Faces reconstructed from 700-year-old skulls found in excavation of graveyard

Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland
·2-min read

Two faces have been reconstructed from skulls which could be 700 years old after remains were found during excavations in an Edinburgh graveyard.

Forensic artists used hi-tech software to reconstruct the faces of remains found at the medieval site in Leith, dating back to between the 14th and 17th centuries, as part of the Trams to Newhaven project.

The results show how a man and woman aged between 35 and 50 might have looked at the time, with early analysis suggesting the woman may have suffered from nutritional deficiencies.

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Elysia Greenway created the image of the man while the woman’s facial reconstruction was created by Viviana Conti – both of whom are masters graduate students at the University of Dundee.

City of Edinburgh Council archaeologist John Lawson said: “These fantastic reconstructions help us connect directly with our forebearers.

“Often we as archaeologists just see the physical remains but the work undertaken by Dundee University’s forensic artists helps put the flesh, so to speak, back on to these remains and by doing so I feel brings them closer to us today.”

The pair used special 3D scanners to build digital versions of the skulls, which were found during excavations outside South Leith Parish Church on Constitution Street last summer.

A team of archaeologists were working to remove any human remains that could be affected by the tram works – and they exhumed more than 360 bodies dating from between 1300 and 1650.

Ms Greenway and Ms Conti have recorded vlogs for the project’s YouTube page to discuss the process.

Lynn Morrison, forensic art lecturer at the University of Dundee, said: “Elysia and Viviana have done an excellent job reconstructing the faces of these individuals.

“This internship has given them a great opportunity to develop the skills learnt on the course and gain some valuable experience in the field.

“I am delighted to see how well they are doing.”