This article provides an overview of the complex embryologic development and anatomic relationships of the cranial base. The processes of neural cell migration, and chondrocranial base formation and ossification are discussed. In addition, the relative sectional anatomy is addressed with the goal of providing a functional review for clinicians dealing with cranial base disorders. The complex influences of the surrounding matrix and diffusible factors involved in skull base development are sources of continuing investigation. Through elucidation of the mechanisms of basal cranial development, the understanding of congenital and pathologic disorders of this area as well as cranial base influence on facial growth will be enhanced greatly.