A three-dimensional, lifelike reconstruction of Julius Caesar’s head reveals what the famous Roman leader likely looked like during his lifetime, including the odd proportions of his head.
The ruler’s depiction was unveiled during an event last week at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands, to promote archeologist Tom Buijtendorp’s new book. Teaming up with archaeologist and physical anthropologist Maja d’Hollosy, the duo took 3D scans of two ancient marble busts depicting the general. Portraits taken from Roman coins were also used to fill in missing pieces of Caesar’s features, like his nose and ears. After the scans, d’Hollosy used clay and silicone to give him a face complete with nearly black eyes, salt-and-pepper locks, and a receding hairline.
“I [did] not let him look happy and friendly. He was a general who was about corpses,” d'Hollosy, who specializes in facial reconstruction, told Dutch newspaper HLN.
The reconstruction also shows a “crazy bulge” on Caesar’s head. Exactly why his head takes this unusual shape remains a bit of a mystery. It was long-believed Caesar was born via C-section, but that rumor has been relatively squashed. C-sections were only performed on dead or dying mothers during childbirth and there are many accounts of Caesar’s mother Aurelia being alive into his adulthood.
Cranial abnormalities, on the other hand, can be quite common. A newborn’s skull is highly malleable. During childbirth, any force applied to a baby’s head can result in “dramatic distortions”. Oftentimes, these deformations will return to normal in a short period of time, but if left untreated can result in permanent changes to a child’s skull.
There are historical accounts of early humans reshaping their children’s skulls around the world, from Central America to Europe to Asia. Archaeologists involved in the reconstruction believe Caesar’s deformed head was probably the result of natural causes.
“A doctor said that such a thing occurs in a heavy delivery. You do not invent that as an artist. And realistic portraits were in fashion,” said Buijtendorp.
The bust is on display at the museum until August.