Facial reconstruction of a Dublin ‘lower-class’ commoner from the Tudor era

reconstruction-commoner-dublin-tudor-era_3Credit: Liverpool John Moore’s University

Back in July of 2014, archaeologists from the from Rubicon Heritage came across five human burials within the perimeter of a utilities trench near the main entrance to Trinity College in Dublin. And while preliminary hypotheses related these remains to the Viking Age or Hiberno-Norse origins (pertaining to the Norse-Gaels from 9th to 12th centuries), post-excavation analysis led to a completely different result. Radiocarbon dating of the skeletal remnants placed all of them within the time range of 15th – 17th centuries, thus corresponding to the Tudor era (1485–1603 AD).

reconstruction-commoner-dublin-tudor-era_1

Now interestingly, while the skeletons were found to be grouped together, they were probably not buried within the confines of a formal cemetery, like church ground or monastery. Furthermore, the burial orientations were divergent (from the norm), with four of the skeletons showcasing a southwest-northeast alignment. Additionally, the burials were quite shallow, complemented by the fact that the researchers didn’t find any use of coffin for the graves. All of these clues do hint at the lower socio-economic condition of the grave occupants in question here.

The direct analysis of the skeletons also reveal evidence for childhood malnutrition and heavy manual labor during their lifetimes. In fact, four of these deceased individuals (SK1 and SK3–5) were found to be adolescents, who unfortunately met their demise at the age of only 13-17 years. The fifth burial (SK2) pertained to that of a relatively young adult male (25-25 years) old, and he was chosen as the subject for the facial reconstruction. Intriguingly enough, by assessment of isotopes (which entails analyzing the isotopes of oxygen and strontium deposited in tooth enamel since childhood), the researchers were able to determine that this man was probably from Dublin, along with subject SK5, while the subject SK1 hailed from either North-East Ireland or Wales/South-West England.

reconstruction-commoner-dublin-tudor-era_2

Now coming to the reconstruction itself, the project was handled by the renowned team of Professor Caroline Wilkinson at Face Lab, Liverpool John Moore’s University. According to the Rubicon Heritage –

The first stage of this process was to create a 3D scan of the skull which then formed the basis of the digital reconstruction. Using well-established marker points and specialized software the main facial muscles, soft tissue and skin were layered onto the digitized model of the skull. Analysis of the skeletal remains had already established the age, gender, origin and likely social status of this individual and this information informed the final appearance of the reconstruction.

Other than the direct attributes of the man, the reconstruction specialists also made use of comparative analysis by utilizing contemporary 16th and 17th century illustrations of Irish people. And while most of these paintings were made for higher-class citizens, the experts could discern some form of analogy that physically defined the Irish male – like the retention of blue eyes and medium brown hair. All of these variant factors played their crucial role in the incredibly life-like reconstruction of a commoner Dubliner from the Tudor era.

Source: Rubicon Heritage

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