2-Dimensional Facial Reconstruction

Image of Karen T. Taylor and a 2-d facial reconstructionThe technique of 2-dimensional facial reconstruction from the skull is a method of forensic art used to aid in identifying skeletal remains. The artist and anthropologist collaborate to construct the facial features of the unknown individual on the basis of the underlying cranial structure. The purpose of 2-D facial reconstructions is to generate a comparison once someone viewing the images puts forward a name of a potential match. Then, medical records of that missing person can be compared to the skull and dentition and lead to a legally valid positive identification.

The method of 2-dimensional facial reconstruction I use is one I developed in the mid 1980s. After studying forensic sculpture with Betty Pat. Gatliff and Dr. Clyde Snow in 1983, I created a drawing procedure using one-to-one or life-size skull photographs. I glued tissue depth indicators onto the skull before it was photographed and drawn. With this approach, it became possible to use all of the tissue depth information because the camera performed the function of foreshortening the depths just as the planes of the face are foreshortened in a life photograph. In addition, by enlarging the skull photographs to exactly life-size, all of the various formulae for the prediction of individual features could be used as well. Two-dimensional facial reconstruction has proven to be especially suitable for skulls which are too fragile to bear the weight of clay for a sculptural approach.  The technique may also be useful for museum and historical work.

I am so gratified to say that this simple, inexpensive and direct method has been adopted by forensic artists around the world. Since the 80s, I have worked hard to offer instruction in the method and it is described in my textbook Forensic Art and Illustration.

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