This Is What Humans Looked Like 30,000 Years Ago

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The Paris-based sculptor Elisabeth Daynès listens to bones, to the remains of our evolutionary ancestors that have lived up to three million years ago. Throughout her prolific 20 year career, the “paleoartist” has worked from the skulls of wooly mammoths to species of hominid to create vividly detailed figures. Based on 18 data points that mark the bone, she can use a computer to model facial features that she later shapes out of clay. She refers to research and other bone samples to determine the build of her subjects, and ultimately she creates a silicone cast, complete with delicate painted features: veins, goosebumps, blemishes.

In a final step towards humanizing her sculptures, Daynès includes prosthetic eyes, teeth, and hair, each of which is as historically and scientifically accurate as possible. Current research suggests that Neanderthals, for example, had red hair; for her uncanny hominids, that range from Homo sapien to Homo erectus, she uses a blend of human hair. In her mind’s eye, the artist draws an informed portrait of each subject she reanimates; from the bones, she can determine period, sex and age, along with finer details like culture, climate, diet, and health.

For Daynès, this process is as much an art as it is a science. Ultimately, she hopes to reconnect with our past, embarking on a forensic search of what makes us human. Dismayed by the ways in which early human ancestors are reviled as unintelligent brutes, she injects her creations with a powerful dose of humanity; their brows furrow with concentration, and their eyes are painfully gentle. She explains “missing” them when they leave her studio for a permanent home in a museum. Take a look. (via Daily Mail and Lost at E Minor)
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