The face of a medieval man with dwarfism has been reconstructed from a skull that was discovered in Poland. Thought to have died between the ages of 30 and 45, the ancient individual lived some time between the ninth and 11th centuries CE and stood 115 centimeters (3 feet 9 inches) tall.
Facial reconstruction techniques are still in development, but have already been successfully applied to bring numerous figures from the distant past back to life. Among those to have received the treatment are an ancient wanderer who was buried in a Roman toilet, as well as a wart-covered early human from the famous Cro-Magnon cave in France. Researchers also recently recreated the face of the extinct “Hobbit” human species, Homo floresiensis.
Describing their methods in an as-yet un-peer-reviewed paper, the team behind this latest reconstruction explain how they created two 3D models of the man’s skull. Originally unearthed in 1990 at a cemetery Łekno, Poland, the long-dead individual was diagnosed with achondroplastic dwarfism (ACH) shortly after his discovery.
According to the authors, ACH “represents the most common form of skeletal dysplasia, occurring in [roughly] 4 out of every 100,000 births.”
“Bones were gently rotated 360 degrees on a turntable and scanned in real-time from different angles collecting data covering the area of the whole skull, except two loose teeth, which were not scanned,” they explain. Once the skull had been imaged, the researchers added in soft tissue thickness markers at 31 different anatomical points, using data taken from ultrasound scans of living individuals.
To mesh the soft tissue and bone together, the study authors superimposed a facial scan of a “virtual donor” over that of the ancient specimen. Because this donor did not have dwarfism, the researchers had to “deform” the skull to make it compatible with that of their millennium-old chap.
“To our best knowledge, there are not any other facial approximation of an individual with achondroplasia, which would situate this study as the first of this kind in the world,” they write.
Et voila! A 1,000-year-old Central European male with dwarfism, for your perusal.
The study is currently available as a preprint, which is yet to be validated by peer review, on bioRxiv.