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

The Ford Cranial Collection: new online resources for research and education


1Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2Fashion Design, Parsons The New School for Design

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Pathology and trauma affecting the skull and dentition are of interest to researchers in both bioarchaeology and medicine. Because many congenitally and environmentally acquired conditions are rare in the general population, they tend to be underrepresented in skeletal collections available for research or education. We have developed two new online resources to make a unique collection of pathological and traumatic crania available to a wider audience.

Dr. Corydon L. Ford collected 165 crania while he was Dean of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in the late 19th century. Dr. Ford sought crania of interest to use in anatomy courses. As such, the Ford Cranial Collection includes rare congenital conditions (e.g., microcephaly and achondroplasia) and indicators of health and lifestyle (e.g. enamel hypoplasia and porotic hyperostosis). The collection represents both sexes and age groups ranging from infant to old adult.

We photographed and described each cranium and published them in the Ford Collection Database ( We also researched the causes of the symptoms observed in the skulls and published our literature reviews and accompanying bibliography in the Human Osteology Pathology and Trauma Wiki ( Both of these resources are useful tools for anthropological and medical research and education about the various conditions that can affect the skull and teeth and both are publically available.

This project was funded and given technical assistance by the UM Instructional Support Services. The repository of the collection is the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, and lent to the Department of Anthropology.

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