Using excavated bones as a reference, sculptor and archaeologist Oscar Nilsson recreates the faces of actual people who lived a long time ago.
The amazing reconstruction sculptures depict people throughout history, giving us a fascinating insight into how different people looked at their time.
“By using this forensic technique, it makes it possible to see what an individual looked like, even though there are thousands of years between us,” Nilsson explains. “It’s a way to make history more intimate, emotional, and personal, and a way to feel closer to the individuals.”
By combining scientific research with artistic skill, Nilsson bases each sculpture on actual bone remains he discovered during archaeological excavations. Each of his hyperrealistic sculptures reveals an amazing amount of detail, including bone structure, facial hair, and even wrinkles.
“The technique is based on both measurements of the tissue depth of the face, and the rebuilding of the facial muscles.”
For instance, Nilsson has recreated the bust of a young Greek girl who lived 9,000 years ago, during the Mesolithic era (around 7,000 BCE). She features a protruding jaw and a scowling expression, giving some insight into what life was like during the tough time she lived. Scientists think her pronounced jaw is caused by chewing on animal skin to make it into soft leather – a common practice among people of that era. “Having reconstructed a lot of Stone Age women and men, I think some facial features seem to have disappeared or ‘smoothed out’ with time,” Nilsson says.
Here are some more great examples of Nilsson’s work, followed by a visual explanation of the artistic process.
Having looked at the above stunning examples of recreating people who lived a long time ago, you wonder how such a feat is possible at all. Well it takes time. A lot of time…
First, Nilsson creates digital scans of skulls uncovered by archaeologists or himself and precisely maps every minute detail of the skull so that they can be reproduced later.
Next, he uses a hi-tech 3D printer to rebuild the skull, which then acts as the base for the sculpture. Using his extensive knowledge of anatomy, Nilsson then lays on muscles and skin to reproduce what a deceased person would’ve looked like.
Here’s how the process looks like, step by step.
With help from a team of specialized craftsmen and scientists, Nilsson makes his sculptures of historical people available to museums worldwide. So if you like going museums, you might bump into one of them one day.