Forensic anthropologist publishes reconstruction of Jesus' face

Image courtesy of Popular Mechanics

(WVLT) - A team made up of British scientists and Israeli archaeologists have released an image depicting what they believe is an accurate representation of what Jesus might have looked like. According to Popular Mechanics, the team used forensic anthropology methods similar to what police use to solve crimes to recreate Jesus' face.

The article in Popular Mechanics says there is no description in the Bible of what Jesus looked like, but the popular Western depictions of him as towering over his disciples, with long, flowing hair and fair coloring, are inaccurate based on what people living in the time period and region in which he lived and ministered. Common depictions of Jesus around the world are often heavily influenced by the culture and traditions of a particular region; in various depictions Jesus may appear white or black, Hispanic or Asian.

However, there are no remains of Jesus' body with which to obtain DNA, so until now it has been difficult to guess what he might really have looked like.

Forensic anthropology uses cultural and archaeological data, along with physical and biological science, to learn about different groups of people. Richard Neave, a retired anthropologist from the University of Manchester in the UK, had used his skills to reconstruct dozens of historical faces, including the father of Alexander the Great, Phillip II of Macedonia, and King Midas.

Beginning with descriptions in the Gospel of Matthew of events in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of Jesus' capture, Neave realized that Jesus would have looked similar to other Jews of his era. In the account, Judas Iscariot must indicate to the soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus which one he is, which hints at the fact that he would not have stood out from his disciples.

Neave's team acquired skulls from near Jerusalem from the time period in which Jesus would have lived and used these to build a representative Semite face of the time. Forensic anthropologists then used clues from archaeology to fill in details about Jesus' hair and eye color, the length of his hair, and his facial hair. Archaeologists had also determined that the average height of a Jewish man at the time would have been 5'1”, with a weight of about 110 lbs. Jesus may have been more muscular from his work as a carpenter, and his skin would likely have been weathered from years of working outdoors.

Local 8 News anchor Alan Williams sat down with University of Tennessee forensic anthropologist Dr. William Bass. Although Dr. Bass was not involved in this particular project, he describes the process of reconstructing Jesus' face.

Click on the included link to read the full report from Popular Mechanics.

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