Mandibular condyles in archaeological contexts

Multi-headed (bifid and trifid) mandibular condyles in archaeological contexts: Two posttraumatic cases

The paper was authored by Laura González-Garrido, Susana Gómez-González, José Manuel Gonzalo-Orden, and Sofia N. Wasterlain in the Archives of Oral Biology (Volume 134, February 2022, 105326). The work can be accessed here:





Bifid and trifid mandibular condyles are infrequent morphological alterations of the mandibular condyle. With the aim of better identifying its possible causing factors in the past and provide clues on the potential types and severities of joint dysfunction that may occur if clinical intervention is not undertaken, two archaeological cases of multi-headed mandibular condyles are presented, and their possible aetiology and pathogenesis are discussed.


In this study, 143 adult mandibles recovered in the northwest of Spain were examined: 91 exhumed from San Juan Bautista church (Guardo, Palencia; 16th-19th centuries), and 52 from San Salvador de Palat de Rey church (León, 13th-19th centuries). All mandibles were observed macroscopically for the presence of any morphological and/or pathological alterations. When justified, the mandibles were also scrutinized through computed tomography.


Two isolated mandibles (n = 1, Palencia; n = 1, León) with multi-headed mandibular condyles (bifid and trifid) were identified. The computed tomography scan of the affected mandibles revealed alterations compatible with traumatic events, namely line fractures and deformations at the angle of the mandible.


Both the bifid and trifid mandibular condyles here described probably result from traumatic events during childhood leading to a posttraumatic deformation. Although no severe impairment of mandibular use was identified, some asymmetries probably resulted in some sort of malfunction, with TMJ-OA and gonial angle eversion as supporting evidence. Nevertheless, the degree of bone remodelling observed indicates that both individuals lived long after the traumatic occurrence.

Mandibular condyles in archaeological contexts

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