Forensic Scientists in Greece Have Recreated the Face of a 9,000-Year-Old Female Teenager
Forensic scientists have reconstructed the face of a 9,000-year-old female teenager based on a skull archaeologists found in a Greek cave. Experts claim that the reconstructed face reveals how much our facial features have changed over the millennia.
Girl’s Face Seen Again After 9,000 Years
According to National Geographic, the name of the girl is Avgi which in English translates to Dawn, a name archaeologists picked because she lived during what's considered the dawn of civilization. When Avgi lived in Greece, at the end of the Mesolithic period around 7000 BC, the region was transitioning from a society of hunter gatherers to one that started cultivating its own food.
Archaeologists don’t know much about her life or causes of death, even though they can now see the ancient girl’s prominent cheekbones, heavy brow, and dimpled chin. Avgi's face was revealed by University of Athens researchers at an event at the Acropolis Museum last Friday.
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The reconstructed face includes prominent cheek bones, heavy brow and dimpled chin. (Image: Oscar Nilsson)
Many Scientists Involved in the Face Reconstruction
In order to reconstruct the girl’s face accurately, many experts were involved: an endocrinologist, orthopedist, neurologist, pathologist, and radiologist were all needed to precisely produce Avgi’s looks. The reconstruction team was directed by orthodontist Manolis Papagrigorakis, who said at the museum event, “While Avgi's bones appeared to belong to a 15-year-old-woman, her teeth indicated she was 18, "give or take a year," according to National Geographic.
Furthermore, the University of Athens also worked with Oscar Nilsson, a Swedish archaeologist and sculptor who specializes in reconstructions. He has reconstructed so many ancient faces that he even has a favorite period to work on: "the Stone Age," he said via National Geographic. "[The Stone Age is] this enormously long period so unlike our age, but we are physically so alike," he adds.
The mount where the archaeologically rich Theopetra cave exists. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Nilsson started with her skull, which was discovered back in 1993 at Theopetra cave, a site in central Greece which has been occupied continuously for almost 130,000 years. Next, researchers took a CT scan of the skull, while a 3D printer then created an exact replica of the scan's measurements. "Onto this copy pegs are glued, reflecting the thickness of the flesh at certain anatomical points of the face," Nilsson says. This helped him to recreate Avgi's face, muscle by muscle. Even though some of her features are based on skull measurements, others, like skin and eye color, are inferred based on general population traits in the region National Geographic reports.
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Similar epoch (6740 - 5680 BC) female skeletons found on Téviec island, Brittany, France. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Long-Lost Facial Features Noticed on Avgi
This is not the first time Dr. Papagrigorakis, Nilsson, and the University of Athens team have worked together. In 2010, they reconstructed the face of an 11-year-old Athenian girl named Myrtis who lived around 430 BC. In the almost 7,000-year period between Avgi and Myrtis, facial structure appears to soften. "Avgi has very unique, not especially female, skull, and features. Myrtis, still a child, does not differ at all in the features we find around us today," says Nilsson via National Geographic.
And adds, "Having reconstructed a lot of Stone Age women and men, I think some facial features seem to have disappeared or 'smoothed out' with time. In general, we look less masculine, both men and women, today."
Ultimately, scientists are confident that as 3D modeling technology progresses, more and more reconstructions of ancient faces will occur. One of the most impressive face reconstructions is the one of an ancient man that lived 9,500 years ago in the biblical city of Jericho. As we reported in Ancient Origins, in December of 2016 a crew of facial reconstruction experts successfully recreated the face of a male who lived in the Biblical city of Jericho. The project was based on an advanced analysis of the Jericho Skull - the oldest portrait in The British Museum. This innovative plaster model allows you to see the detailed face of a human being who lived 9,500 years ago. The reconstruction was on display in the exhibit "Creating an ancestor: the Jericho Skull," from December 15, 2016–February 19, 2017 at The British Museum.
Top image: The face of the teenager reconstructed from the 9000-year-old skull found in Greece. (Image: Oscar Nilsson)