Artist uses police techniques to recreate man at National Roman Legion Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 January 2013
An image of a Roman-style oil painting of a man with black hair and a tanned face
Could this have been the face of the man whose skeleton lies in a coffin at the National Roman Legion Museum in Wales?© National Museum Wales

In November 1995, the case which would become known as the Bath stone coffin was found during building work to enlarge a Newport University campus.

Containing the skeleton of a well-preserved male believed to have been buried in around AD 200 and aged around 40, the discovery has been a constant source of speculation at the nearby National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon, where it is has been on permanent display since 2002.

Almost 20 years after the figure was found, conservators have used isotope analysis and 3D modelling to find out more about him, including examinations of the skeleton’s teeth at a geosciences laboratory near Nottingham.

Having established that he spent his childhood in Newport, a forensic facial reconstruction – informed by experts from Liverpool John Moores University, Newport Medieval Ship Project and the Centre for Human Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee – has allowed artist Penny Hill to create a modern portrait of the man who might have been, using Roman brush techniques in a project funded by the Aurelius Trust.

“The final part of the display has been completed,” says Dr Mark Lewis, of National Museums Wales.

“We felt that the research potential of the skeletal remains had not been realised, and we wanted to attempt to reconstruct the face of the man in the coffin using modern forensic techniques otherwise used by the Police.

“The research undertaken to create the final portrait would not have been possible without funding by the Trust, for which we are most grateful.

“Finding out more about the skeleton tells us more about the Romans here in south Wales and how life today wouldn't be the same without them.”
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