Graphic artist Cicero Moraes reconstructed the face of a medieval knight killed in a 1361 massacre near Visby, Sweden, using a discovered skull. The scientifically informed grayscale representation offers insights into the harsh realities of medieval warfare.
660 years after his horrific demise, a marvelous reconstruction has brought back to life a medieval knight whose face was severed in one of Europe's most brutal wars.
After the fighter's skull was discovered in a mass grave outside of Visby, on the Swedish island of Gotland, experts recreated his face.
A massacre was carried out there in 1361 by a Danish army consisting of around 2,500 men, many of whom were seasoned mercenaries.
An estimated 2,000 ill-equipped peasants made up the rural militia they fought; excavations indicate that at least one-third of them were children or the elderly.
About 1,800 people were killed in the bloodshed that ensued for the defenders.
The warrior was one of them; an axe had broken his lips, and there were also cuts above his left eye and on his left cheekbone, which was most likely from a pole weapon.
His characteristics have now been given to life by Brazilian graphic artist Cicero Moraes, who imported his skull into a computer interface.
He said: 'Once the skull was ready, a series of soft tissue thickness markers were spread across the skull.’
'These markers, roughly speaking, indicate the skin boundaries in some regions of the face.’
'To complement the data, we imported a CT scan of a living donor and deformed the bones and soft tissue from the CT scan to match the face being approximated.’
'With the basic face defined, we finalized the approximation and generated the most scientific image, in shades of gray, with eyes closed and without hair.'
Certain features, such as the size of the mouth, nose, and eyes, are projections based on statistical data because the skull itself only provides a partial set of data.
Skin tone and hair, on the other hand, are subjective.
However, the final product is a rough representation of the warrior's appearance at the moment of his passing.
It is uncertain if the axe strike was what ultimately proved deadly.
Mr Moraes said: 'It is difficult to estimate this with the skull alone.’
'But surely such an injury would not be an easy thing to treat, considering the year and the reality at the time it was inflicted.'
The pictures help Mr. Moraes understand the realities of war.
'These images are quite impactful,' he said.
'Today we have several conflicts happening in the world and we usually observe the scenes from afar, having no idea what happens to the combatants.’
'Imagine how it is for those who receive such violence.'
In order to stop more deaths, the people of Visby, the capital of the island, gave up after the fight. After receiving a substantial ransom, the triumphant King Valdemar IV annexed the island to his realm.
Up until the Second Treaty of Brömsebro was written in 1645—following Denmark's loss in the Torstenson War—both Sweden and Denmark maintained their claims to the island.
After initial archeological digs in 1905, five mass graves were eventually discovered outside Visby's walls, with many of the deceased buried in their armor.
Using a three-dimensional model of the skull provided by the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, Mr. Moraes finished his reconstruction.
His research was published in OrtogOnLineMag, a publication for 3D computer graphics.