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What’s in a face?
by Tim Delaney
Feb 28, 2014 | 27 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Delaney photo
Jim Brasher holds a model skull made from a resin-like material to create a facial reconstruction. Brasher is the husband of sculptor Amanda Danning, who explained her expertse at the Bayside Historical Society's first presentaiton of 2014 on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Tim Delaney photo Jim Brasher holds a model skull made from a resin-like material to create a facial reconstruction. Brasher is the husband of sculptor Amanda Danning, who explained her expertse at the Bayside Historical Society's first presentaiton of 2014 on Saturday, Feb. 15.
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Amanda Danning, who has worked often with the Smithsonian Institute, answers questions from a large audience at the Bayside Historical Society's quarterly presentation series on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Amanda Danning, who has worked often with the Smithsonian Institute, answers questions from a large audience at the Bayside Historical Society's quarterly presentation series on Saturday, Feb. 15.
slideshow
Sam, the 11,200 year old Paleo American found at the Horn shelter northwest of Waco.
Sam, the 11,200 year old Paleo American found at the Horn shelter northwest of Waco.
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Facial reconstruction of C. Barange, the only human remains found on the French ship La Belle.
Facial reconstruction of C. Barange, the only human remains found on the French ship La Belle.
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BAYSIDE – Amanda Danning has a curious habit of staring at people’s faces.

No, she is not flirting, she is not trying to get someone’s attention, and she is not rude.

Looking at people’s faces is something forensic sculptors do all the time.

Danning, who has an advanced sculptor degree from Florida Atlantic University, has worked for the Smithsonian Institution, among other people and groups over the years.

She reconstructs ancient skulls and faces, helping to discover where we came from.

The Bayside Historical Society’s program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Danning told an audience of more than 50 people at the Bayside Historical Society’s first 2014 presentation that she reconstructed the face of the only human remains found on the French ship “La Belle.”

The face of C. Barange, the French crewman aboard La Belle, will be on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

More recently, Danning has worked on the face of “Sam,” an ancient man dating back some 11,000 years.

She explained that it is generally thought that the Clovis people populated the Americas. These people crossed the Bering Strait, a land bridge between Russia and North America, some 13,000 years ago.

But new evidence has challenged the notion that the Clovis people were first or the only ones who populated the Americas.

Danning said Dennis Stanford, who works with the Smithsonian Institute and has a doctorate in anthropology, pointed out that no points were found on the Russian side of the Bering Strait – odd for hunters.

Stanford surmised that these Paleo Americans migrated to where the food was.

Horn Shelter in Texas was such a place. The shelter was located on the high side of a river.

In Bosque County, northwest of Waco, Horn Shelter on the Brazos River revealed much about earlier groups, or Paleo Americans.

Danning said it was archaeologists Frank Watt and Albert Redder who excavated the Horn Shelter over a 30-year period.

About 100 boxes of artifacts were amassed from alluvial deposits –artifacts carried by the river and deposited at the Horn Shelter.

The deposits in layers date back about 18,000 years.

Many of the artifacts found include eyelets for shoes and fish hooks, from 8,400 years ago.

In the summer of 1970, a find dating back 11,200 years became one of three such sites in North America.

Found was the remains of a burial. A man and small girl buried together.

Also found were tools made of deer bone, tools for making necklaces, flint biface knives and pieces of red ochre used for painting walls and faces.

All of these finds were a surprise to what Paleo Americans were thought to have.

Danning said Watt and Redder made “meticulous documentation” of the burial.

“Smithsonian called it one of the best documented digs,” Danning said.

The male was estimated to be about 38 years old and the child about 10 years old.

The bodies were covered by 19 pieces of limestone slabs, but not the heads, which were covered with scraped out turtle shells.

“A needle was found near the girl’s abdomen. It was a tiny needle not used to go through animal skins. It was used for weaving. This was another big surprise, that they had handwoven cloth, some 5,000 years before high society,” Danning said.

“It tells us there was more society there,” she said.

Danning said archaeologists figured the man was a “spirit man” because hawk talons and badger claws were found in his mouth.

Symbolically, those finds could mean “He had great strength and Mother Earth had silenced him.”

“We call him ‘Sam’ because he was a son of America,” Danning said.

Sam also had bad teeth and a broken bone in his foot.

“He was flint knapping, based on his forearm,” she added.

“The skull bones revealed the most amazing story,” Danning said. This is where Danning contributed much to the discovery.

“The clues are in the cracks and crannies of the skull,” Danning said.

She noted that three basic types of skulls exist: European, African and Asian.

She said two methods of reconstruction come into play: The American method uses soft tissue and depth markers; the Russian method uses muscles and glands.

Danning said the nose can be reconstructed from the nasion, bridge of the nose and the nasal spine.

“From these, we can figure how the nose looked,” she said.

Many times, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, prevents scientists from studying ancient skulls because these were considered American Indian remains and belong to their ancestors.

However, in many cases, the remains are not those of American Indians.

Danning said the skull of Kenniwick Man, dating from 9,000 to 10,000 years ago, was found in the Columbia River in Washington. After a legal battle with NAGPRA, it was determined that Kenniwick Man was Polynesian or Ainu, an ancient people who lived in Japan.

Other examples include the Arch Lake Woman found in eastern New Mexico and investigated by Douglas Owsley of the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institute.

The Arch Lake Woman died 1,500 years before Kenniwick Man.

The Spirit Cave Mummy, found in Nevada and dating back 9,400 years ago, was also the focus of NAGPRA legal issues.

Danning said the skulls have broad cheek bones and are European-shaped.

“They are clearly not African, not American Indian,” Danning said.

She said a book by Douglas Owsley on Kenniwick Man will be out soon.

“Evidence from skulls indicate they did not resemble American Indians.”

She said the most likely relatives are Ainu (who had long dark hair and some had blue eyes), Norwegian, Polynesian and the Maasai people of Africa.

Danning said more is being found out about Paleo Americans.

In the mean time, she said she is looking into reconstructing skulls from the Alamo.

She also wants to reconstruct a Karankawa skull if she can find one. She said if the skull is in tact, she can reconstruct one in 18 to 20 hours.
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