29 Reconstructed Faces Of Ancient People From The Neanderthals To Jesus

Scientists and artists worked together to create these reconstructed faces of ancient humans — and the results are astonishing.

Our ability to reconstruct the likenesses of long-dead humans has made immeasurable progress in recent decades. With detailed computer programs, DNA studies, and advanced technologies like 3D printing — the margin of error in scientifically reconstructed faces is shrinking. The result is stunning lifelike portraits of ancient people who left this Earth thousands upon thousands of years ago.

Facial reconstruction is a delicate mix of science and art. As such, the pendulum can swing too much one way and affect the end result. Too much science and faces can be sterile and unmoving. Let artistic license take over, and reconstructions can be scientifically inaccurate.

So how do experts create these reconstructions and what do they expect to find from them?

The Art Of Reconstructed Faces

Scientists and artists often use a 3D-printed skull they gleaned from either fragments of ancient humans or if they’re lucky an entire skull. They then take every detail into consideration; radiocarbon dating, dental plaque, and DNA analysis to determine the color of the subject’s eyes, skin, and hair.

Some digital portraits are done using only a computer. Others are rendered in three dimensions by artists using clay and similar materials alongside this research. These artists use precise measurements and their knowledge of facial muscles to build an accurate model.

Sometimes an exact replica of a skull is used when the original needs to be kept. This involves lots of photos, digital rendering, and 3D printing or casting. Specialized forensic artists use all these same measures on contemporary skulls as well to help identify murder victims.

Hundreds of hours can go into one reconstruction. This begs the question — are they worth doing? In the case of a murder investigation, reconstructions are sometimes last-ditch efforts when there is no DNA, dental records, or photographs. However, when the identity is truly unknown, putting a face on a victim can be the difference between a cold case and a closed one.

But what about ancient people? How does it help us to learn about their physical appearance?

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