Faces of the Human Past

Ian Tattersall, curator at the American Museum of Natural History, and Richard Milner, an editor at Natural History, co-authored the 2007 Natural History feature story Faces of the Human Past. But it’s the illustrations by Victor Deak and Gary Sawyer that really stand out.

Sawyer is a physical anthropologist at the American Museum, an expert in recreating muscles and tendons and other anatomical features from past bones; Deak is the artist who makes it all come alive. Just above I have posted my favorite of their recreations, a Paranthropus boisei (some still call that species an Australopithecus boisei). The boisei skulls and teeth are striking in their robust breadth, but I had never seen an illustration that caught my fancy until this one.

Australopithecus afarensis, Ardipithecus ramidus, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo ergaster are the other species featured in the article, with seven different images in total. There is also a captivating graphic of a “dissection in reverse,” showing how they went about recreating the face of a Homo heidelbergensis. All the illustrations, and more besides, were included in the recent book The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans.

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