Calvarium: Definition, Bones & Anatomy

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson is going to go over the calvarium. You'll learn exactly what it is, the bones it's composed of, and where these bones are located anatomically speaking.

Terminology of the Head

Your head is, well, your head. You can point to it and touch it. The head, as a term, isn't difficult to understand in layman's terms. It's the part of your body that sits on your neck.

However, in science, what we very generally term the head actually has numerous (and sometimes confusing) terms for it. These terms include skull, calvarium, calvaria, cranium, neurocranium, and viscerocranium. What in the world is the difference between them!?

Well, we're first going to briefly define and delineate them so we can better appreciate, learn, and distinguish the calvarium from all of the other terms related to the head.

Confusing Bony Terminology of the Head

Skull is a word whose origins lie in various meanings, like shell, bald head, or bowl. And which part of our head is most like those terms? The part that creates a hollow space for the brain to sit in. In other words, but in a limited sense only, the skull is a word that is sometimes used to describe solely the bony part of the head that encloses the brain. However, more technically today, the skull refers to all of the bones of the head. Depending on the definition, this sometimes includes the 6 ear bones (auditory ossicles) and hyoid bone as well.

Because the Greek term for skull is kranion, or cranium today, the terms cranium and skull are sometimes used synonymously. As a result, and as a reflection of the prior paragraph, cranium may refer to only the bones that encase the brain or all of the bones of the head, depending on the author.

But again, in a technical sense today, the cranium is the skull minus the lower jaw (the mandible).

The skull is divided into two main parts:

1. The neurocranium, which involves the bones that encase and protect the brain.

2. The viscerocranium, which are the bones of the facial skeleton (including the mandible).

Calvarium Definition

So what then, is the calvarium? Alas, this term is of common confusion as well. We need to clear it up in light of everything else. The calvarium is technically the part of the skull that protects the brain. In other words, it's the neurocranium.

However, the term calvarium is sometimes used, albeit incorrectly, to refer to calvaria. Calvaria is a word that refers to the top, dome-like roof of the skull, the skullcap. The confusion probably stems from the fact that the Latin word for skull is calvaria, and as you already know, the term skull can mean multiple things to different people.

Calvarium Bones & Anatomy

The calvarium (neurocranium) is thus composed of 8 bones:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account