Vol 74, No 4 (2015)
Original article
Published online: 2015-11-27

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A case of elongated styloid process in a modern-age skull from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela

P. Dąbrowski, S. Gronkiewicz, D. Soliński, A. Pers, K. Lachowski, Z. Domagała
DOI: 10.5603/FM.2015.0110
Pubmed: 26620508
Folia Morphol 2015;74(4):475-478.


Background: The styloid process (SP) arises from cartilage of the second branchial arch and tends to calcify during later life. If the length of the SP is more than 30 mm, it can be considered abnormally elongated. Clinical symptoms associated with elongation of this type are defined as Eagle’s syndrome. The paper presents a case of an elongated SP in a modern skull from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, obtained from a series of skulls of African slaves kept at the Department of Anthropology, Polish Academy of Sciences in Wroclaw.

Materials and methods: The skull belonged to a male individual, aged ca. 55 years at death (maturus). In terms of basic anthropometric features it had slightly greater facial width parameters in comparison to the cerebral part, and a shorter length of neurocranium when compared to average values of morphological features in African skulls from Uganda.

Results: Further macroscopic analysis revealed the presence of an elongated SP (ca. 70.1 mm) with secondary lesions remaining after a healed fracture. Imaging of the bone structure of the elongated SP was carried out using a computed to­mography scan, with multilevel image analysis without contrast. The elongation and calcification of the left ligament in anterior orientation could have caused irritation to the structure of cranial nerves, running within the parapharyngeal space, and to sympathetic fibres running in the wall of cervical arteries.

Conclusions: Analyses of craniological materials recovered during excavations or as part of old osteological collections are rare due to the fragility of this bone structure, and for that reason they may be a valuable source of information on the health status of historic human populations.