Archaeologists Just Reconstructed the Face of a 500-Year-Old Corpse in Stunning Detail

Friday, 30 June 2017 - 12:36PM
Weird Science
Technology
Friday, 30 June 2017 - 12:36PM
Archaeologists Just Reconstructed the Face of a 500-Year-Old Corpse in Stunning Detail
Image credit: FaceLab/Liverpool John Moores University/Lusacrosscity
Some 500 years ago, a man without much to his name, now known only as SK2, lived in Dublin. His skeleton was found along with the remains of 4 adolescents without coffins in shallow graves in what was once known as Hoggen Green. Color photographs did not yet exist 500 years ago—in fact, no type of photograph yet existed. So...how do we have a clear and detailed image of SK2's face?


Image Credit: FaceLab/Liverpool John Moores University/Lusacrosscity

New tech is allowing for digital facial reconstruction that is so advanced, you'd swear it brought the dead to life. SK2's results were so incredible in part because his skull had been found in great shape. After 3D scanning the skull, the team used their expertise and specialized software to fill in the muscles, tissue, and skin of the face.

Additionally, historical analysis of illustrations of Irish people who lived around the same time allowed the team to add details like facial hair. Now, this isn't an exact image of his face, but the result is monumentally impressive. This digital resurrection takes place at the Face Lab at Liverpool John Moore's University. The researchers there have previously reconstructed the faces of ancient celebrities like Richard III, Robert the Bruce, and more. This is noteworthy because, often in historical discussions, art, and even archaeology work, the poor aren't usually the subject. Royalty, and other famous figures are often the center of research and deliberation.


Image Credit: FaceLab/Liverpool John Moores University/Lusacrosscity

This reconstruction allowed researchers to bring SK2 back to life in images. Alongside this, skeletal and isotopic analysis allowed scientists to peer into his life. They were able to ascertain that he was most likely 25-35 years old and 5 foot 6 inches tall (short only by current averages). They were able to tell that, as a child, he was malnourished, and this difficult life continued into adulthood as he was shown to have performed heavy manual labor.
 
This reconstruction and advancing reconstruction technologies are opening up unexplored territories; glimpses into the past that hadn't before been possible. We don't yet have time machines or the ability to resurrect the dead, but through facial reconstruction, we can peer into the past with accuracy and detail that before we could only dream of. So, while my fingers are still crossed for the time machine, this technology and these scientists aren't letting the lack of one slow down scientific progress.
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