Reconstruction of Calpeia: A Gibraltar Woman Who Lived in circa 5400 BC


A fascinating project from the Gibraltar National Museum has culminated in the facial reconstruction of ‘Calpeia’ – the name given to a Gibraltar woman who lived in the Neolithic era, around 7,500-years ago. The name in itself is a celebration of the Classical name of the Rock of Gibraltar. The forensic-based recreation was showcased to the world recently by Dr. John Cortes, the Minister of Heritage of the British Overseas Territory. 

As for the incredible project, it started with the discovery of Calpeia’s remains by the archaeologists from the Gibraltar National Museum at a location near Europa Point, way back in 1996. However, it was the recent strides in scientific archaeology that allowed the researchers to extract segments of DNA from the human remains. Combined with other features, including a 3D printed version of her skull and real human hair, the forensic team was able to successfully complete the reconstruction in about six months. 


Professor Clive Finlayson, the Director of the Museum, explained –

She [Calpeia] was in burial and we now know she was a she as she comes from the Neolithic period of around 5,400BC. We were able to extract DNA from the skull so we know a number of things. We know she was a female, we know she had features associated with dark hair, dark eyes, and the interesting thing was when we look at her ancestry 10% of her genes were local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers but 90% of her genes were from Anatolia [modern day Turkey]. I am not going to go into the ins and outs of Neanderthals being different species or not, but if the Neanderthal is a different lineage and Nana is the first female Neanderthal, I think what you are going to see today is truly a modern human.


Interestingly enough, given the rigors of millennia, the skull of Calpeia was found to be deformed. Consequently, the researchers had to painstakingly reshape the various regions – based on the scanned copy of the bone structure. As for her identity, Dr. Cortes said –

This young lady, I think she was late 30s early 40s, lived in Gibraltar seven and a half thousand years ago. She was buried in a cave at Europa Point. I am told there was no agriculture in Gibraltar at that time, they were probably fishing living off the sea and living off the land. But she was in Gibraltar, a Gibraltarian, though whether she was born here or traveled here we will never know. But, so many of us born here or who have travelled here consider ourselves Gibraltarian.

He further added –

So you are about to see the face of the first known Gibraltarian of seven and a half thousand years ago. So when you see her try and push your mind back all those years ago when the Rock was very, very different, still our Rock, still our Gibraltar, still lived, played and suffered and had their day to day life in a different way but they were humans just like us with the same emotions.

Source: Gibraltar Chronicle

All Image Credit: Johnny Bugeja/Gibraltar Chronicle

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