3D digital reconstruction of beautiful face of medieval woman brought back to life 700 years after her death

You are currently viewing 3D digital reconstruction of beautiful face of medieval woman brought back to life 700 years after her death

By Jack Wright

Scientists have digitally reconstructed three people from the Middle Ages

  • An unknown woman was buried at the Whithorn Priory site in Scotland
  • Lifelike animations of the three have been created for a tourist attraction
  • The deceased will ‘come back to life’ and describe life in the 14th century 

Scientists have ingeniously built a 3D digital reconstruction of a ‘beautiful’ 14th century woman and a cleric with a cleft palate – both of whom will talk to visitors at a book festival about life at Scotland’s ‘cradle of Christianity’. The unknown woman, who died in her 20s and was placed on a bed of seashells, was found during vault renovations at the Whithorn Priory site in Dumfries and Galloway in the 1950s.

Using facial reconstruction and computer technology, experts from the University of Bradford created a lifelike animation of the woman who will tell the story of the priory at an event at Wigtown Book Festival which opens today, the first of October 2022. The animations are part of Cold Case Whithorn, a project revisiting the area’s archaeological archive.

National Museums Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council museums service loaned the skulls of three medieval people for 3D scanning by Dr Adrian Evans at Bradford. They were then digitally reconstructed and given lifelike faces with voiceovers recorded to bring them to life.

Describing the woman, Dr. Christopher Rynn, a craniofacial anthropologist and forensic artist, said her skull was the most symmetrical he had ever seen, strongly suggesting she was extremely beautiful. He said: ‘When the face is growing throughout childhood, throughout teenage years, it doesn’t grow symmetrically simultaneously. It grows left and right, kind of like walking. ‘So if there’s any kind of illness, or even just the kind of emotional trauma that could stop you from sleeping and eating for any length of time, then it’s going to throw the symmetry of the face off. The more illness and trauma in childhood, the less symmetrical the adult face will end up.’

The woman was buried in a stone coffin set in front of the high altar, and beside the grave of Bishop Walter who was known to have worked in the diocese of York, becoming bishop of Whithorn in 1209 – all of which suggest she may have had high status despite being so young.

A third skeleton of a man with a cleft palate was also found in a coffin nearby. All three skulls underwent facial reconstruction as part of the Cold Case Whithorn project.

Dr Adrian Maldonado of National Museums Scotland said: ‘The famous excavations at Whithorn were a huge leap forward in the archaeology of Christianity and, amazingly, they continue to bring new insights into life in medieval Scotland. These graves were discovered decades ago, when they could not have anticipated the kinds of questions we can now ask. In addition to generating critical new scientific data about health and diet in the past, the people of medieval Whithorn continue to inspire stories. What could be a better testament to the value of curating archaeological collections in museums?’’

Julia Muir Watt, the trust’s development manager, said: ‘The chance to see and imagine that we can hear these three people from so many centuries ago is a remarkable way to help us understand our history and ancestry. It’s always a challenge to imagine what life was really like in medieval times, and these reconstructions are a brilliant way to engage with who these people from our past really were, of their everyday lives, their hopes and their beliefs.’

Whithorn held the tomb of St Ninian, an 8th century missionary who converted the Picts to Christianity.  It was also the birthplace of Latinus of Whithorn, the first known Christian in Scotland who lived around 450AD, and who is mentioned on the Latinus Stone – Scotland’s oldest surviving Christian memorial.

Healthy lifestyle can prevent cardiovascular diseases
By Opeyemi Babalola

A cardiologist, Dr. Okoh Basil Ewere has shed more light on cardiovascular diseases, which he referred to as “a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels…”

Speaking at a forum in Lagos, Ewere, a medical practitioner at Evercare Hospital, said: “Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of death worldwide. In Nigeria, reports of the sudden death of previously apparently healthy individuals, either by slumping or not awakening from sleep, are on the incline. The possibilities are a result of a heart attack or stroke. This has been attributed to the influence of witches, wizards and ‘village people…’’

To prevent cardiovascular diseases, he recommended lifestyle adjustments and dietary modifications, such as quitting smoking, exercise, diet and healthy eating, alcohol limit, and stress control among others would be helpful. Summarily, mortality from a heart attack is significantly high-so prevention and early detection are keys.

He added: “The average life expectancy in Nigeria as of 2022 is 55. 44 years as against 36.73 years in 1960. Thus, statistically, we live longer now with better health care facilities and probably, better-balanced nutrition than in 1960. ​This coupled with more industrialization has brought a sedentary lifestyle, a more Western diet and attending obesity, creating a paradigm shift from communicable diseases like cholera to non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart attack.”

He said: “Heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle does not get enough blood to function. When this persists, it can lead to the death of that muscle. This shortage of blood results from a blockage within the lumen of the vessel. This blockage typically consists of fat deposition also known as arteriosclerosis and platelets within the lumen, leading to narrowing of the lumen and eventually, complete occlusion. This fat deposition did not just suddenly occur but has been accumulating gradually over time.

He continued: “Fats are naturally and gradually deposited in our arteries as we age. They are a part of the normal ageing process and not necessarily, harmful. But, this process is accelerated by some risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, abnormal cholesterol levels, family health history, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and age.”

He said heart attacks among the younger generation might not be due to fat deposition, but the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and others. When symptoms of a heart attack occur, the sooner the patient gets to an emergency room, the sooner you he can get treatment to reduce any damage to the heart muscle.

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