Women's faces have changed little in 5,000 years

The concept of beauty may have altered over the last 5,000 years but forensic scientists at Glasgow University have found that women's faces have changed very little.

They have recreated the face of a New Stone Age, or Neolithic, woman on a 5,000-year-old skull and found it looks very like a modern woman.

Maria Vanezis, a research assistant in Forensic Medicine at the university and an expert in facial reconstruction, said the woman would probably have decorated her animal-skin and felt clothes with local dyes. Her jewellery was made from shells found along the Orkney coastline and she would certainly have worn make-up.

"She looks much like any young woman you might see in the street, magazine or television programme," Ms Vanezis said. "Five thousand years is not long in terms of evolution."

Scientists reconstructed the face by scanning the skull with a red laser. This created thousands of images from different angles, which were then fed into a computer along with the information that the head belonged to a Caucasian, female aged between 25 and 35.

Using this information, thecomputer is able to stretch a face over the simulated skull.

"We study closely landmarks such as her cheek bone and long narrow skull," Mrs Vanezis said. "The height of the teeth can help suggest the lip size and you can judge the width of the mouth from the area which the teeth cover."

Once the face was complete, Mrs Vanezis consulted the university's archaeologists on how the woman would have styled her hair. The answer was a long pony tail tied to one side.

Nick Card, an archaeologist with the Orkney Archaeologist Trust, said the woman belonged to a society which had advanced to a civilised level of house-keeping. "They would have been fastidious enough to care about how they looked, and they decorated their clothes with material that may have been coloured with pigments found locally," he said.

Comments