Frequently Asked Questions for Atkinson Collection Researchers

Spencer R. Atkinson Library of Applied Anatomy Collection
Q: How do I apply to study the skull collection?

Applications are available to students, faculty and other qualified professionals who wish to study the collection. Download either the Pacific Student Research Request document, the Pacific Faculty Research Request document or the Visiting Scholar/Student Research Request document for instructions.

Q: What skeletal elements does the collection consist of?

The collection consists only of human cranial material. Individuals may be represented by skulls, crania or mandibles.

Q: How many skulls are in the collection?

There are approximately 1,500 skulls in the collection.

Q: What are the age ranges represented in the skull collection, and how is the individual's age at death determined?

The collection has good-sized samples of the stages of growth, from in utero to old age. Age categories based on dental eruption patterns are, approximately, as follows:

  • 50 individuals — fetal/newborn (no teeth erupted)
  • 7 individuals — 1 to 17 months (no deciduous molars erupted)
  • 185 individuals — 18 months to 5 years (dM1 erupting, to dM1, dM2 fully erupted)
  • 155 individuals — 6 to 11 years (M1 erupting to M2 just erupting)
  • 120 individuals — 12 to 18 years (M2 erupted/M3 erupting to fully erupted)
  • 900 adult individuals (adult dentition fully erupted/last molar worn)
  • 25 geriatric individuals (edentulous)
Q: Is there area-of-geographic-origin information known for the collection?

The following areas of origin are represented in the collection: Mexico (n=201 crania), India (n=24), Europe (n=23), Peru (n=10), Asia (n=6), Australia/New Zealand (n=7).

Q: Is it possible to borrow skulls from the collection?

Loans are permitted only for special circumstances. See the Collections Policy section for additional information.

Q: What is the history of the collection?

In the 1920s, Dr. Spencer R. Atkinson, an internationally renowned orthodontist, began accumulating skulls for research purposes. The collection passed to the University of the Pacific in 1964. For the complete story, read this Contact Point article (Vol. 80, No. 3, PDF).

Q: What research has been done using the collection?

A list of citations resulting from study of the collection is available here.


Dr. Dorothy Dechant, Curator
Center for Dental History and Craniofacial Study
University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry
155 Fifth Street
San Francisco, CA 94103