This Beautiful Reconstruction of a Stone Age Woman Feels Almost Like Time Travel


A Stone Age woman who lived 4,000 years ago is leaning on her walking stick looking ahead as a spirited young boy bursts into a run, in a stunning life-size reconstruction now on display in Sweden.

 

Although her likeness is new – it debuted last month in an exhibit about ancient people at Västernorrlands Museum – researchers have known about this woman’s existence for nearly a century.

During the construction of a road in the hamlet of Lagmansören in 1923, workers found her skeletal remains buried next to the remains of a child, likely a 7-year-old boy.

“With our eyes perhaps in all times, you tend to think that this is a mother son,” said Oscar Nilsson, the Sweden-based forensic artist who spent 350 hours creating the lifelike model.

“They could be. Or they could be siblings: sister brother. They could be relatives, or they could just be tribe friends. We don’t know, because the DNA was not that well preserved to establish this relationship.”

But as Nilsson molded the woman’s posture sculpted her face, he pretended that she was near her son who was scampering ahead of her.

“She’s looking with the mother’s eyes – both with love a bit of discipline,” Nilsson told Live Science. This stern but tender gaze looks as if she’s on the cusp of calling out to the boy, telling him to be careful.

The Neolithic woman youngster were interred in a cist grave, a burial built with long, flat stones in the shape of a coffin. The woman died in her late 20s or early 30s, at 4 feet, 11 inches (150 centimeters) in height, “she was not a very tall person,” even for the Neolithic period, Nilsson said.

The Neolithic woman’s skull. It was scanned 3D printed for the reconstruction. (Oscar Nilsson )

The woman’s remains didn’t show any signs of malnutrition, injury or diseases, although it’s possible that she died of an illness that didn’t leave a mark on her remains, Nilsson said. “She seems to have had a good life,” he said.

She ate land-based food, an examination of the isotopes (different versions of elements) in her teeth revealed, which was odd given that her grave was found near a fish-filled river near the coast, he said.

 

When Nilsson received the commission to reconstruct the woman two years ago, he scanned her skull made a copy of it with a plastic 3D printer.

As with other reconstructions he’s created, including those of an ancient Wari queen from what is now Peru a Stone Age man whose head was found on a spike, Nilsson had to take into account the ancient individual’s sex, age, weight ethnicity – factors that can influence the person’s facial tissue thickness general appearance. But because the woman’s DNA was too degraded, he wasn’t sure about her genetic background, hair or eye color. 

So Nilsson took an educated guess about her appearance. There were three large migration waves into ancient Scandinavia: During the first, hunter-gatherers with dark skin who tended to have blue eyes arrived between 12,000 10,000 years ago; the second wave included pale-skinned, dark-haired brown-eyed farmers from further south who moved north about 5,000 to 4,000 years ago, when this woman was alive; the third wave included the Yamnaya (also spelled Yamna) culture from modern-day Ukraine, who were a bit darker-skinned than the farmers brought the art of metal making with them when they arrived about 3,500 years ago, making them the first Bronze Age culture in the region, Nilsson said. 

Two back views front views of the model of the neolithic woman(Oscar Nilsson)

Based on this information, Nilsson gave the woman brown hair eyes, light skin like the farmers’. Even so, the woman wasn’t necessarily a full-time farmer; she likely participated in a mix of hunting gathering as well as agricultural practices, he said. 

Related: Stone Age man, whose skull was found on a spike, gets facial recreation (photos) 

“We can’t say for sure whether she was living a nomadic life, if she was living the life of the early farmers; it’s impossible to say,” Nilsson said. “But we have chosen to make the safest interpretation, which is she was both because, of course, there was a transition period of many hundreds of years when they left the old way of living.”

Animation of the reconstruction, from skull to muscle tissue to full face(Oscar Nilsson)

Fancy furs, Stone Age style

In the reconstruction, the woman from Lagmansören is dressed head to toe in fur leather. This is the work of Helena Gjaerum, a Sweden-based independent archaeologist who uses Stone Age techniques for tanning leather.  

Before dressing the model, Gjaerum studied the ancient climate, landscape, vegetation animal life of Neolithic Lagmansören. Based on what she uncovered, she designed the woman’s clothes out of deer, moose and elk the shoes out of reindeer, beaver and fox.

 

The woman likely stuffed hay inside the shoes for padding, noted Gjaerum, who took inspiration from clothing worn by Indigenous Americans Indigenous Siberians, as well as the leather clothing of Özti the Iceman mummy, who lived about 5,300 years ago in the Italian Alps.

Preparing the clothes entailed hours of labor. Gjaerum, who acquired real animal remains, scraped the flesh off the skins then put them in a river – a method that helps loosen the fur from the skin. Next, she scraped off the fur slathered on a solution made of moose brain, a fatty mixture that bonds with skin fibers. Without this mixture, the skin would stiffen could easily rot if it got wet, she said. 

The next several steps involved massaging, boiling, stretching smoking the skins then finally designing the clothing.

The woman standing in situ with her back to the camera(Oscar Nilsson)

Gjaerum’s young son, who was about the same height as the Stone Age woman, served as a helpful model, Gjaerum said. She made the clothing as comfortable practical as possible – for instance, by not putting a seam at the top of the shoulder, where water might seep in during rainy weather.

Often, modern people think of Stone Age humans as primitive, dressed in ugly, toga-like furs as in The Far Side comics. But Gjaerum challenged that perception.

“I think it would be crazy to think she’d have primitive clothes,” Gjaerum told Live Science. “I wanted to make her dress like you could dress today” because you are both Homo sapiens.

Related stories:

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Photos: Prehistoric village holds Bronze Age treasures

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here. 

 



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