May 04, 2015

Facial reconstruction of Lord of Moken

I wonder when we will start seeing facial reconstructions that make use of ancient DNA. Ancient DNA isn't very good for reconstructing facial features, but it should be quite good at reconstructing pigmentation.

Facial reconstruction for 1,400-year-old 'Lord of Morken'
The man's remains were discovered in 1955 in a Franconian burial ground in Morken, near Cologne. He had been interred around the year 600 AD in a royal burial chamber there. The precious goods within the grave, especially the materials used for his weapons, suggest that the man enjoyed a special status in the population, Elke Nieveler a specialist for the early Middle Ages at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum said.

10 comments:

eurologist said...

Seems inspired by cologne cathedral's wood carvings ... ;)

Simon_W said...

IIRC ancient DNA info has been used in the reconstruction of Ötzi, at least as far as eye colour is concerned. First they had reconstructed him with light eyes, which they had to change to brown in the more recent reconstruction.

apostateimpressions said...

Paul Whitehouse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rzh1A9lORUE

trevor_r said...

I was under the impression that such Facial reconstructions of human remains have already been performed before?

And yes, Ancient DNA would be a great tool for reconstruction. If the DNA is of decent quality, it could be sequenced and likely phenotypic characteristics such as eye colour and hair colour (on top of pigmentation) could be determined too, right?

Fanty said...

Some DNA check is always good.

Recall that thing with the native american girls.

Some years ago, 2 child skulls had been found in the USA. Forensic teams said those are the skulls of 2 white boys, possibly 10 years old.

(today they would have found out by DNA that its not males)

They created facial reconstructions and showed them around. Nobody missed boys that looked like that.

Several years later someone re-opened that case and found that 2 native american girls had been missing in the same time, close to the place where the skulls had been found. He gave the skulls to a new forensic and told him: Assume that those are the skulls of female native americans.

Now they came out perfect and matched the missing girls....

eurologist said...

I don't know where this notion comes from, that we have sufficient genetic information today to tell skin color. Eye color perhaps, if you are lucky. But skin color? The main mutation often cited for light skin (and given as the - wrong - reason some ancient Europeans were dark) makes you at best look like someone from the southern subcontinent, even if you carry the double allele!

On the flip side, northern Europeans (and others, like continental NE Asians) have likely many more alleles that make them have lighter skin ("many more" based on the huge variety of tone haplotypes).

Tobus said...

@eurologist:
I don't know where this notion comes from, that we have sufficient genetic information today to tell skin color.

From 8-plex tests that are over 95% accurate.

The main mutation often cited for light skin (and given as the - wrong - reason some ancient Europeans were dark) makes you at best look like someone from the southern subcontinent, even if you carry the double allele!

You acknowledge that individuals _with_ the main light-skin mutation can be as dark as some lighter skinned South Asians (we're talking Razib Khan here, not Sanath Jayasuriya), but have trouble accepting that ancient Europeans _without_ this mutation would be dark skinned?? What gives?

Also what's with the "at best" misdirection? At best it makes you look like someone from northern Scandinavia, at _worst_ (ie with zero other lightening alleles) is the scenario you are presenting. I know you don't want to think that ancient Europeans were dark skinned, but be fair when presenting the evidence.

eurologist said...

"...but have trouble accepting that ancient Europeans _without_ this mutation would be dark skinned?? What gives?"

Tobus,

I have a lot of trouble with that ill-conceived notion because there is no doubt that Europeans from Ireland and Scandinavia and Northern Europe through the Urals have multiple mutations that make their skin (and hair) light without the S Asian mutation that makes their double-carriers (!) look like dark S Asians with black hair and black or very dark brown eyes.

Tobus said...

@eurologist:

that makes their double-carriers (!) look like dark S Asians

Double carriers do not look lke "dark S. Asians". As I pointed out above, Razib Khan is considerably light-skinned when compared to Sanath Jayasuriya. Considering them both as "dark S. Asians" is a cultural illusion that we both suffer from, which is why I prefer empirical measurements.

because there is no doubt that Europeans ... have multiple mutations that make their skin (and hair) light without the S Asian mutation

Do you have an example of a European without the SLC24A5 allele to show there is "no doubt" they would still be light-skinned? Empirical studies show there is "no doubt" that this gene alone contributes about 30% of the difference between Sub-Saharan Africans and Europeans. Without it there is "no doubt" that Irish, Scandinavians and Northern Europeans would be 30% darker than they are now - and there is "no doubt" that this is darker than most Middle Easterners on an empirical scale.

I have a lot of trouble with that ill-conceived notion

Estimating ancient European skin pigmentation with what we know today is simply a matter of maths. The main gene, SLC24A5, contributes ~30% of the SSA/Eu difference. The secondary gene, SLC45A2, contributes about half of this again, giving a total of ~45% from just these two genes. Ancient Europeans like LaBrana and Loschbour don't have either of these, so the highest they can be on a SSA to Eu pigmentation scale is ~55%. This is in the South Asian range, approaching the Sanath Jayasuriya end of the scale. The notion of dark-skinned ancient Europeans is not "ill-conceived", it's just simple maths you can do yourself.

Having said all that, recent data has shown that ancient Europeans in the North (the Motala samples from Sweden) and East (the Karelia and Samara samples from Russia) all carried the derived alleles of both these genes, so were probably similar to modern Europeans in skin colour. And who knows, with ancient population movements being large and complex, perhaps these North and East populations once extended much further South and West?

victorsardis said...

I wonder how accurate the facial reconstructions really are. I have never seen comparison between photos and the reconstructed face perhaps someone can direct me.