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3D Printed Face Reconstruction from 500 Year Old Skull

| Model Making | June 17, 2013

Mary Rose Archers Skull 3D Modeled

The 500 year old skull was 3D modeled before being used to reconstruct the face

British scientists have reconstructed the face of one of Henry VIII’s elite archers using 3D printing and a forensic expert. The archer died in 1545 when the Mary Rose sank in the Solent, the strait between the Isle of Wight and the south coast of England, along with over 500 men who were also on board.

The Mary Rose was Henry VIII’s flagship and the most advanced warship of its time. It was raised in 1982 and has been undergoing restoration ever since. Ninety two skeletons were recovered from the wreck and ten skulls were sent to Swansea University for analysis, including this one that was reconstructed.

‘Archers were the only professional soldiers of their day. So it is very likely that this is the face of one of Henry VIII’s elite troops.’, said Nick Owen, who led the reconstruction project. ‘What’s so exciting is that we can reveal the face of a man who has been hidden from history. We wouldn’t have portraits of him, as we do for wealthy and powerful people from the past – for example we’d already seen the face of Richard III on paintings before his remains were discovered. This is a face of an ordinary man, albeit in a crack regiment, and he hasn’t been seen for almost 500 years.’

3D Printed Mary Rose Archers Skull

A copy of the archer's skull was 3D printed so that the original would not be damaged

Along with Swedish expert, Oscar Nilsson, the team reconstructed the solider’s face after 3D scanning his skull and then 3D printed it to make a replica. The 3D printing of the skull took over 48 hours to complete and was undertaken by Swansea University’s Astute group. Mr Nilsson used his expertise in anatomy and his artistic abilities to reconstruct the man’s face by building it up muscle by muscle, eventually producing the face that you can see below.

Mary Rose Archer Reconstruction

A facial reconstruction expert created this likeness from the 3D printed skull

From studying the face and skeleton the team were able to deduce a number of things about the man and his role on the ship. Because of repetitive stress injuries to his skeleton they believe he was an longbow archer. His skeleton was found with an ivory armguard, a silver ring and a bag containing a pewter plate, which indicates he was of high rank. He was in his 20′s or 30′s and over six feet tall.

Mary Rose Tudor Ship

The Mary Rose sank in 1536 while leading an attack on the French fleet.

The reconstructed face of the archer, along with other artefacts from the Mary Rose, are on display in the new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, UK.

Watch the video below which shows facial reconstruction expert Oscar Nilsson using the 3D printed skull to reconstruct the face.

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