Here’s that sheep-skull multiview you ordered

October 5, 2014

Remember I picked up those three sheep skulls (and some other bones, including a complete neck) from a shallow pit in a field near where we live? Here is first of the skulls, cleaned up and photographed in orthogonal views.


It’s interesting to compare it to the pig skull from way back:


Sheep and pigs are both perfectly well-behaved artiodactyls, but their skulls are dramatically different. The pig is extraordinarily more robust, and has absolutely massive jaw-muscle fossae.

The sheep would have been difficult to prepare by the usual simmer-and-slice method — too easy to damage, especially inside the nasal cavity, where the respiratory turbinates are very fragile. The pig is a much easier proposition. I was able to clean out its nasal cavity just by running water through it at fairly high pressure, without doing any damage.

For anyone who wants to get into skull preparation, I definitely recommend starting with a pig.

13 Responses to “Here’s that sheep-skull multiview you ordered”

  1. I prepped a youngish pig’s skull the old-fashioned way, utilising a couple of weeks’ warm weather and half a pint of maggots from an angling shop. I started with a complete head, from a butcher, but this younger animal’s skull was still pretty fragile, and some teeth simply fell out once the tissue disintegrated. I was a bit surprised by how small and gracile this particular skull was, given the large size of the fleshed head.

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Dude, that is, and I don’t say this lightly, awesome. I have a shelf full of osteology books with photography that good or worse, but none better. The subtle shading on the bone is just amazing. At small size (like, just filling the screen), it looks like a really nice color-shaded drawing. A full size, there is no mistaking the excellence of the photography.

    Am I gushing? Very well, so I am. This is beyond. Thanks for posting.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks! I guess with that in mind, I ought to do the same for my rabbit, squirrel, etc (and of course the cat once the inverts have finished with that).

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Come to think of it, I’ve never done a multiview of my ostrich’s assembled skull, although I do have them of almost all the individual bones.

  5. Andy Farke Says:

    I second Matt’s comments…you have now illustrated these two skulls better than a good percentage of the complete dinosaur skulls out there. Great lighting, great focus and depth of field–aces across the board!

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Andy! (And Matt.) Inspired by your positive comments, I am now planning to do the same for my wallaby, and starting to wonder there might be a market for a nicely-produced coffee-table book of skull multi-views.

  7. Matt Wedel Says:

    I am now planning to do the same for my wallaby


    and starting to wonder there might be a market for a nicely-produced coffee-table book of skull multi-views.

    Yes, there is a market. I know this because I have on the order of half a dozen coffee-table books that are just pretty pictures of bones — and this is not counting actual anatomical atlases like the White & Folkens Human Osteology.

    I don’t know how many skulls you’d need to flesh out a volume like that. Maybe not that many — I’d think that you’d want one page for the multi-view, and then several subsequent pages for each of the individual views. Maybe a whole 2-page spread for each individual view, with the unaltered photo on the left and a key on the right with the sutures traced and the bones, features, and foramina labeled. So potentially 12 pages per skull. Ten skulls would be 120 pages, which on nice thick paper and with some introductory and closing material does not sound too light for a coffee-table book.

    That strikes me as something you could release piecemeal as a series of preprints or perhaps actual papers (I’m sure there’s room in scholarly publishing for photographic mini-atlases of skulls), and still do as a big, nicely-produced book later on for people who want the physical object. I know where you could sell the first two or three copies, and that’s just in my nuclear family.

  8. […] the sheep skull ten days ago, here is Logan the wallaby in all his […]

  9. Nathan Parker Says:

    I would absolutely buy such a book too. I have a couple of skull books, but their utility is hampered by the “artistically” composed and often quite small photos.

    The book might be a tough sell to a publisher, but you could Kickstart it easily enough.

  10. […] [Update: Here’s that sheep-skull multiview you ordered] […]

  11. […] The process of reassembling my cat skull continues. I now have the sphenoid and both nasals now back in place, and the time has come for the now-traditional multiview. (Previous examples: pig skull, wallaby skull, sheep skull. […]

  12. […] because the very first part in our ongoing series Things to Make and Do. In a subsequent post with a sheep-skull multiview, I included the multiview of that pig skull, too. Here it […]

  13. […] notch is something I think of as being present in some (but by no means all) Sheep specimens (e.g. take a look at the dorsal view in Mike Taylor’s fantatsic SV-POW! blogpost featuring a ve…). When I checked with a couple of my own specimens, I think I can just make out where this mystery […]

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