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The Evolution of Facial Depiction from Human Remains
Face Lab at Liverpool School of Art, Liverpool John Moores University has curated a virtual exhibition titled “The Evolution of Facial Depiction from Human Remains”.
Facial depiction from human remains is a process whereby the face of an individual is built onto the skull for the purpose of identification. The theory is that, in the same way that we all have unique faces, we all have unique skulls, and it is the small variations in the shape and proportions of the skull that lead to significant variation in our faces.
Facial depiction utilises an exciting mix of science and art. Practitioners and researchers in this field have embraced and adapted new and innovative technologies to produce more effective standards and more realistic faces, and future developments may also be linked to scientific advances, such as DNA analysis and 4D imaging.
This gallery showcases the evolution and development of facial depiction procedures since the 19th century. This series of images shows a range of practice, including 2D representations drawn over a photograph of the skull; 3D sculptures using wax/clay placed onto a skull; 3D models using interactive computer software; semi-automated estimation using computer algorithms; developments with 3D printing; the future direction of facial depiction practice; and much more. The gallery aims to show a variety of methods that encompass this ‘scientific art.’ Scientific Art is the application of artistic skills whilst following scientific rules.
“The fact that facial reconstruction procedures exist at all is a reflection of our unlimited fascination with human face, and this preoccupation has led to a more specific interest in the faces of people from the past. “
Wilkinson, C. 2004. Forensic Facial Reconstruction, Cambridge University Press
Wilhelm His and Karl Seffner - Facial reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bericht an den Rath der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig 1895.)
about Wilhelm His and Karl Seffner - Facial reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bericht an den Rath der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig 1895.)
Early attempt at facial reconstruction: German Anatomist Dr. Wilhelm His took measurements of facial tissue from a small number of cadavers and using this data he worked with a sculptor, Karl Seffner, to model a bust of composer Johann Sebastian Bach onto a replica of the skull.
Facial reconstruction accuracy test (Von Eggeling, 1913)
about Facial reconstruction accuracy test (Von Eggeling, 1913)
Von Eggeling, a German anatomist, produced the first accuracy study. Facial sculptures of a subject were produced independently by two sculptors using plaster replicas of a skull and soft tissue measurements provided by Von Eggeling. These sculptures were then compared to a death mask of the subject: Image A = death mask, image B = skull, image C = depiction 1 by Bergemann-Konitzer, image D = depiction 2 by Elster.
3D bust of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Ivan IV (Gerasimov, 1955)
about 3D bust of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Ivan IV (Gerasimov, 1955)
Dr. Mikhail Gerasimov pioneered research into facial anthropology and developed the technique known as the anatomical method. His research had a significant influence on current facial depiction practice, and focused on an understanding of facial anatomy and the importance of muscle structure and position for the production of a recognisable likeness. Image used with permission of Elizaveta Veselovskaya, Moscow Institute of Sciences.
Reliability assessment (Helmer, 1993)
about Reliability assessment (Helmer, 1993)
A double blind accuracy study was carried out by Prof. Dr. Richard Helmer. Two researchers reconstructed 12 skulls following a plan based upon the skull morphology. Each reconstruction (examples A & C) was then compared to an ante-mortem photograph of the subject (examples B) using resemblance ratings from five observers. The results suggested the reconstructions were closer resemblances to each other (50% approximate) than to the subjects (42% slight). Image courtesy of Wiley-Liss Inc.
Tissue depth data
about Tissue depth data
The variation in facial tissue depths between sexes, ages, ethnic groups and different nutritional states has been studied over the last 120 years. Facial tissue depth markers are added at the beginning of the facial depiction process and commonly include 15-34 anatomical points on the skull surface. Image provided by Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University.
2D method of facial reconstruction – Karen Taylor
about 2D method of facial reconstruction – Karen Taylor
Richard Neave and the Manchester method
about Richard Neave and the Manchester method
Mr Richard Neave developed the combination technique for facial depiction, called the Manchester method, which incorporated the anatomical and anthropometrical methods. This method includes attention to head and neck muscle structure along with the use of tissue depth markers as guides. Image used with permission from Richard Neave and the University of Manchester.
Technological advances – Digital facial depiction from skeletal remains (Richard III)
about Technological advances – Digital facial depiction from skeletal remains (Richard III)
Laser scanners and clinical imaging (CT, MRI) have allowed practitioners to use non-invasive replication techniques to reduce the damage to human remains. 3D prints can be produced quickly without a messy plaster or silicone casting processes, or a digital reconstruction can be produced using specialist computer software. Portable laser scanners allow practitioners to visit the remains on site rather than transporting them. Image provided by Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University.
Technological advances - 3D printing
about Technological advances - 3D printing
Advances in 3D printing technology has been embraced by practitioners over the past two decades. It is now possible to print a 3D replica of a skull utilising laser scan or clinical image data before the facial depiction process takes place. Alternatively a 3D replica of a finished bust can be printed and then painted, with eyes, wigs and clothing added, if a physical copy of the reconstruction is required. Images provided by PDR Cardiff (www.pdronline.co.uk).
Automated facial depiction from skeletal remains
about Automated facial depiction from skeletal remains
An automated facial depiction from skeletal remains system utilises a 3D laser scan collection of skulls and faces. This system created average faces and skulls for different sexes, ages and ancestry groups and then utilised morphing algorithms to warp the relevant average face to the unidentified skull. Image courtesy of Dr Maria Vanezis (University of Glasgow).
Assessment of accuracy using living subjects
about Assessment of accuracy using living subjects
A blind accuracy study, using CT data collected from a living subject, superimposed the facial depiction with the subject’s face (using the skull for alignment) and the contour map represents the differences. Blue represents good accuracy (<2mm) and the largest error (>5mm) is red/orange. 67% of the facial depiction is blue. Image courtesy of Caroline Wilkinson and Chris Rynn, University of Manchester; Myke Taister and Heather Peters, FBI Academy; Stephen Richmond, Cardiff Dental School.
Realistic faces from archaeology
about Realistic faces from archaeology