Whenever archaeologists dig on a site in Israel, they will find many remains left behind by the people who lived thousands of years ago. Among the remains found in archaeological digs are human remains, bones, and skulls of people whose identity remains a mystery.
When archaeologists finish their work, they seldom find clues that help them identify the remains they find at a site. However, there is an effort underway to find out what some of these people looked like.
Simcha Jacobovici, popularly known as “The Naked Archaeologist,” is working on a documentary, Lost Faces of the Bible, in which a group of forensic and facial reconstruction specialists will study four skulls and make an attempt at creating a face to match the skulls.
According to a report published in the Jerusalem Post, Jacobovici’s documentary will try to reconstruct the faces of four individuals. He will try to reconstruct the face of a Philistine woman who probably lived in the days of Delilah, the face of a man from Galilee who probably lived in the days of Jesus, the face of a Canaanite baby whose remains were in a jar, and the face of a 6,000-year-old man whose remains were found in a desert cave.
The people who will be working with Jacobovici are experts in their fields. Professor Israel Hershkovitz from the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Medical School will do a CAT scan on each skull. Victoria Lywood, a forensic artist based in Montreal, will create a face for each skull.
Facial reconstruction is a common practice in archaeology as well in police work. To add a little Hollywood flair to the show, David Berman, an actor who plays a forensic investigator in “CSI: Crimes Scene Investigation,” will host the four programs. The four-part series will be shown on the National Geographic channel.
The National Geographic channel has provided a description of the four episodes:
Episode 1: Delilah Revealed
An exciting archaeological discovery puts a 3,000 year old female skull into the hands of a team of experts who set out to reconstruct the face of a Philistine lady.
Episode 2: Sacrifical (sic) Child
A team of archaeological experts explore humanity’s history of sacrifice while forensic artists reveal the face of a mysterious infant skull uncovered in Israel.
Episode 3: Ancient Warrior
Six thousand years after his death, a team of experts try to determine how an ancient man lived and what he looked like in his final hours.
Episode 4: The Man Who Saw Jesus
A team of experts travel across the remote villages and ancient synagogues of the Galilee region to reconstruct the life and face of a man who may have lived during Jesus’ lifetime.
However, archaeologists are skeptical about Jacobovici’s claim that facial reconstruction will provide a realistic view of what these people actually looked like.
Joe Zias, a retired physical anthropologist and former archaeological museum curator for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that facial reconstruction is not an accurate science,“It’s on par with astrology and palm reading.” His conclusion is that facial reconstruction is a subjective science that may not reveal the real face of a person.
I am also skeptical about the results, but I will have to watch the four episodes to see what the experts will accomplish with their work.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary