Inside, looking out: Virtual methods applied to the cranial cavities in the study of human evolution

Colloquium by Costantino Buzi

Time: Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 1pm sharp

Zoom link:
Meeting-ID: 968 3028 1812
Password: 825970

Speaker: Costantino Buzi, PhD. He joined the center last year as a long-term fellow.

Title: Inside, looking out: Virtual methods applied to the cranial cavities in the study of human evolution

The cranium is a complex structure, reflecting its many functions. It encloses crucial organs and tissues, like the brain, the medium and inner ear, the optic nerves, etc. For this reason, when we deal with fossil remains, ‘empty’ shapes inside the cranium carry a highly informative value. Before the discovery of x-rays and the subsequent rise of digital imaging, the study of endocranial cavities was limited and invasive (or often destructive). It is nowadays easier to extract more and better data from these cavities, even though some traditional techniques are prone to errors and/or repeatability issues (e.g. segmentation). New techniques of Virtual Anthropology have been recently designed to overcome these problems and improve the quality of the data. With these new methods, is becoming clearer how cavities like maxillary sinuses can concur to the external morphology of the facial skeleton in providing data of considerable importance for the study of the human evolution. Of crucial importance is also the morphology of the nasal cavity, which, on the other hand, carries the inherent issue to be a very fragile structure, rarely preserved in the fossil record. It is ironic – like many cases of palaeoanthropology – that the only preserved nasal cavity in the fossil record belongs to a Neanderthal specimen from Southern Italy that is impossible to digitally acquire to date. New digital solutions have been put in place to overcome this issue and characterise, at least in part, this important source of information.