Forensic Facial Reconstruction (Approximation)

Computer-aided 3D Forensic Facial Reconstruction

The computer-aided facial reconstruction (approximation) of the deceased from their skulls offers a possibility of taking an investigation further if initial methods such as DNA analysis have failed or have not found a sample match in the database. While the reconstruction of facial features is a subjective method, the combination of using the skull morphology and facial muscle placements together with population-specific soft tissue depth markers can help in approximating the face of the deceased to such an extent that it triggers recognition by family members, friends, neighbours or anyone who may have known the deceased in life.

The process requires the 3D scanning of the deceased's skull by either CT scanning, laser/light scanning or photogrammetry. This generally only takes between 20 - 60 minutes. Morphological analysis (observing minute anatomical details of the skull by the forensic anthropologist) is recommended which takes about 120 minutes. This will help the forensic anthropologist to identify particular features of the face/head region which need to be incorporated into the facial reconstruction model.

All facial reconstruction work will be carried out in a virtual environment. The actual skull is, after initial morphological examination and 3D scanning, not required.

An additional identification method which can be utilised once a 3D skull scan has been obtained is craniofacial photo-superimposition. This would permit us to use a further avenue of investigation into the identity of the deceased. It is very helpful in cases were photographs of the potential unidentified individual exist and using the same soft tissue depth markers a comparison of the anatomical fit of the 3D skull scan and the photograph can be carried out to either rule in or out potential unidentified individuals for the skull under investigation.