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Biological Anthropology Reconstruction Projects

New reconstruction of the Homo erectus reconstructed skull from Zhoukoudian Lower Cave, China


The new 1995 reconstruction of Zhoukoudian (Choukoutien) Homo erectus was created from the comprehensive first generation casts housed at the American Museum of Natural History. These excellent, highly detailed casts were prepared by Dr. Franz Weidenreich and his colleagues just prior to the tragic loss of the original fossils during WWII. These casts, the reference set of which were officially presented to the American Museum of Natural History in 1941, are all that remains of the original Zhoukoudian fossil humans. Since Weidenreich had previously constructed a female skull from fragmented parts, our interest was to create a male skull, for which more elements are actually available. To do so, all skull elements selected were based on presumed male specimens as previously determined by Dr. Weidenreich.

The Reconstruction

The basic reconstruction began with the cranial vault from male skull XII because it preserves the proximal halves of both nasal bones and most of the lateral margin of the left orbit, including the superior part of the malar (zygomatic) bone. To these key structures were added the inferior portion of a left malar, the frontal process of a left maxilla, another portion of a left maxilla and two substantial portions of the right and left sides of the mandible. The mandible halves are from the same individual, while the cranial elements are from an assortment of different individuals. This assemblage of facial and cranial parts - the former mostly from the left side - produced a near complete continuity of facial elements from top to bottom and side to side of the skull. The rebuilt left side of the face was then mirror-imaged to create the missing right side. Casts of isolated teeth from Zhoukoudian served as models for sculpting missing teeth.

For a comprehensive and detailed description of this reconstruction see article:

The skull of "Sinanthropus" from Zhoukoudian, China: a new reconstruction. Tattersall, I. & G. J. Sawyer (1996). Journal of Human Evolution, 31:311-314. 


A Composite skeleton of Homo neanderthalensis


Thanks to the Neanderthal practice of burial of the dead, several partial skeletons are known of Homo neanderthalensis. None of these, however, is anywhere near complete, so that while the Neanderthal apomorphies of the individual bony elements are well documented, some of the most striking differences between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens in overall body proportions have gone largely unremarked. These differences are dramatically brought to light in a new reconstruction of a composite Neanderthal skeleton prepared in the laboratories of the Anthropology division of the AMNH by Gary Sawyer and Blaine Maley.

The Reconstruction

The new composite Neanderthal body skeleton was assembled using casts of bones derived from five different sites in four countries, although the principal elements were furnished by the La Ferrassie 1 skeleton from France and the Kebara 2 skeleton from Israel. Reliability of body proportions was assured by head-to-foot continuity of elements from a single individual, that from La Ferrassie. Most striking in the finished reconstruction are the shape and proportions of the thoracic cage, which tapers dramatically upwards from a broad base that matches the laterally flaring pelvis.

For a comprehensive and detailed description of this reconstruction see article:
Neanderthal Reconstructed. Sawyer, G. J. and B. Maley. 2005. Anat. Rec. (New Anat.) 283B: 23-31.