Neck Appreciation Post IV – Bones

It had to be covered at some point, and the bones of the neck are an interesting little bunch indeed. Running from the base of your skull all the way down to the base of your neck is a neat row of bones encased in all the other stuff going on there. These bones are small and delicate, especially compared to some of the other bones in the spine, and I’d like to take a look at them now.

The cervical spine is the section of the spine at the top, and it is what holds your skull up and aids the mobility of the neck. There are seven vertebrae that complete this cervical spine with each one being named C1, C2, C3 etc. These vertebrae are distinguishable from other vertebrae in that they are more triangular than those in the thoracic or lumbar regions. They also have a very defined spinous process (the bit sticking out at the back) which splits into two, or is bifid. C3-7 look very similar and can be difficult to clearly tell apart.

Image from

C1 and C2 however are slightly different and are quite easy to distinguish. Due to their function of articulating with the skull and allowing you to rotate your head, they have some very identifying features and are also given their own individual names.

C1 is known as the atlas and sits right at the top of the spine below the skull. It’s is quite thin and delicate with a large hole, or foremen, in the centre. I think it almost looks like a jaw from a giant mouthed sea creature and always reminds me of those. I’m not sure why, I guess it has that kind of shape. There are facets on this bone to connect with the skull above and C2 below.

See what I mean? I’m not sure why he’s sat in it but I think it’s from an ancient creature and it’s for scale! Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and

C2 is better know as the axis and it’s main function is for rotation. It has a little protruding bump at the posterior of the bone with extends and articulates with C1. This allows the rotating functioning so you can turn your head. I bet you’re doing that right now; and if not then why not?

Image from

There is one other bony structure in the neck that is worth mentioning and that is the hyoid bone. This bone is quite commonly known as it has a tendency to break easily, particularly in hangings or strangulations. I quite like the hyoid bone because sometimes it is small and delicate, other times it sticks out massively and makes removal of the tongue quite difficult. The sticky out bits of the hyoid bone are it’s lesser and greater horns, it looks a bit like it has a set of antlers almost protruding out from the body of it.

That completes our exploration of the bones of the neck. They are quite fascinating for many reasons, they are delicate and strong all at the same time. Interestingly I have, a few times, witnessed someone in the mortuary who has been ‘internally decapitated’ which before starting this job I never even knew was a thing. This is where the skull is completely dislocated from the spine and is fascinating to see as there is often little to no indication externally and is nearly always from a high amount of trauma. The neck is always interesting!

MG x

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