An anthropologist has successfully recreated the face of a woman, who lived 600 years ago in New Zealand, with the help of a skull excavated in 1939.

Using digital technology, facial anthropologist Susan Hayes from the University of Western Australia (UWA) determined the facial structure from Computed Tomography (CT) scans of the skull recovered from a burial site on the Wairau Bar.

Hayes was able to calculate the likely appearance of the eyes, nose, mouth and overall face shape before building up the soft tissues, starting with the main muscles that define the overall shape of the face.

“The level of accuracy is within the parameters of what she would have looked like — except for what we cannot determine from the skull such as hair or the lines on the face or character,” said Hayes.

Initially trained by Ronn Taylor, forensic sculptor for the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, while at UWA, Hayes’ has undertaken intensive training in both 3D and 2D facial reconstruction working directly with Caroline Wilkinson at the University of Dundee, said an UWA release.

Hayes’ method of undertaking a facial reconstruction has since been refined and developed to now being fully digital. Her facial reconstruction work includes six pre-adults from the Greig Collection at the Royal College of Surgeons in Scotland, which are on display in their Edinburgh Pathology Museum.

She has also reconstructed the faces of two men and two women from the Teouma Lapita excavation site in Vanuatu, where she worked with archaeologists and biological anthropologists from ANU, the University of Paris and the University of Otago.

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