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21 October 2011
Reconstruction of one of the earliest Norwegians

A reconstruction based on the skull of Norway's best-preserved Stone Age skeleton makes it possible to study the features of a boy who lived outside Stavanger 7,500 years ago. Jenny Barber, an MSc student at the University of Dundee in Scotland, has scientifically rebuilt the face of Viste Boy, who lived in the Vistehola cave near Stavanger.
     Discovered in 1907, the Viste Boy represents the most complete Norwegian Stone Age skeleton and the third oldest human remains ever found in the Norway.
His dark-coloured skull and bones are currently on display in a glass case at the Archaeological Museum on the University of Stavanger (UiS).
     Analyses show that the Viste Boy was approximately 15 when he died. He stood a bit less than 1.25 metres tall and probably lived in a group of 10-15 people. From their studies of rubbish in and around Vistehola, the archaeologists determined that this clan ate fish - mostly cod - as well as oysters, mussels, cormorants, elk and wild pig.
     "The goal has been to create something as similar as possible to the original," explains Ms Barber. "That's what facial reconstruction is all about - identification and recognition of a unique person." She has scanned the skull with a laser surface scanner, which provided accurate data on his anatomy. Ms Barber then converted the digital data into a plastic model, shaping muscle, skin and features in clay. Eyes, ears and other details were finally painted or added.
     Ms Barber's work revealed that the Viste Boy had scaphocephaly, a congenital deformity which makes the skull long and narrow. She left the modelled head hairless to show this. "The fact that the boy had scaphocephaly is a medical detail we hadn't observed before," says Mads Ravn, head of research at the Archaeological Museum.
     The work done by Ms Barber on the Viste Boy also demonstrates that the stocky lad was no weakling. "This reconstruction indicates that he must have been muscular, quite simply a robust person," she observes. "So it's not certain that he was sickly, as people have thought. The bone analysis doesn't bear out such a diagnosis, and he has no other deformities that we know of other than the scaphocephaly."
     "Ms Barber's work has given us a fantastic chance to convey flesh and blood through a very ancient relic," Mr Ravn said.

Edited from ScienceDaily (20 October 2011)

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