Median occipital fossa: is it really a sign of crime or simply an anatomical variant?

Domenico Chirchiglia, Pasquale Chirchiglia, Rosa Marotta


Anatomical variants are alterations of the form, thickness, length, width, position of organs and anatomic structures that can cause problems of a functional nature. They can be vascular, bony, muscular and more. They represent anomalies that may cause disturbances or do not cause changes in functions. The criminologist Cesare Lombroso had correlated the anatomical variations to the criminal tendency. The most emblematic case was that related to the alleged brigand Villella, on which Lombroso, performing the autopsy, found in the skull the so-called medial occipital fossa or a third dimple. He stated that the median occipital dimple was considered a sign of atavism, the expression of the criminal. In fact all the anatomical variants described by Lombroso are variations of normality. No one ever said that anatomical variants were a sign of crime. In conclusion, anatomical variants cannot be related to crime tendency, therefore the debated median occipital fossa is only and simply an anatomical variant.


anatomy; anatomical variants; median occipital fossa; Cesare Lombroso

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