This is the reconstructed face of a Stone Age beauty unseen for 31,000 years ago – and she seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to a famous modern-day screen star.
The haughty bearing, penetrating eyes and long, dark hair seems to recall Catherine Zeta Jones in her Darling Buds TV days.
The astonishing reconstruction from a Stone Age skull is the work of Cicero Moraes, a professional forensic facial reconstruction 3D modeller from Brazil.
The skull – known as the Mladec woman – was named after the cave in which it was found in 1881 in what is now the Czech Republic.
It was originally classed as a man by early researchers.
But – some 140 years later – the ‘Mladec 1’ skull, as it is known officially, has been shown to be a female who was about 17-years-old when she died.
Now Moraes, who now has nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook alone, has completely rebuilt the face of this prehistoric woman from the early Stone Age.
His new study of the skull – now part of a book titled ‘The Forensic Facial Approach to the Skull Mladec 1’ – was co-authored by Moraes, along with Jiri Sindelar, a surveyor working with local surveying company GEO-CZ, and Karel Drbal, deputy director of the Cave Administration of the Czech Republic.
Their work has also recently been highlighted by Live Science.
The experts did CT scans of the skull to create a 3D model of it and find out what it would have looked like back in the Upper Palaeolithic, which was from 43,000 to 26,000 years ago.
Moraes said that “when the skull was analysed individually, the features pointed to a male” but he added that “when later studies compared the skull with others found at the site, the evidence pointed to a female.”
Moraes had to use existing data from modern-day human jaws to help determine what the woman might have looked like because the skull’s lower jaw – or mandible -was missing.
He told Newsflash in an exclusive interview: “Mladec’s skull does not have a mandible, so we had to reconstruct it and for that we used average statistical data and projections extracted from about 200 computerised tomography scans of modern humans and from archaeological excavations belonging to different population groups (Europeans, Africans and Asians).
“There were no major difficulties for this task, as the technique is well established in our research and we have already used it in other fields besides forensic facial approximation, but also in digital surgical planning, as it allows us to project regions absent from the human face.
“Once we had the complete skull, a series of soft tissue thickness markers were spread across the skull, these markers roughly indicating the skin boundaries in some regions of the face.
“Although these markers come from statistical data extracted from living individuals, they do not cover the entire face and do not inform the size of the nose, mouth and eyes, for example.
“To fill this gap, we make projections, from other methods, but also based on statistical data extracted from living individuals.
“However, even with all these projections, they do not completely cover the face and still have certain margins of error. To complement the data, we imported CT scans of living subjects and deformed the bones and soft tissue from the CT scan to match the face being approximated.
“In the case of the Mladec 1 fossil, we deformed two CT scans, one of a man and one of a woman, and the two converged to a very similar result.”
Moraes, who said he works with the police as well as with archaeologists, explained that they had to take some artistic liberties when recreating the Mladec woman’s face due to some data that simply does not exist.
He said: “We don’t have skin pigmentation data, so we created two images for the Mladec 1 face, one more scientific and objective in grayscale, without hair and hair, with eyes closed, and another more subjective for presentation to the general public, with hair and skin pigmentation.”
Speaking about the differences between people back then and people now, Moraes added: “In general, there are no differences, what we see in older individuals from thousands of years ago is that they had more worn-out teeth, partly due to lack of care, due to food containing elements that are more stressful to the structure and partly because of using them. as a tool, a common practice in some peoples.
“In the case of the Mladec 1 fossil, the element of greatest curiosity was the robust structure that made the first analyses indicate the male sex. It was only later, when comparing with other fossils found at the site, that it became clear that it was a woman.”
Moraes, talking about his background, said: “In 2011, I was assaulted and got into a physical fight with two thieves to protect my family. Both were armed. Despite causing them to run – I was unarmed, I was quite shaken and scared by what happened, because I was shot in the head by a few centimetres, but it did not hit the brain.
“So, to deal with this psychological shock resulting from the unpleasant experience, I decided to study a subject that I liked and facial approximation was my chosen subject. Not only was I able to overcome that psychological turmoil, but I went on to work professionally in the field.”
Speaking about his profession, Moraes said: “Facial approximation is the most popular and mediatic aspect of my work, I develop technology for surgical planning that corrects facial deformities, I design facial prostheses for people who have lost structures due to cancer and I also design veterinary prostheses, one of these prosthetics is even listed in the Guinness Book as the world’s first 3D-printed tortoise shell.”
Speaking about the challenges that life has thrown his way, Moraes said: “Generally speaking, as a child I was very poor, I lost my father at the age of five when he committed suicide next to me, in a very violent way.
“Fortunately, I have always been very resilient, hardworking and self-taught. I managed to overcome the issue of a lack of resources by studying on my own and learning my professions.”
He said that he initially worked in architecture from the age of 12 before becoming a 3D modeller at the age of 18.
He said that studying forensic facial approximation put him in touch with researchers around the world, adding that “thanks to that, I started working in the area of human health, from which I earn most of my livelihood.”
Moraes finds his job thoroughly rewarding and enjoys learning “the history of all these skulls”, but “always with great respect and dedication.”
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