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Edited by Caroline Wilkinson, University of Dundee, Christopher Rynn, University of Dundee. Subjects: Medicine, Biological Anthropology and Primatology, Medical Law, Ethics and forensic Medicine, Life Sciences. Chapter 8 - Facial recognition from identification parades.
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In a forensic scenario, descriptions of the faces of criminals are used to bring them to justice. We use photographs to authenticate our own identity in things like passports. When it comes to the recognition of the dead, things become more problematic and it's this challenge that's been the focus for a group of academics from the University of Dundee.

17th Biennial Meeting of the International Association of Craniofacial Identification (IACI) 2017

Professor Wilkinson created updated and further developed a 3D computerised craniofacial depiction system using existing 3D modelling software and haptic technology, a database of modelled anatomical structures and a 3D facial feature database collected from laser scans. All of these features have an effect on the appearance of an individual's face. Once the examination is complete, the skull is cleaned and any damaged or fragmented areas are repaired with wax. The mandible is then reattached, again with wax, according to the alignment of teeth, or, if no teeth are present, by averaging the vertical dimensions between the mandible and maxilla.

Undercuts like the nasal openings are filled in with modeling clay and prosthetic eyes are inserted into the orbits centered between the superior and inferior orbital rims. At this point, a plaster cast of the skull is prepared. Extensive detail of the preparation of such a cast is presented in the article from which these methods are presented. After the cast is set, colored plastics or the colored ends of safety matches are attached at twenty-one specific "landmark" areas that correspond to the reference data.

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These sites represent the average facial tissue thickness for persons of the same sex, race, and age as that of the remains. From this point on, all features are added using modeling clay. First, the facial muscles are layered onto the cast in the following order: temporalis, masseter, buccinator and occipito-frontals, and finally the soft tissues of the neck. Next, the nose and lips are reconstructed before any of the other muscles are formed.

The lips are approximately as wide as the interpupillary distance. However, this distance varies significantly with age, sex, race, and occlusion. The nose is one of the most difficult facial features to reconstruct because the underlying bone is limited and the possibility of variation is expansive. The nasal profile is constructed by first measuring the width of the nasal aperture and the nasal spine.

13th Meeting of International Association of Craniofacial Identification (IACI) | SpringerLink

Using a calculation of three times the length of the spine plus the depth of tissue marker number five will yield the approximate nose length. Next, the pitch of the nose is determined by examining the direction of the nasal spine - down, flat, or up. A block of clay that is the proper length is then placed on the nasal spine and the remaining nasal tissue is filled in using tissue markers two and three as a guide for the bridge of the nose.


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The alae are created by first marking a point five millimeters below the bottom of the nasal aperture. After the main part of the nose is constructed, the alae are created as small egg-shaped balls of clay, that are five millimeters in diameter at the widest point, these are positioned on the sides of the nose corresponding with the mark made previously.

The alae are then blended to the nose and the overall structure of the nose is rounded out and shaped appropriately. The muscles of facial expression and the soft tissue around the eyes are added next. Additional measurements are made according to race especially for those with eye folds characteristic of Asian descent during this stage.

Next, tissues are built up to within one millimeter of the tissue thickness markers and the ears noted as being extremely complicated to reproduce are added. Finally, the face is "fleshed," meaning clay is added until the tissue thickness markers are covered, and any specific characterization is added for example, hair, wrinkles in the skin, noted racial traits, glasses, etc. The skull of Mozart was the basis of his facial reconstruction from anthropological data.

The bust was unveiled at the "Salon du Son", Paris, in There are multiple outstanding problems associated with forensic facial reconstruction. The most pressing issue relates to the data used to average facial tissue thickness. The data available to forensic artists are still very limited in ranges of ages, sexes, and body builds. This disparity greatly affects the accuracy of reconstructions.

Until this data is expanded, the likelihood of producing the most accurate reconstruction possible is largely limited. A second problem is the lack of a methodological standardization in approximating facial features.

Poster: Interactive Resources for Craniofacial Identification

This also presents major setback in facial approximation because facial features like the eyes and nose and individuating characteristics like hairstyle - the features most likely to be recalled by witnesses - lack a standard way of being reconstructed. Recent research on computer-assisted methods , which take advantage of digital image processing, pattern recognition, promises to overcome current limitations in facial reconstruction and linkage.

Reconstructions only reveal the type of face a person may have exhibited because of artistic subjectivity.


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The position and general shape of the main facial features are mostly accurate because they are greatly determined by the skull. Forensic artist Amy Thornton made a model of the dog's head using a 3D print, based on a CT scan made at the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies of one of the 24 canine skulls found at the site. According to Dr. Alison Sheridan , Principal Archaeological Research Curator in the Department of Scottish History and Archaeology at National Museums Scotland , "The size of a large collie, and with features reminiscent of that of a European grey wolf, the Cuween dog has much to tell us In recent years, the presence of forensic facial reconstructions in the entertainment industry and the media has increased.

In many instances, facial reconstructions have been used as a last resort to stimulate the possibility of identifying an individual. In Bones , a long-running TV series centered around forensic analysis of decomposed and skeletal human remains, facial reconstruction is featured in the majority of episodes, used much like a police artist sketch in police procedurals.

Regular cast character Angela Montenegro, the Bones team's facial reconstruction specialist, employs 3D software and holographic projection to "give victims back their faces" as noted in the episode, "A Boy in a Bush". Abstract Two cases of positive identification of burnt bodies by radiographic comparison are reported.

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They emphasize that antemortem radiographs of the head are an important but sometimes overlooked source of information which can frequently provide useful objective data for comparison purposes. A positive identification can easily be achieved by medical examiners through visual comparison of the antemortem with the postmortem cranial and facial structures, even of bodies severely damaged by fire.