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Examining the skulls of living apes and our extinct ancestors allows us to explore characteristics which reflect the evolutionary relationships in our family tree. These skulls are all casts of original fossils.

The ancestors of today's modern apes (gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, chimpanzees and humans) first appeared in the fossil record about 27 million years ago. By examining their skulls we can explore characteristics which reflect their evolutionary relationships.

More information on skulls

Australopithecines: hominins characterized by relatively small brains, large cheek teeth, a skeleton with some ape-like features and little evidence of culture.

Cranial capacity: the capacity or size of the brain case and therefore the brain.

Dental arcade: the shape made by the rows of teeth in the upper jaw.

Foramen magnum: the great hole in the underside of the skull that forms a passage from the brain cavity to the spinal canal.

Homo species: hominins characterised by relatively and absolutely large brains, a modern skeleton, reduced tooth and jaw size and an involvement in cultural activities.

Inferred culture: the material evidence that indicates that a species had developed a way of living that was passed on from one generation to another.

mya: million years ago

unifacial: having one worked side

ya: years ago