Frontal sinuses and human evolution

Antoine Balzeau*, Lou Albessard-Ball, Anna Maria Kubicka, Andréa Filippo, Amélie Beaudet, Elena Santos, Thibault Bienvenu, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Antonis Bartsiokas, Lee Berger, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Michel Brunet, Kristian J. Carlson, Joan Daura, Vassilis G. Gorgoulis, Frederick E. Grine, Katerina Harvati, John Hawks, Andy Herries, Jean Jacques HublinJiaming Hui, Rachel Ives, Josephine A. Joordens, Yousuke Kaifu, Mirsini Kouloukoussa, Baptiste Léger, David Lordkipanidze, Ann Margvelashvili, Jesse Martin, María Martinón-Torres, Hila May, Aurélien Mounier, Anton du Plessis, Todd Rae, Carolin Röding, Montserrat Sanz, Patrick Semal, Dominic Stratford, Chris Stringer, Mirriam Tawane, Heiko Temming, Evangelia Tsoukala, João Zilhão, Bernhard Zipfel, Laura T. Buck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The frontal sinuses are cavities inside the frontal bone located at the junction between the face and the cranial vault and close to the brain. Despite a long history of study, understanding of their origin and variation through evolution is limited. This work compares most hominin species' holotypes and other key individuals with extant hominids. It provides a unique and valuable perspective of the variation in sinuses position, shape, and dimensions based on a simple and reproducible methodology. We also observed a covariation between the size and shape of the sinuses and the underlying frontal lobes in hominin species from at least the appearance of Homo erectus. Our results additionally undermine hypotheses stating that hominin frontal sinuses were directly affected by biomechanical constraints resulting from either chewing or adaptation to climate. Last, we demonstrate their substantial potential for discussions of the evolutionary relationships between hominin species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabp9767
JournalScience advances
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 2022


FundersFunder number
Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour
Department of Archaeology
Human Origins Research Fund
Leakey Trust
University of Roehampton
Primate Society of Great Britain
Calleva Foundation
European Research Council101019659, ERC-CoG-724703
European Research Council
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftDFG FOR 2237
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Agence Nationale de la RechercheANR-20-CE27-0009
Agence Nationale de la Recherche
Fondation Fyssen
Shota Rustaveli National Science FoundationYS-21-1595
Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation
Ministerio de Ciencia e InnovaciónPGC2018-093925-B-C31
Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Universitetet i Bergen


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