Face-to-face with Stone Age Viste Boy

A forensic student reconstructs the head of a Stone Age youth known as Viste Boy. Archaeologists believe he lived in the Vistehola cave near Stavanger, Norway.

A reconstruction based on the skull of Norway’s best-preserved Stone Age skeleton makes it possible to see the features of a boy who lived outside Stavanger 7,500 years ago.

An article from the University of Stavanger in Norway (October 20, 2011) describes how student Jenny Barber, of the University of Dundee in Scotland, rebuilt the face of a strong and stocky 15-year-old boy who lived in the Vistehola cave near Stavanger.

The skull was scanned with a laser surface scanner, and the resulting information was loaded into a computer program. Image Credit: Terje Tveit

Barber, a student of forensic art, said:

It is hoped that this reconstruction is a good likeness and that, if someone who knew him in life had been presented with this restoration, they would hopefully have recognized the face.

This type of modeling method is used primarily to assist police investigations.

Discovered in 1907, Viste Boy represents the most complete Norwegian Stone Age skeleton and the third oldest human remains ever found in the Norway.

His dark-colored skull and bones are currently on display in a glass case in the Archaeological Museum at the University of Stavanger.

Barber converted the digital construct into a plastic model and then shaped muscle, skin and features in clay. Image Credit: Jenny Barber

Analyses show that Viste Boy was approximately 15 when he died. He stood a bit less than four feet (1.25 meters) tall and probably lived in a group of 10 to 15 people. From their studies in and around Vistehola, archaeologists have determined that this clan ate fish – mostly cod – as well as oysters, mussels, cormorants, elk and wild pig.

Barber scanned the skull of Viste Boy with a laser surface scanner, which provided accurate data on his anatomy.

The cranium had suffered some damage, so the most complete side was duplicated. To support her work, Barber drew on a digital copy of the skull of another 15-year-old boy. However, the final anatomy corresponds to the original bone of Viste Boy.

Barber converted the digital construct into a plastic model and then shaped muscle, skin and features in clay.

The final face was cast in plastic resin and fiberglass. The result was painted, and glass eyes set in place. Image Credit: Jenny Barber

The clay bust formed the basis for a negative mold, with the finished product then cast in plastic resin and fiberglass. Eyes, ears and other details were finally painted or added.

Barber’s work revealed that Viste Boy had scaphocephaly (“boat-head”), a congenital deformity which makes the skull long and narrow. She left the modelled head hairless to show this.

Mads Ravn, head of research at the Archaeological Museum, said:

The fact that the boy had scaphocephaly is a medical detail we hadn’t observed before.

Barber observed:

This reconstruction indicates that he must have been muscular, quite simply a robust person. So it’s not certain that he was sickly, as people have thought.

The bone analysis doesn’t bear out such a diagnosis, and he has no other deformities that we know of other than the scaphocephaly.

Bottom line: Jenny Barber, a student of forensic art at the University of Dundee in Scotland, has reconstructed the head of a Stone Age boy from skeletal remains. According to an article released from the University of Stavanger (Norway) on October 20, 2011, Viste Boy is believed to have lived in the Vistehola cave near Stavanger about 7,500 years ago.

Read more at University of Stavanger

French researchers match mummified head to murdered monarch Henri IV

Jean Auel on painted caves and her latest novel

Ancient Nutcracker Man preferred grass to nuts

EarthSky

MORE ARTICLES