magnum the opening in the occipital bone posterior to the basal part it transmits the spinal cord, two vertebral aa., and two spinal accessory nerves
basal part the portion of the occipital bone located anterior to the foramen magnum it articulates with the body of the sphenoid bone
lateral part the portion of the occipital bone located lateral to the foramen magnum paired; it is pierced by the hypoglossal canal and the condylar canal
hypoglossal canal an opening in the lateral part of the occipital bone paired; it transmits the hypoglossal nerve
condylar canal an opening in the lateral part of the occipital bone paired; it transmits the condylar emissary vein
occipital condyle a low, wide projection from the inferior surface of the lateral part of the occipital bone paired; it articulates with the atlas
jugular notch a notch located on the anterolateral edge of the lateral part of the occipital bone it forms the posterior margin of the jugular foramen; the temporal bone forms the anterior margin of the jugular foramen
ossicles a chain of three bones in the tympanic cavity (middle ear) connecting the tympanic membrane to the oval window; arranged from lateral to medial: malleus, incus, stapes the ossicles are joined by synovial articulations that may become arthritic in old age, resulting in conductive deafness
incus the middle ossicle of the middle ear articulates with the head of the malleus and the head of the stapes; incus means "anvil"
malleus the lateral ossicle of the middle ear the manubrium is attached by its handle to the inner surface of the tympanic membrane at the umbo; its head articulates with the incus; malleus means "hammer"
stapes the medial ossicle of the middle ear it articulates with the long process of the incus and its base fills the fenestra vestibuli (oval window); stapes means "stirrup"
palatine the bone that forms the posterior part of the hard palate paired; failure of the perpendicular plates to fuse during development leads to a midline defect (cleft palate)
perpendicular plate the vertical portion of the palatine bone located posteriorly on either side of the nasal cavity it articulates anteriorly with the maxilla; posteriorly it forms the medial wall of the pterygopalatine fossa and the lateral wall of the nasal cavity; its posterior edge contributes to 1/2 of the sphenopalatine foramen
sphenopalatine notch a notch at the posterosuperior margin of the perpendicular plate of the palatine bone along with the sphenoid bone it forms the sphenopalatine foramen
sphenopalatine foramen an opening in the lateral wall of the nasal cavity formed by the perpendicular plate of the palatine bone and the body of the sphenoid bone it transmits the nasopalatine nerve and the sphenopalatine vessels
orbital process a small, superior projection from the perpendicular plate of the palatine bone it forms a small part of the floor of the orbit located posteroinferiorly near the apex
horizontal plate the portion of the palatine bone that forms the posterior 1/3 of the hard palate paired; the two horizontal plates meet at the midline
greater palatine foramen an opening in the hard palate located medial to the 3rd maxillary molar tooth it transmits the greater palatine neurovascular bundle; it is an important site for oral anesthesia
lesser palatine foramen an opening in the hard palate located posterior to the greater palatine foramen there may be more than one; it transmits the lesser palatine n. and vessels
parietal a broad, flat bone forming the lateral surface of the skull paired; this bone articulates with the contralateral parietal bone in the midline at the sagittal suture; it articulates anteriorly with frontal bone at coronal suture; it articulates posteriorly with the occipital bone at the lambdoid suture; it articulates inferiorly with the greater wing of the sphenoid bone at the pterion, the squamous part of the temporal bone at the squamous suture and the mastoid part of the temporal bone at the parietomastoid suture
inferior temporal line an arching ridge on the external surface of the parietal bone it is an attachment site for the temporalis muscle
superior temporal line an arching ridge on the external surface of the parietal bone it is an attachment site for the temporalis muscle and the temporal fascia
parietal foramen an opening in the parietal bone located near the sagittal suture it transmits the parietal emissary vein, a valveless vein which connects the scalp to the cranial cavity
granular foveolae small pits located on the inner table of the parietal bone for the arachnoid granulations
thyroid cartilage the large anterior cartilage of the larynx; it has several parts: laminae (2), superior horns (2), inferior horns (2), oblique line, superior thyroid notch, connected above to the hyoid bone via the thyrohyoid membrane; connected below to the cricoid cartilage via the inferior horn of the thyroid cartilage; connected posteriorly: to the arytenoid cartilage via the vocal ligament and thyroarytenoid m., to the epiglottic cartilage via the thyroepiglottic ligament; it tilts anteriorly to increase the length of the vocal ligament and raise the pitch of the voice
lamina a broad flat plate of cartilage forming one side of the thyroid cartilage; two laminae fuse anteriorly in the midline to form the thyroid cartilage the laryngeal prominence is the line of fusion of the two laminae; each lamina is connected superiorly to the hyoid bone by the thyrohyoid membrane
superior horn the rounded, superior projection of the posterior border of the thyroid lamina it is connected superiorly to the greater horn of the hyoid bone by the lateral thyrohyoid ligament
inferior horn the rounded, inferior projection of the posterior border of the thyroid lamina it is connected inferiorly to the cricoid cartilage by the cricothyroid articulation (a synovial joint)
oblique line ridge which descends diagonally from superior to inferior on the lateral surface of the thyroid lamina a line of muscle attachment
laryngeal prominence the line of fusion of the thyroid laminae known to the lay person as the "Adam's apple"; the laryngeal prominence is a secondary sexual characteristic - in postpuberal males the angle of the laryngeal prominence is approximately 90 and in females the angle is approximately 120
superior thyroid notch the notch at the superior end of the laryngeal prominence it is connected to the hyoid bone by the median thyrohyoid ligament
sphenoid an irregularly shaped bone forming the central portion of the skull it has many parts, including a body, greater wing, lesser wing and pterygoid plates
body central part of the sphenoid bone contains the sphenoid sinuses; attachment point for the wings and pterygoid plates
sphenoid sinuses pneumatized spaces within the body of the sphenoid bone usually paired; it drains into the sphenoethmoidal recess of the nasal cavity
jugum the anterior-most portion of the sphenoid bone articulates with the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone
chiasmatic sulcus the groove for the optic chiasm located between the jugum & the tuberculum sellae
optic canal canal located at the lateral end of the chiasmatic sulcus and medial to the anterior clinoid process paired; it transmits the optic nerve and the ophthalmic artery from the cranial cavity to the apex of the orbit
tuberculum sellae the anterior limit of the sella turcica the middle clinoid processes project from its lateral ends
sella turcica depression on the superior surface of the body of the sphenoid bone "Turkish saddle"; roughly equivalent to the hypophyseal fossa; area between the tuberculum sellae and the posterior clinoid processes
anterior clinoid process projection at the medial end of the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone the internal carotid artery passes medial to this structure
lesser wing of the sphenoid thin rim of bone projecting laterally from the anterior clinoid process bilateral; it forms the posterior margin of anterior cranial fossa; it articulates anteriorly with the orbital plate of the frontal bone
greater wing of the sphenoid broad plate of bone swinging laterally from the body of the sphenoid bone bilateral; it forms the medial part of the floor of the middle cranial fossa, part of temporal fossae laterally, and the posterior part of the lateral wall of orbit; it articulates anteriorly with the zygomatic bone, superiorly with the frontal & parietal bones (at the pterion), posteriorly with the squamous & petrous portions of the temporal bone
superior orbital fissure slit-like opening between the lesser & greater wings of the sphenoid bone it transmits the oculomotor nerve, the trochlear nerve, the abducens nerve, branches of ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve, the superior ophthalmic vein and lymphatics from the cranial cavity into the orbit
foramen rotundum opening in the floor of the middle cranial fossa through the greater wing of the sphenoid bone it transmits the maxillary division of the trigeminal nerve
foramen ovale opening in the floor of the middle cranial fossa through the greater wing of the sphenoid bone it transmits the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve; it is located between the foramen rotundum and the foramen spinosum
foramen spinosum opening in the floor of the middle cranial fossa through the greater wing of the sphenoid bone it transmits the middle meningeal artery and the meningeal br. of the mandibular division of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V)
spine of the sphenoid process of bone that projects inferiorly from undersurface of greater wing of the sphenoid it is the superior attachment for the sphenomandibular ligament
pterygoid process process that projects inferiorly from the junction of the body & greater wing of the sphenoid bone it has several parts: lateral & medial pterygoid plates, hamulus, pterygoid fossa, scaphoid fossa; the pterygoid plates are separated by the large pterygoid fossa throughout most of their length, and by the small scaphoid fossa superiorly
lateral pterygoid plate thin plate of bone that projects posterolaterally from the pterygoid process it is the attachment site of the lateral & medial pterygoid muscles (lateral pterygoid m. on its lateral surface, medial pterygoid m. on its medial surface)
medial pterygoid plate thin plate of bone that projects posteriorly from the pterygoid process it is the attachment of the superior pharyngeal constrictor m. & the pharygobasilar fascia
scaphoid fossa an oval depression at the superior end of the lateral pterygoid plate it is the site of origin of the tensor veli palatini m.
pterygoid hamulus hook-like projection from the inferior end of the medial pterygoid plate it acts as a pulley for the tendon of the tensor veli palatini m.
pterygoid canal canal that occurs at the junction of the greater wing, the pterygoid process and the body of the sphenoid bone it transmits the nerve of the pterygoid canal from the pterygoid region to the pterygopalatine fossa
temporal bone forming the lateral side of the skull temporal refers the passage of time, which is marked by the appearance of gray hair on the side of the head
petrous part the hard part of the temporal bone located in the floor of the cranial cavity it contains the tympanic cavity (middle ear) and the bony labyrinth of the inner ear
internal acoustic meatus the opening on the posteromedial surface of the petrous part of the temporal bone it transmits the facial n., the vestibulocochlear n., and the labyrinthine a.
facial canal a canal which courses through the petrous part of the temporal bone it transmits the facial n. from the internal acoustic meatus to the stylomastoid foramen
carotid canal a canal which courses through the petrous part of the temporal bone it transmits the internal carotid a. and the internal carotid plexus of nerves into the cranial cavity
mastoid process the process located posteroinferior to the external acoustic meatus it projects inferiorly from the junction of the petrous and squamous parts of the temporal bone; it contains the mastoid air cells that open into tympanic cavity through the mastoid antrum
tegmen tympani thin plate of bone forming the roof of the tympanic cavity located on the floor of the middle cranial fossa
jugular fossa a depression on the posterior surface of the petrous part of the temporal bone it forms the anterior margin of the jugular foramen; the occipital bone forms the posterior margin of the jugular foramen
styloid process the spike of bone that projects inferiorly from the petrous part of the temporal bone it is the attachment site for the stylohyoid, styloglossus and stylopharyngeus mm. and the stylomandibular and stylohyoid ligaments
tympanic part the part of the temporal bone consisting of the external acoustic meatus and the tympanic ring the medial 1/3 of the external acoustic meatus is bony and the lateral 2/3 is formed by cartilage
external acoustic meatus the opening in the lateral surface of the temporal bone it extends medially from the surface to the tympanic membrane; it allows sound to reach the tympanic membrane; the medial 1/3 of the external acoustic meatus is bony and the lateral 2/3 is formed by cartilage
tympanic ring the rim of bone surrounding the medial end of the external acoustic meatus it is the attachment site of the tympanic membrane
squamous part the thin flat portion of the temporal bone that constitutes the side of the skull above the ear it articulates with the parietal bone and the greater wing of the sphenoid bone at the squamous suture
zygomatic process the projection of bone that arises anterior to the external acoustic meatus it articulates with the temporal process of the zygomatic bone to form the zygomatic arch
mandibular fossa the depression located medial to the origin of the zygomatic process it articulates with the condylar process of the mandible
articular tubercle an inferior projection located anterior to the mandibular fossa dislocations of the temporomandibular joint result when the mandibular condyle slides anterior to this structure
vomer thin plate of bone forming the posteroinferior part of the nasal septum articulates superiorly with the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone and the body of the sphenoid bone; articulates inferiorly with the palatine processes of the maxilla and the horizontal plate of the palatine bone
wormian bone small irregular bone that occurs between sutures of the skull wormian bones are variable in occurrence and are especially common at the junction of the squamous suture and the lambdoid suture
zygomatic the bone that forms the cheek the zygomatic bone is frequently fractured in blows to the side of the orbit; the temporal fascia attaches to the zygomatic arch
temporal process the portion of the zygomatic bone that projects posteriorly it articulates with the zygomatic process of the temporal bone to form the zygomatic arch
frontal process the portion of the zygomatic bone that projects superiorly and medially it forms the inferior part of the lateral orbital margin and the anteroinferior part of the lateral orbital wall; it articulates with the frontal bone anteriorly and the greater wing of the sphenoid bone posteriorly
maxillary process the part of the zygomatic bone that projects medially it forms the lateral part of the inferior orbital margin and the anterolateral part of the orbital floor; it articulates with the maxilla
zygomaticofacial foramen a small opening on the lateral surface of the zygomatic bone it transmits the zygomaticofacial n.


Some of the material presented in these tables is contained in the book:
MedCharts Anatomy by Thomas R. Gest and Jaye Schlesinger
Published by ILOC, Inc., New York. Copyright 1995.

The content of these tables has been edited for use in this course by Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D.
Copyright 2009, Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Unauthorized use is prohibited.



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