Wednesday 15 August 2012

Facial reconstruction of a Neanderthal

I already reconstructed some faces using skull of ancient people, but I always had the tissue depth of modern measurements to help me make this.

This time I choosed reconstruct a neanderthal man, using only the facial musculature how reference.

I used the coordinates of Manchester method shown in Caroline Wilkinson's book called "Forensic Facial Reconstruction". But, like I wrote, I haven't used the tissue depth markers. The reason is obvious... It's impossible to obtain this data, because we don't have any Homo neanderthalensis alive.

The Process

I tried to find some CT-scan of a neanderthal Skull, but I found only one. And it was not compatible with my software:

I tested more than twenty CT-scan software to convert the INR file in a mesh. Unfortunatelly I didn't get this time.

After I tried to use SfM to reconstruct using sequence of images, videos and other ways. But all in vain, like you can see in my attempts album:

To obtain a answer about CT-Scan I sent more than thirty e-mails to scientists, students and institutes asking about neanderthal skulls. But no one could help me.

In vain, I spent a lot of days trying , until deduce that I should to model the skull from scratch, even this being not the most accurate way to obtain the data.

First of all, I found a good skull references here:

So, the skull was modelled in Blender.

After, the muscles was placed, using a technology called metabals.

The skin over the muscles.

Obs.: Note that I put the eyes with blue color. My friend called Moacir Elias Santos, a brazilian archaeologist told me that the blue eyes is a genetic mutation that has not happened with Neanderthals, like you can see in these articles (thanks Moacir!):


The UV Mapping (texturing).

The first rendering... with right eye color.

The hair setup.

And the final results.

All the modelling was made with free software. I used:

Blender to model
Gimp to help with the textures
Inkscape to organize the references
All running under Linux Ubuntu.

I gave a image to Wikipedia, like you can see in these links:

The process was fun. The main goal was modelling all in a few hours with quality and precision... at least the possible precision.

I need to thank the Arc-Team for motivating me to write this article with my bad English.

I hope you enjoyed it. A big hug and see you the next article.


  1. Hello,
    I came to your blog and have been reading along your posts. I decided will leave my first comment. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often…

    1. Thank you! If you are interested in use of free software to make prosthesis, see this video: A big hug!

  2. Considering the obit size, compared to homo sapiens, I would think the eyes would be much larger. Other features seem to be open to artistic interpretation, such as did any white of the eye show and amount of hair - that is more human-like or chip-like.

  3. Maybe Moreno Tiziani (who is a real anthropologist) can answer this suggestions better than me. Anyway IMHO (I am just an archaeologist), the reconstruction looks pretty good, especially considering what William Straus said:

    "If [Neanderthal Man] could be reincarnated and placed in a New York subway — provided that he were bathed, shaved, and dressed in modern clothing — it is doubtful whether he would attract any more attention"

  4. Great Work! It is possible that the face of Neanderthal is on the road to accurate reconstruction if we consider the exploration ongoing and not over by being careful not to allow expert sounding, preconceived notions override our objectivity, such as the confident statement above from William Straus made in 1957 back when Neanderthals were thought to be ancestors of humans.
    The size of the orbits may or may not reveal larger eyes because it is soft tissue but you can see a mistake the software makes on the mouth and lips because the jaw is much larger than human so the mouth is too small and positioned too high as if the human-like face is stretched a little tight over this part of the skull.
    You can fit a human jaw inside the mouth of Neanderthal; it is much larger with a longer front teeth line. The upper lip should drape naturally just below the upper tooth line, like it does with us, not above. The lips and mouth would simply be a little longer, heavier and all positioned a bit lower on the face to better accommodate this broad-faced skull, with much higher eyes than we.
    Our jaw muscles are mostly a vertical strap nearer the rear of the jaw so the curvy blob of extra muscles near the front and lower cheeks may be extraneous fill-in to make the human-like mask on this skull fit better. With the lips lowered and the fill in flesh removed, it would produce a longer face with a more square/linear bottom line on the jaw and less of a bulbous chin. Skin smoothness and Color, hair positions, hair type, nose shape and eyes are going to be big leaps in conjecture at this point but with the corrections on the lower parts of the face, we would be in a better position to explore those carefully. I Would love to see another rendering from you to compliment these very good renderings that reveal a great deal about this reconstruction process...for another exciting step forward. Maybe even find funding for this work. Thanks!

    1. Hi Doug!

      Thank you very much to participate of this post!

      Do you have some article describing the observation you did? Or, you have do a trace over the images to explain visualy what you wrote?

      I say this because I can change the shape with your observations easily.

      You can send the informations to: cogitas3d [at] gmail

      Thank you again and a big hug!


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