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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, 3D designer from Brazil, tried to recreate the face of a teenager who lived in the Upper Palaeolithic. 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 of determining the biological sex were not as developed as 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 the face of this man. In addition, the individual’s mandible was already missing, which posed some problems in rendering the lower face.

The technology to reconstruct that ancient face

Following new analyses, the sexual diagnosis of the individual from the Mladeč cave has been rectified from a male to a female biological sex. In addition, the young woman was 17 years old at the time of her death. In 2021, the skull of one of the oldest discoveries ofHomo sapiens in Europe is scanned and put online by the Museum of Natural History 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 lot of data on it. The next step was to compare data on 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 on the faces of 17-year-old girls. As for the nose or the lips, these are impossible to determine. Their shapes are suggestions based on various data.

Results between studies and artistic views

Two 3D results are presented to the public. One not colorized where the individual is presented without hair and closed eyes. The other is colorized with hair and open eyes. It is nevertheless important to remember that apart from in-depth genetic analyses, the color of skin, eyes and hair, not to mention their texture, are artistic choices made by the teams behind this type of work. . Ditto for the facial expressions that are chosen by the artists.

Facial reconstructions of skulls provide a tangible basis for recreating the faces of individuals, often with the aim of humanizing people who lived several thousand years ago. It is important to keep in mind that these results remain 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.