The top ten historical forensic facial reconstructions

By Richard Moss | 13 March 2015

Richard III's recent makeover transformed him from brunette to blonde - so here's a rundown of some of the most dramatic historical forensic recreations in recent years

Richard III

A photo of the reconstructed head of a king with blue eyes and blond hair
The new-look Richard III© King Richard III Visitor Centre
A facial reconstruction expert spent four hours reworking the head of King Richard III, which was removed from display at the new Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester after DNA testing at the city’s university suggested he would have had blond hair and blue eyes. Read the full story.

A medieval maiden from Edinburgh

A reconstruction of a medieval woman's face in profile
A medieval female who may have succumbed to the plague.© Courtesy City of Edinburgh Council
A series of forensic reconstructions brought the medieval men, women and children found at a burial ground in Edinburgh eerily to life. This striking medieval female was found with several other women and children in a communal grave. It is unclear if her death and those buried with her were related to the plague or some other infectious disease. Read the full story.

Beachy Head Lady

A photo of a reconstruction of an african woman's face
Beachy Head Lady - a sub-Saharan African living in Eastbourne during Roman times© Graham Huntley
Beachy Head Lady was assumed to be a third century European Roman until experts took a closer look. They found her to be a sub Saharan African living in the Eastbourne area. "Whether that means that she’s first generation we don’t know," said Heritage Officer Jo Seaman. "She could possibly have been born in Africa and brought over here at a very young age, but it’s just as likely that she was born here." Read the full story.

Mary, Queen of Scots

An image of a computer-generated portrait of a 16th century queen
The striking Mary, Queen of Scots.© Wilkinson / Aitken, University of Dundee
A virtual sculpture of the face of Mary, Queen of Scots, made with craniofacial templates based on how she would have looked during her 16th century reign, gazed at visitors to the National Museum of Scotland's 2014 show about the tumultuous life of the monarch. Read the full story.

Early Neolithic Man

A photo of a Neolithic man with long hair and a ginger beard in front of a smoke cloud
A slightly built Neolithic Man© James O Davies / English Heritage
This reconstructed head of an early Neolithic man is based on the skeleton of an adult male excavated in 1863 from a long barrow at Winterbourne Stoke, Wiltshire. On display at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre with his upright skeleton beside him, he was born about 5,500 years ago – roughly 500 years before the circular ditch and banks, the first monument at Stonehenge, were built. Read the full story.

Gristhorpe Man

a computer generated image of an elderly man
Gristhorpe Man spoke to visitors to visitors to the Rotunda Museum in 2010. © Dr Alan Ogden
The best-preserved 4,000-year-old skeleton in Britain, the Bronze Age Gristhorpe Man, was found in 1834 in a makeshift grave of a hollowed-out Yorkshire tree. In 2010 he spoke across the centuries after a CT scan on his skull - courtesy of Bradford Royal Infirmary - showed that he was in his early 60s, allowing experts to make this dramatic computerised recreation. Read the full story.

Medieval Knight

A picture of a photo mock up of a muscular man with a shaved head against a dark blue background
An executed Medieval warrior found at Stirling Castle.
This tough looking character is in fact a Medieval Knight - a sword-swinging War of Independence warrior whose brutally executed skeleton was discovered buried in a forgotten chapel at Stirling Castle in the late 1990s. Read the full story.

Mary Rose Archer

A photo of a reconstruction of a sailor standing next to a skeleton
The Mary Rose Archer. Photo copyright Richard Moss
"You can look into the eyes of the crew,” promised staff as the remarkable New Mary Rose Museum opened at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Meeting this archer's gaze as he stood next to his skeleton certainly offered a window into the past. Apparently the archer's profession had ruined his shoulder joints so he "wouldn't have been much use on the guns". Read the full story.


a computer recreation of a young man with bucked teeth and close cropped hair
King Tut recreated by the BBC in 2014© BBC
Poor old King Tut - not only did his reign end prematurely but according to a BBC led reconstruction the boy king was hampered by a club foot, bucked teeth and "girlish hips". It was, say the researchers who made the 3-D computerised model, the result of the Egyptian Pharaohs' misguided belief that incest kept the royal bloodline pure. Read the full story.

Robert Burns

a reconstructed head of a man with dark hair, eyebrows and a ribbon in his hair
Forensically reconstructed head of Robert Burns Facial depiction produced by Prof Caroline Wilkinson, Dr Chris Rynn, Caroline Erolin and Janice Aitken from the University of Dundee© With kind permission of Rob Wilson
This life-sized model of Robert Burns’ head was reconstructed by forensic scientists from the University of Dundee in 2013 using Burns’ skull, as well as surviving portraits and a silhouette made during The Bard's lifetime. Read the full story.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Archaeologists begin excavating thousands of skeletons from London's first municipal cemetery

University of Leicester releases timelapse video of second excavation at site where King Richard III was found

Remains of suspected family of medieval knight found at former surgical hospital in Edinburgh

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The Neolithic man looks like a modern man... except for the uncombed hair!
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