Let's Talk Medicine
The occipital bone is situated at the back and lower part of the cranium, is trapezoid in shape and curved on itself. It is pierced by a large oval aperture, the foramen magnum, through which the cranial cavity communicates with the vertebral canal. The curved, expanded plate behind the foramen magnum is named the squama; the thick, somewhat quadrilateral piece in front of the foramen is called the basilar part, whilst on either side of the foramen is the lateral portion.
Surfaces.—The external surface is convex and presents midway between the summit of the bone and the foramen magnum a prominence, the external occipital protuberance. Extending lateralward from this on either side are two curved lines, one a little above the other. The upper, often faintly marked, is named the highest nuchal line, and to it the galea aponeurotica is attached. The lower is termed the superior nuchal line.
That part of the squama which lies above the highest nuchal lines is named the planum occipitale, and is covered by the Occipitalis muscle; that below, termed the planum nuchale, is rough and irregular for the attachment of several muscles. From the external occipital protuberance a ridge or crest, the median nuchal line, often faintly marked, descends to the foramen magnum, and affords attachment to the ligamentum nuchæ; running from the middle of this line across either half of the nuchal plane is the inferior nuchal line.
Several muscles are attached to the outer surface of the squama, thus: the superior nuchal line gives origin to the Occipitalis and Trapezius, and insertion to the Sternocleidomastoideus and Splenius capitis: into the surface between the superior and inferior nuchal lines the Semispinalis capitis and the Obliquus capitis superior are inserted, while the inferior nuchal line and the area below it receive the insertions of the Recti capitis posteriores major and minor. The posterior atlantoöccipital membrane is attached around the postero-lateral part of the foramen magnum, just outside the margin of the foramen.