Modeling age, obesity, and ethnicity in a computerized 3-D facial reconstruction

Martin Evison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is a common misconception that a facial reconstruction is an exact likeness of a person during life. A cursory examination of the skull reveals that the relationship between skull contour and facial appearance is not direct. On the forehead, margins of the eyes, cheekbones, bridge of the nose, above the lips, and the chin, facial shape is closely related to skull contour. However, the shape of the eyes and eyelids, the tip of the nose, and the lips cannot be predicted from the skull, and these are important features in facial recognition (Figure 1). Furthermore, hairstyle and hair color, skin color, facial hair, scars, tattoos, piercings, jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, glasses, and numerous other aspects of facial appearance cannot be determined from the skull. Estimates of age, height, build, and even sex are imprecise, and degrees of obesity and aging, for example, cannot be predicted. Ethnic affiliation can only be estimated with weak statistical confidence and even then only for that which has evolved as a consequence of continental scale biodiversity and history—such as African, African-Caribbean, or Caucasoid (European ancestry).
Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science Communications
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001


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