Cranium description (sex, age, and individual characteristics)

The cranium is often damaged or fragmented. A preparatory work such as conservation and reconstruction of damaged or missing fragments is carried out before description.

While describing a cranium, an inventory is compiled, in which, apart from registration data, antemortem and postmortem deformation and scope of restoration are specified.

After that, sex and age of the individual are determined, and the cerebral and facial parts of the cranium are described.

The description includes standard craniological characteristics along with those introduced by Gerasimov. Key areas on which reconstruction is based are described in maximal detail.

Human cranium (frontal view)Human cranium (lateral view)Neanderthal crania

The most important part of description

The description follows basic craniological principles with due attention to regularities established by Gerasimov, facial asymmetry in particular. At that stage, individual features providing a basis for a reconstructed portrait are assessed.

Sex determination

A correct sex diagnosis on the basis of external cranial features is possible in 70-80% of cases (a female skull is normally smaller, the frontal tubera are more salient, the supraorbital relief is less expressed, etc.). If postcranial bones are considered, the anatomists can diagnose the sex with greater accuracy. Gerasimov’s enormous expertise and insight allowed him to determine sex nearly unmistakably from the cranium alone.

Age determination

Based on traditional anatomical criteria (ossification of cranial base, obliteration of sutures, etc.) and the dentition, Gerasimov determined the individual’s age with remarkable accuracy (within 2-3 years, and sometimes even more accurately).

Horizontal transects through a male faceGraphical reconstructions from a male and a female crania from Oberkassel Age changes of the facial skeleton.

Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career
Mikhail Gerasimov as an Archaeologist
Reconstruction of the Face from the Cranium
The Predecessors
Elaboration of the method
Stages in the reconstruction process
Cranium description
Graphical reconstruction
Sculptural reconstruction
Fields of application
Further development of the method
“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)
Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man)
Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash
People of the Upper Paleolithic
People of the Mesolithic
People of the Early Iron Age
Drawings by M.M. Gerasimov