Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Webinar – Raising the Dead: How do we know what ancient humans looked like?

Archived Webinar

This Zoom webinar with Paleoartist John Gurche aired May 20, 2021, as part of the "HOT (Human Origins Today) Topic" series. Watch a recording in the player above.


Sculptures and images of ancient humans give faces to dry bones in publications and museums around the world. What clues do scientists and artists look at when bringing these faces back to life? What tales can an ancient skull tell us? In this video, Paleoartist John Gurche discusses how the present is the key to the past and comparative anatomy of living humans and apes can function as a Rosetta stone for the interpretation of fossil ancestors. He describes his detective work reconstructing ancient human faces and what it can tell us about extinct members of the human branch of the evolutionary tree.

Moderator: Briana Pobiner, paleoanthropologist and educator at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Related Resources

Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Social Studies
David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins