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Face of a Stone Age man whose head was mounted on a stake revealed through facial reconstruction 

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The world may never know why a Stone Age man’s head was placed on a stake and tossed into an underwater grave, but now it will see his face. 

A forensic artist harnessed the power of 3D facial reconstruction to piece together the features on 8,000-year-old jawless skull to show a man with a pointy nose, large forehead and a long beard.

The facial muscles and skin were formed using different factors such as the man’s weight, height and ethnicity.

The skull was one of at least 12, including an infant, found in what was once a prehistoric lake in Sweden and experts believe the group may have been murdered during an ancient ritual.

The world may never know why a Stone Age man's head was placed on a stake and tossed into an underwater grave, but now it will see his face

The world may never know why a Stone Age man’s head was placed on a stake and tossed into an underwater grave, but now it will see his face

The findings, from researchers at Stockholm University and Sweden’s Cultural Heritage Foundation (CHF) in 2018, is the first evidence that Stone Age hunter-gatherers displayed heads on wooden spikes.

‘Here, we have an example of a very complex ritual, which is very structured,’ lead researcher Dr Fredrik Hallgren, from CHF, told Live Science.

‘Even though we can’t decipher the meaning of the ritual, we can still appreciate the complexity of it, of these prehistoric hunter-gatherers.’

Why this man, and the others, met such a horrific death may stay a mystery, but Oscar Nilsson, a Sweden-based forensic artist, has shown us what the ancient victim looked like.

The jawless skull (pictured) was one of at least 12, including an infant, found in what was once a prehistoric lake in Sweden and experts believe the group may have been murdered during an ancient ritual.

The jawless skull (pictured) was one of at least 12, including an infant, found in what was once a prehistoric lake in Sweden and experts believe the group may have been murdered during an ancient ritual.

A forensic artist harnessed the power of 3D facial reconstruction to piece together the features on 8,000-year-old jawless skull to show a man with a pointy nose, large forehead and a long beard

A forensic artist harnessed the power of 3D facial reconstruction to piece together the features on 8,000-year-old jawless skull to show a man with a pointy nose, large forehead and a long beard

Nilsson took a computer tomography scan of the skull and printed a 3D replica in vinyl plastic, LiveScience reported.

Because the jaw was missing from the skull, he had to take a measurement of where it once was in order to reconstruct it.

Although there is no evidence of what the man wore, Nilsson made choices on the wardrobe and haircut based on items found in the grave.

Archaeologist uncovered remains from a range of animals including brown bears, wild boars, red deer, moose and roe deer.

‘He wears the skin from a wild boar,’ Nilsson said. ‘We can see from how the human skulls and animal jaws were found that they clearly meant a big deal in their cultural and religious beliefs.’

The facial muscles and skin were formed using different factors such as the man's weight, height and ethnicity

The facial muscles and skin were formed using different factors such as the man’s weight, height and ethnicity

Although there is no evidence of what the man wore, Nilsson made choices on the wardrobe and haircut based on items found in the grave.

Although there is no evidence of what the man wore, Nilsson made choices on the wardrobe and haircut based on items found in the grave.

The man’s hair was reconstructed to be short with a longer portion pulled back in a small pony tail.

Meanwhile, the white chalk decorating the man’s chest is a piece of artistic license, based on the fact that many Indigenous groups today use chalk for body paint, Nilsson said. 

‘It’s a reminder we cannot understand their aesthetic taste, just observe it.’

‘We have no reason to believe these people were less interested in their looks, and to express their individuality, than we are today.’

Researchers uncovered the man’s skull, along with the 12 others, in 2018.

Seven of the adults likely died in agony and had suffered serious trauma to their head before they died, which researchers suggest were the result of non-lethal, violent blows.

These may have been the result of interpersonal violence, forced abduction, warfare and aids of socially-sanctioned violence between group members.

The bodies were placed atop a densely packed layer of large stones in what would have been an elaborate underwater burial between 7,500 and 8,500 years ago.

Only one of the bodies still had a jawbone when it was buried, which experts suggest were removed as part of the burial ritual.

HOW DID PEOPLE LIVE DURING THE MESOLITHIC PERIOD?

The Mesolithic period, also called Middle Stone Age, is an ancient time period (8000 BC to AD 2700) that took place between the Paleolithic Period (Old Stone Age) with its chipped stone tools, and the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) with its polished stone tools.

The Mesolithic period’s material culture is characterized by greater innovation than the Paleolithic.

Among the new types of chipped stone tools were microliths: very small stone tools intended for mounting together on a shaft in order to produce a serrated edge. Polished stone was another innovation that arose in some Mesolithic groups.  

Northern European Mesolithic people (called Maglemosian’s), who flourished at about 6000 BC, left behind traces of primitive huts with bark-covered floors and adzes for working wood.

At Starr Carr in Yorkshire, there are signs that four or five huts existed there, with a population of around 25 people. There is evidence that these sites may only have been occupied on a seasonal basis.

An artist's impression of tribes fishing during the Mesolithic period

An artist’s impression of tribes fishing during the Mesolithic period

Aracheologists have also found smaller flint tools from this group. These were mounted as points or barbs for arrows and harpoons and were also used in other composite tools. 

They used adzes and chisels made of antler or bone, as well as needles and pins, fish-hooks, harpoons and fish spears with several prongs. Some larger tools made of ground stone, such as club heads, have also been found.

Wooden structures have also been found and have remained well-preserved due to the preservative qualities of bogs. Some of the structures discovered include ax handles, paddles and a dugout canoe, and fishnets were made using bark fibre. 

Deer were hunted as well as fish and waterfowl, and some varieties of marsh plants may have been used.

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