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The skull mysteries of Jericho

The skull mysteries of Jericho. Discovered 9500 years ago, the skull was modeled with clay to portray the face of a man.

Which today has been reconstructed by scientists. The skull of Jericho is one of the best known among the artifacts preserved in the British Museum. It dates back to 9,500 years ago and is often considered the oldest portrait of the collection, and probably also the most mysterious.

Today, a team of researchers has reconstructed the complex process by which it was set up, also giving a man whose face belonged. In fact the so-called Jericho skulls are seven, discovered in 1953 by archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in the Tell es-Sultan site, near the modern city of Jericho, in the West Bank today. The discovery, made us aware, with the thrill of discovery, we were looking at the portrait of a man born and lived more than 7,000 years ago, readers describing the moment when he unearthed the first skull. No archaeologist has ever even dared to imagine that such a work of art could exist.

After the discovery of Kenyon, the seven of Jericho skulls were scattered in various museums around the world. More than 50 other similar skulls have been found in Neolithic sites ranging from the Middle East to Turkey. According to the great majority of scholars, these objects were used as part of a primitive ancestor worship, but we know very little about who is immortalized in these findings, and how he was chosen by men of more than 9,000 years ago. Other Neolithic skulls were examined with digital processes, but that the British Museum is the first to be rebuilt thanks to forensic analysis and a 3-D printer.

When the skull came in the famous London museum, in 1954, researchers tried in vain to extract information. Over the millennia many details had gone erased, and the traditional X-ray examination was not possible to distinguish between bones and clay, which have similar densities. There was only “a patch of white on x-ray film,” explains Alexandra Fletcher, curator for the museum’s Ancient Near East, who oversaw the new survey. Only in 2009, when the skull was subjected to a microtomography, researchers have finally been able to observe the human remains hidden under the clay cover. In particular it was the skull of an adult, probably male, from which the jaw had been removed. The nasal septum was broken, and missing rear molars. On the back of the skull had been dug a hole to fill it with earth; the unveiled scans the fingerprints of those who had finally sealed the hole with fine clay.

Based on the scan data, in 2016 the British Museum has created a three-dimensional digital model of the skull which allowed to gather even more information on the man of the Neolithic which he belonged. The team then decided to take a step further, using a 3-D printer to create a physical model of the face, with the help RN-DS Partnership, a firm that specializes in reconstructions for forensic analysis. Using the model of a jaw of a man from another Neolithic site near Jericho, the experts were able to reconstruct the facial muscles and add it to the model of the skull, just as the inhabitants of Jericho more than 9,000 years ago had added the ‘ clay bone to shape cheeks, ears and lips. In practice, we have rediscovered through reverse engineering the process of Neolithic men,. The oldest portrait of the British Museum finally has a face.

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