The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Sagittal suture complexity and its relationship to cranial shape and cranial vault thickness


Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Research suggests that increased suture complexity results from increased mechanical loading of the cranium. In addition to the role of loads created by masticatory musculature, postural muscles and other sources, the exact cause of the increased complexity requires further analysis. Most studies only examine muscle or molecular activity, but fail to examine structural features of the neurocranium that may affect suture complexity. For example, the neurocranim is best modeled as a shell in which morphology can be related to an array of biomechanical variables. Thus, changes in head shape should result in predictable morphological changes, such as suture complexity. This study investigates the relationship between sagittal suture complexity, head shape, and vault thickness. The sagittal suture was traced and digitized using a temporally and geographically heterogeneous sample of crania (n = 29). Sagittal suture complexity was estimated by calculating relative suture length (RL) along the entire suture (total RL). Additionally, the suture was divided into thirds and RL calculated for each segment. Standard linear osteometric measurements are used to calculate four indices reflecting head shape. Mean vault thickness was calculated from 17 landmarks.

No statistically significant relationships were found between total RL and the morphometric variables examined for this sample, although there is some indication of an association between cranial breadth and total RL. In addition, there are differences in RL along the sagittal suture segments. It is hypothesized that the pattern differences along the sagittal suture are due to the interplay between the temporalis muscle insertion and cranial breath.

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