5,700-year-old neolithic woman’s facial reconstruction revealed by scientists

She could be related to modern-day Malaysians.
Nergis Firtina
Researchers used 3D technology to create the facial reconstruction
Researchers used 3D technology to create the facial reconstruction

Universiti Sains Malaysia 

A study by Universiti Sains Malaysia has revealed a prehistoric woman's facial reconstruction.

It is thought that this prehistoric "Penang Woman" lived about 5,700 years ago during the Neolithic or New Stone Age in what is now Malaysia, the study suggests, which was published on August 5. However, the woman's full identity is still unknown.

Universiti Sains Malaysia researcher Shaiful Idzwan Shahidan, one of seven USM researchers who worked on the project, told FMT that Penang Woman is estimated to have died when she was 30 to 35 years old.

“She was about 150 cm tall. Tests on the skeletal tissue concluded that she consumed a lot of protein, from seafood or rivers,” he added.

He surmised that the Penang Woman was of mixed Australomelanesian and Mongoloid ancestry based on the features of her face.

The radiocarbon dating also showed which era the woman might have lived.

The skeleton of a Penang Woman was unearthed by USM archeologists during a 2017 dig at Guar Kepah, a Neolithic site located in Penang, in northwest Malaysia.

5,700-year-old neolithic woman’s facial reconstruction revealed by scientists
Scan of the Penang Woman's skull


Computed tomography was used to scan the face

A facial approximation of the woman, who is estimated to have lived until the age of about 40 based on dental wear and a cranial suture closure, was made by USM researchers in collaboration with Brazilian graphics expert Cicero Moraes using computed tomography scans of the body's "almost complete" skull and 3D images of contemporary Malaysians.

Most Popular

"In addition, we used virtual donors (3D reconstructed computed tomography) with a structure close to the skull to be approximated and we adapted (deformed) the donor until it fit the skull. With all this cross-data, we have an idea of what the face might look like," Moraes told LiveScience.

About radiocarbon dating

Some of the findings uncovered in archaeological excavations are various organic clues containing the element carbon. By measuring the density or radioactivity of the radioactive 14C (radiocarbon) isotope, which is found as traces in organic finds containing carbon, the aforementioned finds and the layers and contexts in which these finds were found can be dated.

The radiocarbon dating method has become the main method used for the absolute dating of the archaeological, paleobotanical, and geological events that have occurred on earth in the last 50 thousand years, since its establishment in 1950.

Study abstract

Forensic facial approximation was applied to a 5000-year-old female skull from a shell midden in Guar Kepah, Malaysia. The skull was scanned using a computed tomography (CT) scanner in the Radiology Department of the Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia using a Light Speed Plus scanner with a 1 mm section thickness in spiral mode and a 512 × 512 matrix. The resulting images were stored in Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) format. A three-dimensional (3D) model of the skull was obtained from the CT scan data using Blender’s 3D modeling and animation software. After the skull was reconstructed, it was placed on the Frankfurt plane, and soft tissue thickness markers were placed based on 34 Malay CT scan data of the nose and lips. The technique based on facial approximation by data extracted from facial measurements of living individuals showed greater anatomical coherence when combined with anatomical deformation. The facial approximation in this study will pave the way towards understanding face prediction based on skull structures, soft tissue prediction rules, and soft tissue thickness descriptors.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron