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Artist Brings Ancient Skulls to Life

Perhaps the most fascinating part of reading about history and mythologies is trying to envision what the world looked like in ancient times. Many archeological findings and works of art can help us get a better picture of what the past looked like, but those pictures are still incomplete: sculptures that used to be painted have since lost all pigmentation, and painting was often less concerned with giving an accurate representation of what people looked like (just look at medieval art).
O.D. Nilsson is a sculptor and archeologist based in Stockholm who’s made it his life’s work to fill in these gaps. The way he does that is by scanning and printing exact replicas of excavated skulls and using these skulls as a basis for his amazing lifelike reconstructions, bringing these long-dead people back to life in museums.
1. Neanderthal woman, Gibraltar, 43000 BC
Skull reconstructions: Neanderthal woman
Neanderthals were a human subspecies that diverged from our ancestors roughly half a million years ago and lived in colder climes, particularly Europe. They were easily distinguishable from our progenitors due to their stockier build, pronounced brow ridge, and short forehead. Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago, but the reasons why are still a mystery.
2. Whitehawk woman, Brighton, UK, 3500 BC
Skull reconstructions: Brighton dark woman
It may be hard to believe, but this woman was found near Brighton in the UK. Why is her skin dark? Well, this woman lived in a time before the Indo-European Celts, with their paler skin tones, made landfall in Britain. Prior to the Indo-European migration, it is very likely Europeans had a more Mediterranean, or even North African look to them.
3. Patcham woman, Brighton, UK, 250 AD
Skull reconstructions: Briton woman
A much later neighbor of the Whitehawk lady, this woman was a Briton living under Roman rule. She was most likely a peasant who worked very hard, as her spine showed the wear and tear of tough manual labor. She died very young, around 25-35 years old.
4. Saxon man, Stafford Road, UK, 550 AD
Skull reconstructions: Saxon man
In 450 AD, a coalition of Germanic tribes, known collectively as the Anglo-Saxons, invaded Britain. This man belonged to that stock. His strong, bulky build seems to suggest he was a warrior, as do some injuries he sustained. But his asymmetrical face was not the result of any battle. Instead, it was caused by painful swelling as a result of a terrible dental infection. Mustaches like his were very fashionable among the Saxons.
5. Viking Age man, Sigtuna, Sweden, 10th century AD
Skull reconstructions: viking
One thing that makes this man different from the rest is that geneticists were able to extract DNA from his remains and make a precise profile of his hair, skin and eye colors, leaving very little to guesswork.
6. Estrid, Uppland, Sweden, 11th century AD
Skull reconstructions: Estrid Sweden
Estrid was a wealthy Christian woman who had commissioned the construction of several bridges in her time, her family history is the subject of several runestones that have been found in the Stockholm region.
7. Huarmey Queen, Ancash, Peru, 800 AD
Skull reconstructions: Peru Wari queen
Before the Inca Empire was founded, the region that is today Peru was ruled by the Wari Empire. This Wari woman’s remains were found in a mausoleum, surrounded by incredible material wealth in the form of jewelry, ceremonial weaponry, and silver tools.
8. Adelasius Ebalchus, Grenchen, Switzerland, 700 AD
Skull reconstructions: Swiss young man
This handsome young man had the most perfect set of teeth that O.D. Nilsson has ever seen on a skull. Sadly, his other bones did not do as well, as the man researchers have named Adelasius suffered from chronic bone infection and vitamin deficiencies which may have led to an early death.

Image source: ODNilsson.com, Facebook/ODNilsson

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