The Skull as the Armature of the Face: Reconstructing Ancient Faces

R. A. H. Neave and A. J. N. W. Prag

in Images and Artefacts of the Ancient World

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197262962
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734533 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

The Skull as the Armature of the Face: Reconstructing Ancient Faces

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This chapter discusses the role of the skull in forming the face and in identifying individuality, particularly in reconstructing ancient faces that bear semblance to the dead. Skulls serve as the armature of the face, where tissue, muscles and the skin are attached to form a distinct face. Whereas a surgeon removes layers of skin and tissue to reveal the skull, a medical artist builds each muscle in the skull by using well-established statistics for the flesh thickness and adds layers of clay for the skin. In general, the reconstruction of the face involves the use of a plaster cast replica of the skull. In such replicas, pegs are inserted to the cast to mark the thickness of the skull. In the whole process of face reconstruction, the skull, the medical and the pathological evidence provided by the skull and the post cranial skeleton dictate the formation of the face. In instances when the skull is absent or inaccessible, portraits found on the coffins are vital for reconstruction. While face reconstruction may seem simple, the process of reconstructing faces is a difficult task. Reconstruction of the face requires painstaking work, and knowledge of pathology, anatomy, dentistry and much more to build a case for history. Nevertheless, the painstaking work of face reconstruction is important in the field of forensics and in medical applications. Some of the cases of face reconstruction described in this chapter include the face reconstruction of Phillip II of Macedon, the face reconstruction of the Great Harwood case, the recreation of the faces of the Grave Gamma and the Seianti.

Keywords: skull; face; reconstructing ancient faces; armature of the face; reconstruction; Great Harwood; portraits; Grave Gamma; Phillip II of Macedon; Seianti

Chapter.  10428 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Archaeological Methodology and Techniques

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