What did people look like in ancient times? Without photography or detailed paintings we can’t know for sure, but scientists have an idea at least for one of our distant ancestors, a woman who died more than 13,000 years ago in what is now Thailand.
Researchers used the woman’s skeletal remains, including pieces of skull, bone and teeth, and what they know about her life to develop a new method of reconstructing a face and facial features, according to their study in Antiquity.
Experts have reconstructed faces before, in many contexts, but the researchers say techniques “tend to be heavily biased” toward European features so they weren’t appropriate for a woman who lived in ancient Thailand. Instead, they used data from hundreds of modern women from around the world to find an average approximation of skull size, skin tone and other features, then combined that information with the ancient woman’s own skull measurements to make a likeness.
Although the young woman — between 25 and 35 years old — died more than 13,000 years ago, her face would look relatively modern, according to a report on the research. The researchers “also took care to avoid using the particular style that has become popular in depicting facial features of people from the past with wild expressions or appearances.”
The 5-foot woman was found several years ago in the Tham Lod rockshelter, an archaeologically rich area in the northwest of the Southeast Asian country. The study says she may have come from a population that are ancestors to people who currently live in Australia and islands in the neighboring region of Melanesia.
Even if the ancient woman is genetically linked to native Australians, aboriginal populations in that nation can trace back their lineage even further — researchers recently used DNA to prove that native tribes there are descended from the waves of people who migrated to that land up to 50,000 years ago.