Facial reconstructions are often used to help law enforcement identify an unknown decedent or to make the faces of our ancestors come alive. Without photographs, facial reconstructions are the only method we have of approximating what a person looked like. With the Hunley crewmen, when they are ultimately laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery, it will enable us to honor real men, with names and faces, heroes whose stories can be fully told for generations to come.

Friends of the Hunley will work with forensic artist Sharon Long, assisted by physical anthropologist Dr. Douglas Owsley, to complete facial reconstructions. Once the preliminary research and forensic evaluation is completed, it will take the artist about one month to produce each reconstruction.

The artist's experience, training, and ability are important. Evaluation by a physical anthropologist provides baseline information about age, sex, and cranial morphology. The forensic evaluation also helps establish individual features such as injuries (e.g., a healed fracture of the nose).

Overview of Reconstruction Process

The skull is cast and the cast serves as the foundation that defines the shape of the reproduction. Twenty-one depth markers are attached to each cast at specific locations as a means of estimating average facial thicknesses. Several features are determined by the morphology of the skull:

  • Shape, slope, and breadth of the frontal bone (forehead)

  • Prominence of the brow ridges

  • Distance between the pupils (interorbital distance)

  • Positioning of the orbits inside the eye sockets

  • Outline of the face and jaw line

  • Shape and prominence of the chin

  • Lateral profile of the skull

  • Overall configuration (outline) of the cranial vault

There are also some features are influenced by artistic interpretation, such as:

  • Configuration of the lips, mouth, and ears.

  • Aging the face (age lines such a crow's feet, smile creases, skin sagging).

  • Hair, eye, and skin color.

  • Hairstyle - Wigs are selected for each reconstruction. Selection can be aided by measurement and forensic evaluation of any preserved head hair.

Some artistic conventions will likely be used in configuring the nose, mouth, lips and ears:

  • The width of the nose in American Whites is estimated by measuring the width of the nasal aperture. The average external width of the nostrils is found by adding 5 mm laterally to the nasal border.

  • The width of the mouth is approximated by measuring the distance between the canine teeth. An alternative (supporting method) used by artists in making busts and portraits to configure the corners of the mouth is to draw a straight line down from the pupils while the subject looks straight ahead.

  • The thickness of the lips is estimated by measuring the distance between the upper and lower central incisors at the location where the tooth meets the gum.

  • The bottom of the earlobes is established by drawing a transverse line from the bottom of the nostrils to the lobe. The height of the ear is determined by forming a transverse section with the brow ridge. The ears are given a classic shape.

  • The shape of the nasal spine helps determine the shape of the lower portion of the nose. An upturned nasal spine suggests a pug nose, a down-turned spine suggests a hook nose, and a straight spine suggests a nasal septum that is perpendicularly aligned with the upper lip.

  • The eyeballs are positioned in the center of the orbits.

Related Pages:

Excavation Timeline
Lt. Dixon's Gold Coin
Ezra Chamberlin's ID Tag
Facial Reconstructions

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