3D Technology Helps a French Forensic Artist Reconstruct the Head of a 17th-Century Plague Victim – 3DPrint.com

Thomas Craven was not much different from most well-to-do London young adults. He was raised in a privileged and protected environment and his parents had high hopes for him. Thomas, born around 1618 and one of five children of a family originally from Yorkshire but settled in London, left for Paris in the late 1630s, probably to study at the Sorbonne. His father, Sir William Craven, was a wealthy merchant who at some point became Lord Mayor of London; his mother was Elizabeth Whitmore.

The young Englishman was still in his late teens and, like many students before and after him, was surely enjoying university life in tumultuous Paris when, in 1638, an epidemic of plague (the bubonic plague, also known as the name “black plague”) struck him and also killed thousands of other Parisians – although no mention of the plague in his area of ​​Paris was recorded at the time of his death.

Thomas was embalmed and then buried in a coffin lined with lead to prevent “leaks” and keep the body in a Parisian suburb called Saint-Maurice. Disappeared and forgotten, Thomas’s body was found during an archaeological dig in 1986 and, thanks to science and 3D technology, the 350-year-old has become something of a celebrity in the country where he returned his last breath.

When the coffin was discovered, excavators were able to identify the remains by a plaque containing a Latin inscription which referred to Craven as a “very noble young Englishman who, while alive, behaved in such a way as to give others a model of well-being”. behaviour” and the inclusion of the family coat of arms.2F91C7F900000578-3370622-image-a-70_1450800087713

The shrouded body of young Thomas Craven had been preserved through the embalming process and the leaded coffin. So the scientists had the physical hardware they needed to perform tests and even attempt to recreate his facial features using sophisticated 3D modeling technology. Shortly after the discovery of the coffin and the remains of Thomas, an autopsy was carried out by Djillali Hadjouis, director of research at the National Center for Prehistoric, Anthropological and Historical Research in Paris. At first, researchers did not know how Craven died. However, after analyzing his teeth, scientists concluded that Thomas had died of the plague.

A portrait of Thomas Craven's father, Sir William Craven, Lord Mayor of London.

A portrait of Thomas Craven’s father, Sir William Craven, Lord Mayor of London.

The investigation did not stop there either. French artist Philippe Froesch was brought in to help the research team determine what Thomas Craven looked like. Froesch is one of a handful of people who have the skills to use 3D scanning and modeling technology to reconstruct faces from human remains. He recreated portraits of quite important historical figures like Maximilien Robespierre, who was instrumental in the French Revolution; the French scientist, mathematician and philosopher, René Descartes; and King Henry IV of France.

Froesch, who considers himself a “forensic artist”, uses high-tech 3D scanning equipment to scan the deceased’s skull. He relies on research such as literary descriptions and images of the person he is, in a way, reviving, to get an idea of ​​what the facial features may have looked like. In Thomas Craven’s case, a portrait of the young man’s father helped him make important inferences about the son’s appearance. He also looked at pictures of people from the time Craven lived to determine things like hairstyles.

“The techniques we use,” Froesch explained, “all have a solid scientific basis, so we can be sure that the images we produce are accurate.”

Well, as accurate as it gets nearly 400 years later.

Froesch has been creating reconstructions for years, but with improved technology, it only takes him about three weeks to complete any given job. He thinks his work is “at least 80% reliable”. Of course, there’s really no way to disprove his educated guesses. He mainly works with museums but occasionally assists the police as he did on a case in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

Once Froesch has completed his task, Thomas Craven’s body will be reinterred. In the meantime, scientists, technicians and historians have taken advantage of an unexpected opportunity to learn more about the period in which Craven lived and another of history’s fascinating mysteries has been solved.

Forensic artists help reconstruct the faces of those throughout history – including recent crimes. The use of 3D technology helps create a more accurate representation, as we see more and more frequently. What do you think of this work ? Discuss in the 3D Technology Aids in Reconstruction forum on 3DPB.com.

[Source: Daily Mail]