Young woman’s skull dating to roughly 2nd century AD to be revealed in new Heritage Malta masterclass
Stare the past in the face and meet Elsa, a young inhabitant of ancient Roman Melite, in a masterclass marriage of archaeology and technology being filmed by Heritage Malta.
Where it all began
On 22nd August 2013, Elsa's skeleton was exhumed from 'a shaft and chamber' tomb discovered by Senior Curator David Cardona and his team within the bedrock below the planned site for the new Visitor's centre for St. Paul's Catacombs in Rabat. Ground Penetrating Radar, a non-invasive technique that uses radar pulses to detect underground features, had identified new hypogea predating the advent of catacombs buried beneath the shallow soil.
Elsa is estimated to have been between 18 and 24 years of age at the time of her death. and quite the rich assortment of grave goods which accompanied her on her journey to the afterlife helping date her interment to between the first and second century AD.
Once the skeleton was excavated, documented, and cleaned, an osteological examination conducted by osteo-archaeologist Michelle Padovani exposed some interesting facts confirming Elsa’s sex and revealing her stature and age at death.
Next, an Italian team led by forensic anthropologist Roberto Miccichè used Elsa's skull as a base to reconstruct her face, layer by layer, through facial approximation and virtual rendering techniques. The result? A startlingly modern Mediterranean countenance stares right back at us, giving a face to our past.
Entitled “Staring the Past in the Eyes: Discovery and Research on a Skull from St Paul’s Catacombs,” the masterclass will be delivered by a number of specialists, including David Cardona (Senior Curator of St Paul’s Catacombs), Michelle Padovani (Osteologist) and a group of Italian specialists led by Roberto Micciche (Forensic Anthropologist).
Follow Elsa's journey from site to lab. Learn about the various techniques used to understand the past burial practices and the studies that went into creating a biological profile of the individual from the bones. Be fascinated by the high-tech photorealistic rendering techniques starting from the 3D model of the plaster sculpture of Elsa's face.
This masterclass, which is free of charge, will be streamed on Heritage Malta's Facebook page on Wednesday 21st April at 6.30 pm. It will be delivered in English with English subtitles for the part delivered in Italian by the specialists.
Visit the website for more information.