Friday mystery object #440 answer

Last week I gave you this piece of bone to have a go at identifying:

It was a particularly difficult challenge and I’m still not 100% sure of what it is, but I was very interested to hear your thoughts.

There was a general leaning towards one of the (many) bones of the skull – although since there’s a suture running through the middle of this, it must consist of at least two different bones that have fused.

This feels right to me, since there aren’t many other parts of the skeleton consisting of fused bony plates containing foramina. But as to which bones of the skull and which animal, that’s a much more difficult identification prospect.

Unfortunately this kind of identification usually depends on a combination of familiarity with a range of skulls and comparative collections to figure it out and, I’m sad to say, that I’ve had very little opportunity to immerse myself in cranial collections for several years now and I rarely get a chance to work on comparative material these days.

The best I could come up with is this being a section from the upper internal portion of the orbit of a Sheep Ovis aries Linnaeus, 1758 (or something quite similar).

I’m thinking this partly due to the V-shaped notch in the margin of the bone, which can be hard to spot in the initial photos, so here it is from the side:

This notch is something I think of as being present in some (but by no means all) Sheep specimens (e.g. take a look at the dorsal view in Mike Taylor’s fantatsic SV-POW! blogpost featuring a very helpful Sheep skull multiview). When I checked with a couple of my own specimens, I think I can just make out where this mystery section might sit – but it’s very hard to be sure since the region is quite variable between individuals (or perhaps breed) by the looks of my specimens:

I hope that wasn’t too disappointing as a challenge, and I apologise for not offering a definitive answer, but if I manage to track down some old specimen that is missing this exact section of bone, I’ll be sure to share it here!

In the meantime, please feel free to offer more suggestions and, if you have comparative material of your own, maybe see what you think? Thanks everyone!

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