Monday, September 21, 2015

Archaeologist reconstructs faces of Stone Age people

Archaeologist reconstructs faces of Stone Age people 
Within his studio in the Stockholm suburban community of Tumba, Sweden, archaeologist-sculptor Oscar Nilsson is applying a highly specialized knowledge and set of skills to reconstruct realistic and scientifically-informed likenesses of individuals who lived long before us.

His work, unlike more ‘sensational’ archaeological and paleoanthropological discoveries reported in the press such as the identification of the bones of King Richard III and the more recent discovery of Homo naledi, do not make headlines. But he makes both written and unwritten history an up-close-and-personal experience for academics and the public alike. He creates, quite literally, faces of our collective past.

One of his upcoming projects involves the reconstruction of the face of a Stone Age man whose remains were unearthed near Ulricehamn, Sweden in 1994.

“Judging from his bones he was extremely robust with very broad shoulders,” said Nilsson.“And the skull of this 45-60-year-old man exhibits a significant elevated ridge running from his forehead to the back of his head, making it peak-shaped from a frontal view. These well-preserved bones surprised everyone when the result of the C14 dating came back: he was 10,000 years old and, with that, Sweden’s oldest skeleton.” Archaeologists have named him “Bredgården Man”. His skeletal remains were found near a farmhouse by the same name.

Another upcoming project involves the facial reconstruction of a 14-year-old Stone Age girl whose remains were excavated together with a small child at  Tybrind Vig in Denmark in the 1970’s. Here, archaeologists excavated unusually well-preserved artifacts from the Ertebølle Culture, a European Neolithic culture, including a large kitchen midden. “To recover the girl’s remains and those of the child, archaeologists had to work underwater, as the bones were submerged 300 meters offshore to a depth of 3 – 4.5 meters,” said Nilsson. “In her time, her place of rest would have been dry, hugging the shore, when there was a greater abundance of inland ice in Scandinavia and the sea level was lower.”

The Stone Age girl reconstruction will join other objects of the Tybrind Vig discoveries at Denmark’s Moesgård Museum.

In fact, most of Nilsson’s hyper-realistic reconstructions end up in museums such as the Moesgård, where he hopes the public will, through his reconstructions, gain a more personal connection to history.

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