There has been an influx of facial reconstructions of late, offering us a glimpse into the past and showing that (shock!) people living back in the olden times looked not that different to us. There was the 17th-century Scottish soldier, the Egyptian mummy, the early Europeans, the Peruvian queen, Julius Caesar (who was rather unexpected-looking), and even Jesus.*
The latest to join their ranks is Eve of Nahron (or the woman of Nahron), a hunter-gatherer living in Mexico almost 14,000 years ago. Her remains are thought to be the oldest human skeleton found in the Americas yet.
The remains were discovered 386 meters (1,266 feet) below the surface of an underwater cave in Sistema Naranjal in Yucatán, Mexico, during a four-year excavation from 2004 to 2008. Many more bodies, including the "Young Man of Chan Hol", have been found at the site since, all of which have been dated to between 11,000 and 14,000 years ago.
Extraordinarily, her bones were found undisturbed with 80 percent of the skeleton's structure still intact. From this, anthropologists have been able to work out she was 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) tall and in her early twenties when she died.
Now, we have an even better idea of what she would have looked like thanks to a collaborative effort between the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and Cícero Moraes, a 3D designer based in Brazil who was responsible for producing around 60 similar reconstructions.
Using scans of the skull, forensic facial reconstruction techniques, and some cool software, Moraes was able to create a digital reconstruction of Eve's face – and show what one of America's earliest residents would have looked like.
"I really liked the final result," he told the BBC.
"It was different than I thought, but the great masters of facial reconstruction say we can not expect the result by looking at the bones – we have to work and focus on methodology, and (the result) comes naturally."
The 14,000-year-old Eve is an especially important figure in American history because she completely dispels the idea that the first humans in America migrated via the Bering Strait after the last Ice Age, some 13,000 years ago. Instead, the discovery supports the theory that people emigrated to the continent in waves – and much earlier than previously thought.
From the anatomy of the skulls, anthropologists have speculated that both Eve and the Young Man of Chan Hol were descendants of people living in South Asia and Indonesia, rather than North Asia (like those who migrated to North America). The reconstruction appears to confirm this.
"The work done is congruent and accurate with the physical characteristics of the inhabitants of South Asia, that is, it coincides with anthropological and DNA studies carried out on human fossils found in this region, all pointing to an Asian ancestry," said Moraes.
*Not actually Jesus, but rather an approximation of what he may have looked like if he did exist based on skeletal remains found in Jerusalem and some artistic license.
[H/T: the BBC]