‘Axe stuck in his face’: Battle of Gotland warrior’s face reconstructed with 3D technology

The battle took place in 1361 but the wound was only recently reconstructed.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Battle of Gotland warrior’s face reconstructed with 3D technology
Battle of Gotland warrior’s face reconstructed with 3D technology

Cicero Moraes 

A new study by author Cícero Moraes, a Brazilian graphics expert, 3D artist, and designer, reveals how a warrior may have died in the Battle of Gotland that took place between Swedish farmers and the Danish army in 1361. This is according to research published by Live Science on Friday.

To draw conclusions about the fighter’s gruesome death, Moraes created two digital 3D facial models that recreated what the man may have looked like before being bludgeoned in battle. One was a simple reconstruction in black and white and the other incorporated a more speculative artistic approach.

This second image provided the details needed to understand the warrior’s demise by showing him in vibrant realistic color. The man had dark hair, a full beard, and a huge gash extending across the lower portion of his face.

Modeling an axe blow to the bone

"Among the weapon options that could have been used, the ax seemed the most coherent," Moraes told Live Science in an email. "So, I modeled an ax and placed it on the bone. It's hard to know if it killed him, but it certainly did a lot of damage to the soft tissue," Moraes said. "It was shocking to see that ax stuck in his face."

‘Axe stuck in his face’: Battle of Gotland warrior’s face reconstructed with 3D technology
A reconstruction of the warrior's face.

The man’s skull boasts a deep crack stretched diagonally from the bottom-left portion of the lower jaw up to the hollow cavity where the nose would have once been. In addition, several teeth seem to be missing, likely knocked out by the force of the attack. Only one thing could have caused such damage, says Moraes: a brutal axe to the face.

Moraes speculates that the man was one of 1,800 local farmers who died during The Battle of Gotland, which was led by Denmark's King Valdemar Atterdag to gain control over the sparsely populated Swedish island. The man would have likely been attacked because he did not have the warrior skills to defend himself.

Inexperienced fighters

"Many [of the] Gotland warriors [were] inexperienced rural militiamen, [and] were massacred by the Danish army, with a cadre mostly composed of well-trained mercenaries," Moraes said in the email. "There were so many dead that most were buried with all their clothing, causing great astonishment to archaeologists who carried out the first excavations.”

Moraes added that he depicted the injury with realistic color and details to illustrate the vicious brutality of war. He hopes to inspire people to choose more peaceful paths.

"I hope people see what a conflict really is," Moraes said in the email. "This facial approximation is a reminder of what happens."

The new study was published online on October 30.

Study abstract:

This article presents the forensic facial approximation work of a victim of the Battle of Gotland, which took place in 1361 on the island of the same name, located in Sweden. In addition to reconstructing the aspect of the individual in life, the work sought to present the wound received by a sharp object, when being struck in the frontal region of the face.

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