Forensic Facial Reconstruction

Two-dimensional and three-dimensional Facial Reconstruction are methods of forensic art developed to reveal a facial likeness of unidentified human skeletonized remains. A skull of the unknown individual is required for either of these applications.

  • The actual skull can be used if skeletonized and cleaned   
  • An Optical Laser scan can be utilized to construct a digital 3-dimensional surface model of a skull   
  • A mold of a clean skull can be produced then cast in a variety of materials
  • A rapid prototype (RP) 3-D print of skull can be developed from a computed tomography (CT) scan for a duplicate copy of the cranium and mandible even if the original has not been defleshed.

In both applications, tissue depth markers pertaining to the unknown individual’s sex and ancestry are glued onto anatomical facial points of the skull to determine an average shape for that particular face.       

  Skull with tissue depth markers 


For the 2D the skull is photographed.  Facial contours and features are then drawn on tracing paper placed over a photograph of the skull.  This method is employed as a form of facial reconstruction in its own right or when completed prior to a 3-D reconstruction is used as a control for the final three-dimensional sculpture.

2-D and 3-D Facial Reconstructions of the same individual.

To develop a facial sculpture, the American and Anatomical methods of 3-D forensic facial reconstruction are combined. Non- hardening plasticine is used to recreate musculature based on the muscle attachments found on the skull.  A sculpture may better translate the details of the features and assist recognition from any angle by allowing relatives and acquaintances to imagine how the unknown deceased appeared in life. This method is used for historical recreations, mummies and coroners and police requiring assistance in the identification of unknown deceased persons.


Once the sculpture has been completed, it can be molded and cast as a hard structure for easy transport or permanent display.

Assessments of the John Abbott College skulls were offered by Ed Holland, Physical Anthropologist at JAC.