June 13, 2009

Forensic reconstruction of Oberkassel female skull

There is also a NSFW-ish picture of the reconstruction in the paper. Not sure if this level of depigmentation is warranted for this time frame.

Related: a reconstruction of a Neolithic Italian from Quinzano culture by the same authors.


Marco Silvestri, Giancarlo Tomezzoli


Because our technique of facial reconstruction proved to be successful, we decided to apply it to a skull of an older female subject preserved at the Paläontologisches Museum in Munich (Germany). The skull was found in Oberkassel bei Bonn (Germany), its age is 10,500 years. It appears that the skull is well reconstructed, complete, not much deformed, without traces of severe illnesses. The subject was a woman aged probably 15-25 years. The causes of the death cannot be determined. Because, also in this case, the skull does not appear too dissimilar from the skulls of the present people, and because, as far as can be understood the subject was healthy, it is reasonable to assume that the thickness of the soft tissues on the different portions of the skull was not dissimilar from that of today’s young Central European women and/or young American women of Central European origins. For the pigmentation, according to current statistics, we assumed fair skin and light coloured eyebrows, hair, and eyes. The reconstructed female face looks not dissimilar from the faces of today’s central European female subjects. However, in the light of the well-reconstructed state of the skull and of our reasonable assumptions on pigmentation, we can say that the reconstructed 3D face model and its artistic representation are good approximations of the facial aspect of a girl who lived at the time of the Würm Ice Age.


Anonymous said...

Facial reconstruction seems to progressing in the right direction; the use of computer software to make corrections for post mortem deformations and damage, and to apply soft tissues is the right way ahead. Progressive.

What I don't understand is the reasoning for using today's populations in the regions where the skeletons were buried as templates for appearance, and for colouring. It would be more logical to make a number of simulations with differing soft tissue thicknesses considering the climate of the that time, and different colourings but more on the dark side than the fair side. A general olive range, and dark brown hair with medium brown eyes would have been more realistic. There have been suggestions that pigmention in Europeans did not lighten until after the entry of Caucasoids with wagons, horses and herds of cattle into Europe, with or without early stage I.E languages. Anyhow light coloured hair and skin are probably no where near 10.5 ky old. Light eyes maybe be much older.

I am curious as to the reason why the man with the "Cro Magnoid" skull was not reconstructed instead of the female child with the gracile features. Maybe giving a rugged primitive man that silly blond coloured hair would look laughable and ridiculous.

Urselius said...

As has been said the nasal opening is too wide and the nasal root also too wide and low to give the reconstructed nose.

The jaw is quite deep and robust for a female and I'm not sure that this is reflected in the reconstruction. The forehead of the recostruction is smooth despite the inner margins of the sura-orbital region being quite prominent in the skull - perhaps connected with expanded sinuses - due to cold air adaption or pathology.

My personal view is that reconstructed pigmentation for prehistoric Europeans, if there are no other indications - should be as neutral as possible.

Marco Silvestri said...

I'm one of the authors of this paper.

If you like it we also published another paper years ago about skulls found in the necropolis of Ptuj in Slovenia :


Unknown said...

The recon looks too modern and East Baltic/Ladogan or a Liv Ullman, there is a noticeable Mongoloid or something else present.

Obviously she neither looks Mongoloid nor Ladogan (or something like that). She looks like a typical Caucasoid hunter-gatherer with her harsh features. Those Caucasoids with more delicate feartures are rather modern, mostly a result of the Agricultural Revolution.

Major Tom said...

It seems the females of the time were very more masculine than the modern ones. The great dimension of the jaw suggests a greater active presence of masculine hormones in the females of that age.

Unknown said...

It seems the females of the time were very more masculine than the modern ones. The great dimension of the jaw suggests a greater active presence of masculine hormones in the females of that age.

Absolutely. That is why she has pronounced (not high) cheekbones, not any Mongoloid or Ladogan influence. In fact, there are still many Caucasoid females who look like her. The Agricultural Revolution couldn't wipe out the strongly masculine female types.

eurologist said...

I agree - that's a face that is very, very common in much of Germany except the extreme North and South.

Take a look at Franka Potente of "Lola rennt" and "Bourne Identity" fame:


She has part Sicilian background, BTW.

>>... the skull does not appear too dissimilar from the skulls of the present people<<

Also note that the paper states that the nose bridge was missing, thus (I guess) the rather petite nose compared to the (apparently) wide opening.

candida said...

The face is a excellent "Borreby" face that predominates in Germany (with unreduces Phalian type together, I guess at least ~75%), according to old school anth.

Franka Potente represents average German woman perfectly, apart from her dark pigmentation.

eurologist said...

I know nothing about these face types, but found it funny when I just looked that Franka Potente was also chosen to represent German types (Phalian) at the "Amor Site".

candida said...

That's right.

She's morphologically 100% Phalian (unreduced upper paleolithic type)

The recon deviates a little towards Borreby type which is a bit reduced but still very robust.

I agree with Amorsite, both make up the bulk of German population, IMO also of the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and most of the German-Germanic speaking countries, however also common in North France and even West Central Europe.