Temporal bone | Acland's Video Atlas of Human Anatomy Skip to main content


Now that we’ve looked at the occipital bone, let’s take a look at the temporal bone. It's quite a complicated bone. To see its full extent, we'll again remove the mandible. The temporal bone goes from here on the outside, to here underneath. This is the petrous part of the temporal bone, this is the squamous part.

A prominent feature of the temporal bone is this large projection, the mastoid process. As we’ll see, it’s the origin of some of the muscles that move the head, including the sternocleidomastoid. It's easy to feel the mastoid process here, behind and below the ear.

While we're getting introduced to the temporal bone, we'll take a first look at some of its other important features, which we'll appreciate in later sections of these two tapes. We'll also meet some of the small openings through which important blood vessels, nerves and other structures enter and leave the cranium. There are many of these openings! Here, we'll just look at the openings on the outside of the temporal and occipital bones.

This is the zygomatic arch, formed largely by the temporal bone, and partly by the adjoining zygomatic bone. Here on the underside of the root of the zygomatic arch, this complex curved surface articulates with the condyle of the mandible to form the temporomandibular joint.

This is the external auditory meatus, leading to the middle ear. This long, sharp projection is the styloid process. Just at the base of the styloid is the little stylo-mastoid foramen, for the facial nerve.

Medial to the styloid process are two major openings for blood vessels: the carotid canal, passing forwards, for the internal carotid artery, and the jugular foramen, passing backwards, for the internal jugular vein. Just above the occipital condyle is the hypoglossal canal for the hypoglossal nerve.

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