Computer reveals face of man dead for 5,000 years: Police laser technique builds image of ethnic cleansing victim

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The Independent Online
THE FACE of a Stone Age man who died more than 5,000 years ago in South Wales has been recreated by scientists.

He is the earliest Briton to have undergone a facial reconstruction process pioneered by police laboratories to identify murder victims.

His skull, found two decades ago in a prehistoric tomb in Penywyrlod near Hay-on-Wye, was 'mapped' in 3D by a laser-beam scanner and the data used to create a replica of his face.

The evidence suggests he may have been the last of his tribe or clan to live out his life in the land of his fathers. The tribesmen usually transferred skulls and other large bones to ritual enclosures within a few years of death for religious reasons.

All the other bodies found at Penywyrlod appear to have had their skulls transferred. The single skull was probably left behind when the tribe was forced to hurriedly abandon the area.

The last of the Black Mountain tribe was only in his mid- to late twenties when he was killed, probably by an archer. The tip of a flint arrowhead was found near the skull.

Evidence from similar tombs suggests 'ethnic cleansing' was taking place. In about 3200 BC, several tribes appear to have been driven out of their homelands by invaders.

The original inhabitants sealed up their family tombs and retreated to less fertile areas, leaving their lands to be occupied by the newcomers. This happened over vast areas of western England and Wales.

Demographic reconstruction work suggests that the Black Mountain Man was part of a small extended family group of 10 to 20 members and that the tomb was the family mausoleum. They were probably relatively poor and formed part of a clan or small tribe with no more than 150 members.

Black Mountain Man and his clan would have grown wheat, barley and beans, raised cattle, sheep and pigs and lived in rectangular wooden houses.

Recreating the face of the man was undertaken by Past Forward, the archaeological interpretation subsidiary of the York Archaeological Trust.

His skull - owned by the National Museum of Wales - was placed on a slowly rotating turntable and scanned by a low-power laser beam. The laser reflected back the contour details of the skull's surface to a video camera through which the information was transferred to a computer.

A comparable modern face of an individual in his twenties was then scanned into the computer in the same way - and a software package was used to amend the modern 'control' face until it fitted the bone structure of Black Mountain Man.

Copies of the face can be viewed at archaeological exhibitions at Caernarvon Castle in North Wales and Oxwich and Caerphilly castles in South Wales.

(Photographs omitted)