The Uncanny Face Model They Made With Richard III's Skull

... And it was made by, yep, a 3D printer.
[optional image description]
Philippa Langley, originator of the Looking for Richard III project, with a 3D-printed model of Richard III (Gareth Fuller/PA via The Guardian)

Let's say, just hypothetically, that you have exhumed what you believe to be the body of an infamous British monarch from beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. Let's also say, given your knowledge of history and the distinctive deformations of the skeleton, that you are fairly certain the remains actually do belong to the king who was at once an agent of political change and, thanks to a British monarch of a different strain, one of literature's most iconic villains.

Would you then:

a) combine DNA analysis, genealogical research, osteology, and carbon dating to confirm more definitively that the bones do indeed belong to the king in question
b) analyze the body's skull to make a digital reconstruction of the king's head
c) use 3D printing to render that design into a physical model of the king's head
d) send the model on a tour throughout England
e) all of the above

If you are the Richard III Society, your answer would be (e). After the discovery of the remains of Richard III in February, a professor at the Society, Caroline Wilkinson, put the new evidence about the king's body -- a centuries-old smoking gun -- to use. The professor, The Guardian reports, worked with the forensic art team at the University of Dundee to digitally determine what the king's face would have looked like in person (well, "in person"). From there, the team used stereolithography -- yep, 3D printing -- to convert that rendering into a physical model of the king's face. They extrapolated details like hair color and clothing style from portraits painted during Richard's time.

The results of this endeavor are fairly creepily Tussaudian: The twisted-spined king, in the form of a 3D-printed bust, looks essentially like a decapitated wax figure. But it's a high-tech wax figure. The forensics-based model -- which, yes, will now be going on a tour throughout England -- offers a new perspective on an old story: It brings a new dimension, quite literally, to ancient history.

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Technology

Just In