top of page

The Face Above the Bones


From its colour, osteoarchaeologists deduced that the flesh had been boiled from the skull found in Edinburgh College of Art. Before that, in the hours after death, the face, devoid of vitality, would have been transformed, becoming something uncanny, something other than the living face, even as it was still recognisable.


Yet, the form of the skull holds the memory of the living face. From its measurable features we can fashion a likeness of the person in life. We asked Gillian Taylor, a forensic sculptor, to build a face upon a 3-D print of the skull of the nameless person. She applied clay in strips and layers, guided by a strict formula generated by more than a centruy of anatomical scholarship.


Now the skull has a face. We can look upon this face and recognise a man who died young and whose flesh had been boiled from his lifeless body many years ago.


But what are we looking at? What kind of recognition is this, when we have never known the person in life? Have we fashioned out of clay the possibility of some quality of familiarity with a nameless other, or is this person, whoever he may have been, always and profoundly unknowable?

Click here to see a short video about how this reconstruction was made.

bottom of page