She wore clothing made of hemp, fur and nettle and jewelry of ivory and bone, and she was a looker. So it makes sense she lived about 17,000 years ago in Bordeaux, France, hitherto famous to Americans – at least this one — mostly for its wine exports.
The remains of the pre-historic woman, dubbed creatively “the woman from the Pataud shelter” were found in a rock shelter, and her physical appearance was recreated by French sculptor, make-up artist and paleontology expert Elisabeth Daynes via computer modeling of certain points on the skull.
“My work is done just like a forensic investigation, from casts taken from prehistoric skulls, reconstructed exactly like police composite sketches,” she told Agence France-Presse.
Daynes is internationally renowned for creating startlingly lifelike figures of our ancestors. She’s famous for creating “Lucy,” a model from bones found belonging to a 3.2 million-year-old, bipedal creature with some uncanny human features. She is also part of an international team of scientists and artists who reconstructed the appearance of ancient Egypt’s most famous monarch, King Tut.
The Pataud shelter collection was also created with help from Jean-Noel Vignal, a former head of the Police Forensic Research Institute in Paris. Daynes used a computer program that Vignal developed that can analyze bone structure to estimate muscle and skin thickness. With these techniques, researchers can get a glimpse of the external evolution of features that characterized early humans. It’s also an important process that allows museum goers to make a deeper connection with our early ancestors. By constructing the outward appearance of the woman from Pataud, and placing her in an exhibit surrounded by the tools and artifacts that characterized her life, viewers are given a chance to see an example of prehistoric life that’s more meaningful than just viewing a pile of bones.
The exhibit, called “The Origins of Flesh,” features a model version of the woman and also an older man, whose remains were found nearby. The cross section between forensics, paleontology and art is on display in Bordeaux until December 5.