Reconstruction of the face of a teenager who lived 31,000 years ago

The facial reconstruction of individuals from the past intrigues and questions both scientists and the general public. The team of Cicero Moraes, a 3D designer from Brazil, tried to recreate the face of a teenager who lived in the Upper Paleolithic. The results were recently published in an online article.

The story begins when a skull was discovered in 1881 in the Czech Republic in the cave of the Mladeč site. The methods to determine the biological sex were not as developed as they are now, the scientists of the time considered that it was an individual of male biological sex.

Thus, on the basis of an incorrect sexual diagnosis, facial reconstructions were attempted in the 1930s to recreate this man’s face. Additionally, the individual’s jaw was already missing, which posed some issues when rendering the lower part of the face.

The technology to reconstruct that ancient face

Following further analysis, the sexual diagnosis of the individual from the Mladeč cave has been rectified from a male biological sex to a female one. In addition, the young woman was 17 years old at the time of her death. In 2021, the skull from one of the oldest discoveries inHomo sapiens in Europe it is scanned and put online by the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

It is on the basis of this modeled skull that the people behind the reconstruction wanted to use forensic techniques using computer tools. The first step for the team was to restore the missing parts of the skull by measuring a large amount of data about it. The next step was to compare data from other skulls from these periods when possible. The soft parts of the face were placed taking into account the shape of the skull as well as the average levels of skin and fat observed in the faces of 17-year-old girls. As for the nose or the lips, these are impossible to determine. Its forms are suggestions based on various data.

Results between studies and artistic visions

Two 3D results are presented to the public. One not colored where the individual is presented without hair and with closed eyes. The other is colored with hair and open eyes. However, it is important to remember that, in addition to in-depth genetic analysis, the color of skin, eyes and hair, not to mention their texture, are artistic choices made by the teams behind this type of work. . The same goes for the facial expressions chosen by the artists.

Skull facial reconstructions provide a tangible basis for recreating people’s faces, often with the goal of humanizing people who lived several thousand years ago. It is important to keep in mind that these results are still proposals and not faithful portraits of people from the past and that they do not necessarily allow us to know more about their life or the conditions of their death.

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