Occipital bone

The occipital bone is one of the cranial bones of the head.


The occipital bone is located at the back (posterior) and base of the cranium, where it forms the back of the skull.

In simple layman's terms, the location of the occipital bone can be described as the 'lower back of the head'.


The functions of the occipital bone include:

  • The occipital bone has a large opening called the Foramen Magnus which the spinal cord passes through.
  • The occipital condyles , which are rounded surfaces at the base of the occipital bone, articulate with the atlas (the first vertebra of the spine), enabling movement of the head relative to the spine.
  • Mechanical protection of the brain, which is a function that the occipital bone performs in conjunction with other bones of the skull.

See notes about, and labelled diagrams of, all human cranial and facial bones on one page.

More about Bones and the Skeletal System:

This website includes many pages about bones and the skeletal system. The following pages may be of interest. These also link to further pages about related topics such as specific types of fractures, bone diseases and so on.

For further information see also our pages of books about orthopaedics.

Click for more pages about Bones

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