Child's Nervous System

, Volume 23, Issue 12, pp 1357–1365 | Cite as

Cranial shape and size variation in human evolution: structural and functional perspectives

  • Emiliano BrunerEmail author
Original Paper


A glimpse into modern paleoanthropology

In the last decades, paleoanthropology has been deeply modified, changing from a descriptive and historical science to a more quantitative and analytical discipline. The covariation of multiple traits is investigated to study the evolutionary changes of the underlying anatomical models, mostly through the introduction of digital biomedical imaging procedures and of computed geometrical analyses supported by multivariate statistics.

Functional craniology

The evolution of the human cranium is consequently considered in terms of functional and structural relationships between its components, largely influenced by the allometric variations associated with the increase in the relative cranial capacity. In the human genus, the changes in the face, base, and neurocranium are characterised by a mosaic variation, in which adaptations, secondary consequences, and stochastic factors concur to generate a set of anatomical possibilities and constraints.

Systemic perspectives to the evolution of the human cranial morphology

Concepts like morphological modularity, anatomical integration, and heterochrony represent key issues in the development of the current human evolutionary studies.


Functional craniology Paleoanthropology Morphology Hominid evolution 



I am grateful to Concezio di Rocco and Gianpiero Tamburrini for having invited me to the 2006 Consensus Conference on Pediatric Neurosurgery and Craniosynostosis, and to write this contribution. The research on functional craniology and endocranial anatomy is developed in collaboration with the Laboratory of Human Anatomy of the Instituto Universitario di Scienze Motorie of Roma (IUSM), directed by Maurizio Ripani, and supported by the IUSM grant 16142/01. This paper is partially supported by the Italian Institute of Anthropology (ISITA).


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© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio di Anatomia FunzionaleIstituto Univesitario di Scienze MotorieRomaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto Italiano di Antropologia, Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’UomoUniversità La SapienzaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH)BurgosEspaña

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