Back in 2012, archaeologists found the remains of at least ten Stone Age individuals (adults and a child) at the bottom of what was once a small lake in Motala, Sweden. What was so eerie about the once-underwater grave was that only one of the adults still had their jaw attached and two of the skulls were placed on stakes that were sticking out of the surface of the lake. Oddly enough, the grave also included the remains of wild animals and they all had their jawbones.
But now, thanks to facial reconstruction, we know what one of those jawless individuals looked like when he was alive 8,000 years ago. Oscar Nilsson, who is a forensic artist living in Sweden, was able to obtain genetic and anatomical information from the skull in order to create a bust of what the male once looked like. When the Stone Age man passed away, he would have been in his 50s with pale skin, brown hair and blue eyes.
Nilsson took a CT scan of the skull and printed a 3D replica which helped him with certain facial characteristics such as skin, facial muscles, and ethnicity. He was able to determine that the man was a part of a group of hunters and gatherers whose ancestors included those who traveled to Scandinavia from the north, south, and east approximately 2,000 years prior to when the man was alive.
Since the human skeletons were found near the remains of wild animals, Nilsson took that fact into consideration when he designed the man’s haircut and wardrobe. In an email to Live Science, he wrote, “He wears the skin from a wild boar,” adding, “We can see from how the human skulls and animal jaws were found that they clearly meant a big deal in their cultural and religious beliefs.”
As for the man’s haircut, Nilsson explained, “his hairdresser in his time must have used a sharp flint tool for this.” He added that the man had “a wisp of hair at the back of his head, like a pig’s tail.” Additionally, with making his hair short, people can see the 1-inch-long wound on the top of his head. It is not believed that the wound killed the man.
Nilsson added decorative white chalk markings on the man’s chest in reference to the numerous Indigenous groups who paint their bodies with chalk. “It’s a reminder we cannot understand their aesthetic taste, just observe it,” he noted. “We have no reason to believe these people were less interested in their looks, and to express their individuality, than we are today.”
The bust of the man is currently on display at Charlottenborg manor house in Motala. You can see here each precise step that Nilsson took when creating the bust of the man.