Forensic Facial Reconstruction
The skull provides clues to personal appearance in life. Detailed measurements of a skull provide basic information needed to determine the sex, stage in life, and ethnic origin of the deceased. With general information about the thickness and types of tissue covering the skull at various points, the forensic sculptor can create a likeness of that individual.
Sculpture Brings Victims Back to Life
The skull provides clues to personal appearance. The brow ridge, the distance between the eye orbits, the shape of the nasal chamber, the shape and projection of the nasal bones, the chin's form, and the overall profile of the facial bones all determine facial features in life.
In facial reconstruction, a sculptor, such as Amy Danning pictured at left, familiar with facial anatomy works with a forensic anthropologist, to interpret skeletal features that reveal the subject's age, sex, and ancestry, and anatomical features like facial asymmetry, evidence of injuries (like a broken nose), or loss of teeth before death.
Markers indicate the depths of tissue to be added to the skull (a cast in this case). Studies over the past century of males and females of different ancestral groups determine the measures of these depths.
Applying strips of clay, the artist begins to rebuild the face by filing in around the markers.
The artist begins to refine features around the artificial eyes.
The lips take shape.
Facial contours have been smoothed and subtle details added to accurately personalize the reconstruction.
The finished product only approximates actual appearance because the cranium does not reflect soft-tissue details (eye, hair, and skin color; facial hair; the shape of the lips; or how much fat tissue covers the bone). Yet a facial reconstruction can put a name on an unidentified body in a modern forensic case — or, in an archaeological investigation, a face on history.
Learn more about this technique and see the results: