Face of the ‘oldest human’ EVER revealed: Scientists bring to life woman who lived 45,000 years ago in modern-day Czechia
- A skull from a 45,000-year-old woman was found in Czechia
- Researchers used measurements of the skull to recreate the woman’s face
- READ MORE: Skull discovered in Czech Republic dates back over 45,000 years
Scientists have revealed the face of what may be the ‘oldest human’ to walk the Earth – a woman who lived 45,000 years ago.
Her dark features were brought to life by an international team of academics from Brazil, Australia and Italy using a digital model of her broken skull.
The fossilized remains recovered in Czechia more than 70 years ago are only a portion of the skull, as researchers believe she was consumed by an animal after death.
While the team did not have access to the ancient skull, they used already recorded measurements and reference images, which the researchers previously used to recreate the face of Tutankhamun this year.
The woman, dubbed Zlatý kůň, or golden horse, was among the first Homo sapiens to live in Eurasia after our species migrated out of Africa – and her genome carried about three percent Neanderthal ancestry.
Zlatý kůň is considered a modern human, as this group had very large brains compared to early humans that emerged from ape-like ancestors.
The woman, dubbed Zlatý kůň, or golden horse, was among the first Homo sapiens to live in Eurasia after our species migrated out of Africa
The process of using images and recorded measurements is known as facial approximation, which is used in forensic studies.
It is the prediction of a face from a skull without prior knowledge of the decedent’s actual facial appearance before they died.
Study co-author Cícero Moraes, a Brazilian graphics expert, told Live Science that he and the team used statistical data recorded in 2018 by researchers who created a reconstruction of the skull for educational purposes.
This was used with two CT scans of a modern man and woman, resulting in the digital face.
What most caught our attention was the robustness of the structure [of the face], especially the mandible [lower jaw],’ Moraes said.
‘When [archaeologists] found the skull, the first experts who analyzed it thought it was a man, and it’s easy to understand why, in addition to the skull having characteristics that are very compatible with the male sex of current populations,’ which include a ‘robust’ jaw.
‘We see that the jaw structure of Zlatý kůň tends to be more compatible with Neanderthals.’
The fossilized remains recovered in Czechia more than 70 years ago are only a portion of the skull, as researchers believe she was consumed by an animal after death
Her dark features were brought to life by an international team of academics from Brazil, Australia and Italy using a digital model of her broken skull
The gray-scaled images allowed them to generate more objective and scientific shots of the ancient woman’s face, allowing them to then add color, hair and fur
The skull was found in nine pieces in 1950 in a Bulgarian cave called Bacho Kiro.
Moraes told Live Science archaeologists believe animals gnawed on the woman’s face post-death.
‘This animal could have been a wolf or a hyena ([both were] present in the fauna at that time), he said.
READ MORE: Scientists reconstruct the face of a female mummy who died 2,600 years ago
Scientists have spent months creating the reconstruction of what they call the most famous Egyptian mummy in Switzerland known as Shep-en-Isis, or Schepenese, using CT scans and morphological data from her skeleton.
‘Despite covering a considerable part of the surface of a composite skull (skull + mandible), the structure is missing some regions, most notably part of the nasal bone, part of the maxilla, left orbit and the left part of the frontal bone,’ reads the study published on July 18.
‘In 2018, a multinational team of researchers proceeded with the work of three-dimensional reconstruction of the missing regions, using statistical data extracted from a group composed of 31 skulls, 15 of men and 15 of current women, scanned by computed tomography at the Center Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) of Bordeaux, France, and from the Moča skull, found in Slovakia, dated to 13,100 BP.’
The recent work used the 2018 skull recreation, available in an open publication, and recreated a digital skull that closely resembled Zlatý kůň.
The team also used 30 other skulls of different ancestries and sexes to fill in the woman’s gaps.
‘The final images were generated using Blender 3D’s Cycles renderer and consisted of views of the bust composed in order to show the most objective elements of the face, focusing on the general structure,’ researchers wrote in the paper.
‘For images with objective elements, the eyes were closed, the image converted into grayscale, the bust does not have hair.’
Moraes told Live Science the gray-scaled images allowed them to generate more objective and scientific shots of the ancient woman’s face, allowing them to then add color, hair and fur.
The result is a lifelike image of a woman with dark, curly hair and brown eyes.
‘We looked for elements that could compose the visual structure of the face only at a speculative level since no data was provided on what would be the color of the skin, hair and eyes,’ Moraes said.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany announced in 2021 that Zlatý kůň lived just 2,000 years after the first interspecies trysts between humans and Neanderthals.
The DNA from this person and their population is not seen in modern-day people in either Asia or Europe, where Homo sapiens later colonized, the researchers found.
This evidence, the academics said, means the Czechia individual is almost certainly older than other contenders with a claim as the earliest human fossil in Europe.
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