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Using photogrammetry of the skull, the researchers created two different facial predictions of Zuzu in Brazil. Photo: Moacir Elias Santos & Cícero Moraes

The Face of a 9,600-Year-Old Person Revived in Brazil

The facial reconstruction reveals what Zuzu, a man who lived in Brazil 9,600 years ago, looked like.

At Toca dos Coqueiros, an archaeological site in Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park, archaeologists discovered a skeleton buried in the fetal position in 1997. Based on the size and shape of the skull, they determined that the remains belonged to a female individual and named the skeleton Zuzu. However, this classification was controversial, with many researchers claiming that the deceased was actually male.

Using photogrammetry of the skull, the researchers created two different facial predictions of Zuzu in Brazil. Photo: Moacir Elias Santos & Cícero Moraes

Now, a new facial estimate of the 9,600-year-old skull may help end that debate.

Last year, researchers took dozens of photos of the skull, from different angles, on display at the Nature Museum in Piauí, Brazil. Using photogrammetry, they digitally combined 57 photos to create a virtual 3D model of the skull “to reveal the face of this figure so mysterious and so important to Brazilian history,” according to the study.

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Moacir Elias Santos, an archaeologist at the Ciro Flamarion Cardoso Archaeological Museum in Brazil and one of the authors of the study, states: “Trying to restore the image of a person thousands of years ago is a way of bringing them into the present and connecting them with society. Our main goal is to see the face of Zuzu, one of the most important finds in the Serra da Capivara National Park region.”

“What is the purpose of the study conducted in Brazil”

They first obtained information from live virtual donors with computed tomography (CT scans) and used that information to “calibrate the structure of the skull” by including markers of tissue thickness, says study co-author Cícero Moraes, a Brazilian graphics specialist.

Moraes said ” We’re altering the skull structure to give the donor’s skull a volume that is nearly equivalent to Zuzu’s skull. When we do this, the soft tissue also follows this deformation/fit and a face that is compatible with Zuzu in life emerges.”

The researchers obtained two different results, each depicting a young man with a wide nose and lips. Based on data from virtual donors, one of the estimates showed Zuzu with hair and eyebrows, while the other showed Zuzu with closed eyelids and no hair. Because the digital face was somewhat “weak”, the researchers retracted the lower jaw to match a gap caused by some missing teeth.

According to the study, while the skull has affinity with the Asian population, there are many structural differences between individuals of such ancestry that can be corrected by closing the eyelids. Since there is no precise information about skin color, the image was also processed in grayscale (black and white), thus obtaining the most realistic image.

According to Santos, the most interesting thing when looking at Zuzu’s skull is to get an idea of ​​what he would have looked like when he was alive and reunite with one of the country’s oldest ancestors.

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