Archaeologists reconstruct the face of a mysterious Scottish woman named Ava

Researchers created a 3D image of a Bronze Age woman.
Sejal Sharma
Facial reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman named Ava
Facial reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman named Ava

Moraes et al 

After examining the mortal remains of a mysterious Scottish woman who died approximately 3,800 years ago, archaeologists now have a fair idea of what the woman looked like.

In a new study published online, archaeologists used forensic facial reconstruction (FFR) which reconstructs the face of an individual using their skull approximations. This technique is used when there is little information available about an individual, as was the case with Ava.

Bronze Age mysterious woman

Ava’s skeleton was discovered in 1987, along with a ceramic cup, in Achavanich, Scotland. About three decades later, researchers undertook a project to look more into the history of those mortal remains.

In 2016, the Open Virtual Worlds made Ava's skull available for interactive viewing and download under a free license, the researchers were intrigued to find out more. 

Since there was no other documentation available, the researchers used only photographs and proceeded with the analysis that the skeleton was that of the female sex, with a height of 1.71 meters. The woman died between the age of 18 and 25. The study claims that the DNA analysis confirmed it was a woman, with brown eyes, and black hair and her complexion was slightly darker than the present Scottish people.

Recreating faces of the unknown dead

Nicknamed Project Ava, the archaeologists started with the complementation of the missing regions of the skull, followed by the projection of the profile and structures of the face from statistical data, generating the volume of the face with the help of the anatomical deformation technique and the finishing with the detailing of the face, configuration of the hair and generation of the final images.

Study author Cícero Moraes told Live Science, "Thanks to anatomical, statistical, and logical data, it was possible to reconstruct (her face). I then set out to trace the profile of the face, which we do through a combination of soft tissue thickness markers, which inform the limits of the skin."

A 2016 analysis of Ava’s face had earlier estimated that she had light blue eyes, light skin tone, and blonde hair. The latest study refutes that claim.

Using similar techniques, researchers have reconstructed the face of King Tut, who has been the target of many attempts at facial approximations using forensic techniques.

And recently, Moraes led another analysis in which his team reconstructed the face of an ancient person nicknamed "the hobbit." Facial reconstructions are an educative medium for informing people about their ancient history.

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