Forensic Facial Reconstruction

            Forms of Multimedia and Potential Developments.


             The purpose of forensic facial reconstruction is to produce an image from a skull which offers a sufficient likeness of the living individual that it will facilitate identification of skeletal remains when there are no other means available. Although facial reconstruction had begun in the nineteenth century, the method gained notoriety with the work of Gerasimov (1968), depicted on film in Gorky Park. These traditional 'plastic' methods use modelling clay or plasticine to build up the depth of tissue on the skull (or a cast of the skull) to that of a living individual. Tissue depths are known for 'landmark' sites on the skull; the depths elsewhere are interpolated between these points (Figure 1) and then into the interstices (Figure 2). The shape of the eyes, nose and mouth cannot be confidently predicted and are largely guesswork (Figure 3). Even for skilled practitioners, plastic reconstructions take one or two days. The results obtained will differ between reconstructions and between practitioners.

             Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3.

             Left to right: Figure1.Establishment of tissue depths at landmark sites on the skull (in white) and the interpolation between these sites. Figure 2. Interpolation of tissue depths into the interstices. Figure 3. Completed "plastic" reconstruction. The shape of the eyes, nose and mouth are guesswork. .


             The tissue depth measurements used tend to be those collected from cadavers in the early part of the twentieth century, or before. These measurements are biased because they come from small samples, because a dead person's tissues are not the same as in life, and because they take only limited account of the average differences known to occur between people of different age, build and sex, and between the major human diversity aggregates. For over a century, forensic artists and scientists have been attempting to improve the quality of facial reconstructions from the skull, efforts which have met with very limited success.

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