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Oops he did it again - or how Oscar.D Nilsson brought a 9000 year old girl back to life

tygertygerPosted for Everyone to comment on, 5 years ago8 min read

image by Nat Geo

We have seen Some of his work before. When it comes to reconstructing faces Swedish sculptor and archaeologist Oscar Nilsson is a rockstar and his work is exhibited all over the world. Some reading this might remember the 5500-year-old Stone Age man or 11 year old Myrtis (a name chosen for her from a list of ancient greek names) a young Greek girl who died in Athens around 430 B.C. from typhoid fever both creations of Nilsson and his team.

images by Reuters, Nat Geo and O.D Nilsson turned into collage by myself - Myrtis and the Stone Henge man

Nilsson’s newest reconstruction, revealed by University of Athens researchers at an event at the Acropolis Museum, is once again a girl from Greece but she comes to us from way further back in time. Meet Avgi which translates to Dawn, so named because she lived in the Mesolithic period (around 7,000 BC. ) which is considered the "dawn" of civilisation. Her remains were found in Theopetra, in the central Greek region of Thessaly, in 1993. This region, estimated to have been first inhabited around 100,000 years ago, is well known for its archaeological finds. Theopetra is near Meteora that also boasts a famous formation of giant rock columns topped with Christian monasteries. Inside the north-facing cave evidence of humans, such as footprints, ashes bones and tools, spans an incredible 45,000 years. It is said to be the only site in Greece with human occupation that ranges from the Middle Paleolithic to the Neolithic. Dawn is just one of many Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic discoveries that have been unearthed in that region. Like so many archaeology finds Dawn's remains were first archived and reduced to inventory until her resurrection 25 years later at the hands of Oscar Nilsson.

image by Nat Geo

We know little about how Dawn died but, thanks to the team of scientists working with Nilsson on the project, there are some interesting facts beyond her face that her remains reveal. He age can be pinpointed to her middle to late teens somewhere between 15 and 18 years of age. Her bones set her at the lower spectrum around 15 but the examination of her teeth revealed she might have been more around the age of 18. Considering that Dawn showed signs of malnutrition, such as anaemia and possible scurvy, it could explain the slower maturation of her bones. the examination of her bones also revealed that her protruding jaw was most likely not something she was born with but something she acquired while working on processing leather hides. It was common in those times that humans chewed leather to make it soft and malleable for further processing, it seems that dawn was a hard worker her jaw attesting to it. While there have been many finds in the region the processing of Dawns remains is significant progress as settles a long going argument over how long the Thessaly had actually been inhabited. Some had questioned if people had already settled there in the the Mesolithic era but the research on Dawn finally puts that dispute to rest.

avgi 2.jpg
images by O.D Nilsson turned into collage by myself - Dawn

Dawns life does not seem to have been an easy one. Next to her malnutrition issues, that point to times of starvation and limited food variety, her skeleton also showed evidence of hip and joint problems which means that she was most likely in pain and found it difficult to walk or move. Nilsson seems to have let this reflect in his recreation of her her grim expression giving testament of a short probably very hard life. When asked about the “scowl” in an interview Reuters orthodontics professor Manolis Papagrikorakis, who built the silicone version of her scull and headed the team who did the extensive groundwork for the recreation, joked that “It’s not possible for her not to be angry during such an era.”

Another thing that instantaneously stands out is the masculinity of her features. In an interview with National Geographic Nilsson went on record saying “ reconstruction is an intricate process and the success of it enables conclusions to be made about how our facial features have changed over time.“ “Having reconstructed a lot of Stone Age women and men, I think some facial features seem to have disappeared or ‘smoothed out’ with time. In general, we look less masculine, both men and women, today.”

image by Reuters

So let’s talk about the method of Dawn’s rebirth, what is the process? It is made possible with a combination of old school sculpting and new school high tech. The groundwork was laid by a team that included an endocrinologist, orthopedist, neurologist, pathologist, and radiologist led by the above mentioned Manolis Papagrigorakis. This team of experts provided the data and the literal bones for Nilsson to work off of. First a CT scan of the scull was made then using 3D image mappingthen a new one was recreated via 3d printer as the original is to fragile and valuable to work with.

The next step after the recreation of the scull is to gather and asses all the data, such as age, ethnicity, health and estimated weight. The next step is the gluing of pegs on the scull these pegs, of different length reflect the thickness of the flesh at certain anatomical points of the face. in an interview with Reuters Nilsson explains that the data always gives a general idea of how thick the flesh and muscles on specific points of the face should be. In an arduous process these muscles are then individually sculpted, with traditional sculpting tools, in layers of non-drying plasticine clay. After the first layers of muscle are placed prosthetic eyes are set into the model and the finer sculpting begins. with each layer the previous tools are replaced with smaller and finer ones until details and any wrinkles are worked in with different size needles. Nilsson comments on the process that "When you reconstruct a face, it's very important not to project a face from your inner fantasy," "You must let the face grow from the technique, from the skull." In the last step of a recreation A-crystal molds from the finished clay model are made into which flesh-coloured silicone is poured creating a silicon counterpart. The End Product is then hand painted and fitted with eyes and hair.

PicMonkey Imageg.jpgimages by O.D Nilsson turned into collage by myself - Dawn

So you might ask yourself how accurate are these recreations ?! Nilsson notes on that matter that there is only so much about the appearance of a person their bones can tell you and although nowadays DNA mapping and evaluation is part of the process, and has refined it, some things are still up to interpretation. In an interview he explained that the ears are the most speculative as are the finer points of the skin. “I try to bear in mind that people in the past lived their lives more outdoors than we do. This means more pigmented skin, more birthmarks, blisters etc., and the skin ages more quickly from the UV-radiation.” He went on to note that modern DNA testing is a blessing to the field as it can predict with high probability what eye and hair colour would have been which was previously an obstacle and pure guess work.

image by Reuters

I will leave you the reader with a few more pictures of O.D Nilsson’s exemplary work enjoy! You can visit Dawn at the Acropolis Museum in Athens where she is on display.

PicMonkey Collagey.jpgimages by O.D. Nilsson- in order of appreance - Viking woman from Randlev, Denmark /Birger jarl Magnusson, Swedish ruler from 1248 - 1266 AD / Estrid as a child. Vallentuna library, Stockholm/ The Bocksten Man sweden/ A Viking Age man from Sigtuna, late 10th century- Vikingaliv, Stockholm.


Writing notes:

Disclaimer- I never plagiarise or cut and paste content this article was written seven months ago for Steemit with information and pictures from the following Sources:
National Geographic
Live Science
O.D Nilsson’s own Website
Popular Archaeology

I thought it was interesting enough to give it new life on the Whaleshares platform
(Image credit Dave Renike and a portrait of the fair jubilee made by myself turned into this here universal truth meme) 1146410_626398614061443_1547687283_o.jpg


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Image Credit

art courtesy of @PegasusPhysics




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this little girl was made for me by @barbara-orenya

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