Mon- Fri 10am- 8pm, Sat& Sun- 10am- 4pm
The MSc programme in Forensic Art exhibition shows the work of four artists, each of whom has used computer-generated facial reconstruction techniques to render life-like, two and three-dimensional facial representations from human skulls.
The students’ research projects have been supported and supervised by staff at Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID). Prof Caroline Wilkinson, one of the students’ supervisors, in a statement of 2004, says of this kind of work, ‘Facial reconstruction is the scientific art of building the face onto the skull for the purposes of individual identification’. This type of work truly is at the interface of science and art. Its relevance in human identification is apparent in many fields of research, and recent reconstructions of the faces of Richard III and Robert Burns have sparked huge interest in the public sphere.
Heather Goodrum’s research project’s aim was to reconstruct the faces of two individuals from a series of graves found during the construction of the Edinburgh Tramway. The graves were located in the Constitution Road area of Leith. Work on the tramway was delayed while the burial site was excavated and the remains removed to the Museum of Edinburgh by a team of archaeologists. From there, the remains of the two individuals that were to constitute Heather’s project were transported to the University of Dundee and, under the supervision of Prof Caroline Wilkinson, Heather has reconstructed the faces of a young man, aged 25 – 35, who probably lived sometime between 1457 and the 1630s and a young woman, aged around 20, who may have lived during the period between 1426 and 1516.
Given the topicality of the site of the burials, the reconstructions have generated considerable interest from the public.
Hew Morrison’s work has been to create a two-dimensional facial reconstruction of an Achondroplastic skull. Achondroplasticism is more commonly known as ‘Dwarfism’; though the skull’s provenance is not known, Hew’s project shows how the significant differences in skull shape affect the facial features of people with this condition, many of whom have become familiar to us through depictions in art, such as in the paintings of Velasquez.
Jenny Kenyon and Callum Reid’s projects have been to reconstruct faces of individuals found at a Mesolithic burial site in Skateholm, Sweden. Each of the individual’s remains have been dated to sometime between the years 4340 and 3980BC. However, the facial reconstructions created by Jenny and Callum bring these individuals to life. Jenny worked on reconstructions of the faces of a man, reckoned to be aged 75 and of large build, and a younger woman, probably aged 30 – 40. Callum reconstructed the faces of two women, one aged 32 and one younger woman, aged approximately 29, whose remains were found with a prematurely born child. This grave contained burial relics, including a waist decoration containing 30 wild boar teeth. Callum has created monochrome computer generated drawings which show the ‘layering’ of the various reconstruction techniques.
Both artists have presented a selection of intricately rendered images for the four individuals, showing the range of possible variances in skin, hair and eye colourings for each of their subjects. Despite their history however, it is striking how modern the faces look, regardless of differences in hair length or style.
In addition to the facial reconstructive work, the two students have collaborated on a presentation of archaeological finds at the site, including animal remains and hunting implements. The students also comment on how working on their reconstructions deepened their interest in the living conditions of their subjects during the Mesolithic period.
Forensic Art allows us to see into the past in a way that has revolutionised history, archaeology and police work. This highly commendable show demonstrates Forensic Art’s power to enliven these areas of study.