Skulls from the Morton collection at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. Photography by Jonah Rosenberg and Lyndon French

Our Skulls Are Out-Evolving Us

A motley crew of scientists argue that our ever-shrinking skulls are wreaking havoc on our well-being

Over the last 250 years, our skulls have morphed in dangerous and troubling ways.

Slides courtesy of Kevin Boyd
The age of the individual crania in the Morton collection ranges from several thousands years old to as recent as 250 years old. Photo by Jonah Rosenberg
Janet Monge, the Keeper of Collections, Physical Anthropology Section at the Penn Museum. Photo by Jonah Rosenberg
Slides courtesy of Kevin Boyd
Perfect occlusion of the teeth was the norm up to about 250 years ago. Photo by Jonah Rosenberg
Dr. Kevin Boyd at his pediatric dental practice in Chicago. Photo by Lyndon French
Our smaller faces do the most harm in one area crucial to physical and mental health: our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Photos by Lyndon French

“When children don’t sleep, they’re cranky, moody, their expressive language is all impaired.”

A child getting 3D x-rays at Dr. Boyd’s office. To Boyd, any time you see crowding or potential problems on the horizon, it’s a signal to expand the mouth now. Photo by Lyndon French
Changing our sleeping and breathing habits can transform our physical and mental health. It all begins in our jaw, mouth and throat anatomy, which shape the path of each breath. Photos by Lyndon French
Dr. Boyd and like-minded researchers hope to extract the knowledge embedded in the museum’s skulls and bones and use it to better document how human skulls have evolved. Jonah Rosenberg

We have to adapt, and adapt quickly, to our changing physiology — or risk the consequences.

Journalist writing about science, children, mental health, race, gender, disability, education and related topics. Author of The Good News About Bad Behavior.

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