Thursday, 27 October 2011

Face-To-Face With an Ancient Human

ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2011) — A reconstruction based on the skull of Norway's best-preserved Stone Age skeleton makes it possible to study the features of a boy who lived outside Stavanger 7 500 years ago.

"It is hoped that this reconstruction is a good likeness and that, if someone who knew him in life had been presented with this restoration, they would hopefully have recognised the face," says Jenny Barber, an MSc student at the University of Dundee in Scotland.

She has scientifically rebuilt the face of the strong and stocky Viste Boy, who lived in the Vistehola cave near Stavanger, so that people can now look him right in the eye.

Ms Barber is studying forensic art, an unusual discipline embracing such elements as human anatomy and identification in order to recreate the appearance of an actual person.

This modelling method is primarily employed to assist police investigations, and is little known or used in Norway. But the country's most extensive reconstruction of a Stone Age skeleton has now been achieved.

Complete
Discovered in 1907, the Viste Boy represents the most complete Norwegian Stone Age skeleton and the third oldest human remains ever found in the Norway.

His dark-coloured skull and bones are currently on display in a glass case at the Archaeological Museum on the University of Stavanger (UiS).

Analyses show that the Viste Boy was approximately 15 when he died. He stood a bit less than 1.25 metres tall and probably lived in a group of 10-15 people.

From their studies of rubbish in and around Vistehola, the archaeologists determined that this clan ate fish -- mostly cod -- as well as oysters, mussels, cormorants, elk and wild pig.

They also thought that the teenager might have been sickly, which would explain his early death.

Woman
The oldest of Norway's known skeletons from the Stone Age belonged to a woman and was discovered at Søgne near Kristiansand in 1994. Her skull has been dated to 8 600 years ago.

She was the subject of Norway's first and hitherto only reconstruction of such ancient bones, which was exhibited at the University of Oslo's Museum of Art History in 1997.

This model was based on data from a series of skull X-rays, which allowed specialists at University College in London to build a three-dimensional recreation.

But reconstruction techniques are steadily improving, and the model of the Viste Boy reproduces his features differently than with the Søgne woman.

"The goal has been to create something as similar as possible to the original," explains Ms Barber. "That's what facial reconstruction is all about -- identification and recognition of a unique person."

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