The term facial reconstruction sculpture from the skull is synonymous with forensic sculpture, facial approximation, or facial reproduction. I opt to use the time-honored term facial reconstruction since it is the most established term in use world wide. It is a 3-D method of forensic art used to help identify skeletal remains. The artist and anthropologist collaborate to construct the facial features of the unknown individual on the basis of the underlying cranial structure.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of three-dimensional reconstruction is the ability to view and photograph the face in multiple dimensions. The third dimension may aid some viewers in making the necessary connection to a missing acquaintance or loved one. Another advantage comes with cases for which there are items such as clothing, jewelry, hair accoutrements, eyeglasses or dentures. It may be possible to place the actual evidentiary items on the sculpture and photograph them. The 3-D technique is also very useful for museum and historical work since it can literally bring the faces of the long-dead to life.
The forensic sculpture method I use is derived from my mentor and friend Betty Pat. Gatliff. Her method has been honed and refined using forty years experience and has led her to have more skeletal identifications than any other forensic art practitioner in the world. I consider myself very fortunate to be her protege and to call her my friend. In my basic and advanced workshops about forensic sculpture, I emphasize the importance of bony and soft tissue anatomy. We learn a combination method of facial reconstruction using elements of muscular anatomy along with tissue depth data to create the sculpted face.