Using remains believed to belong to Saint Mary Magdalene, forensic scientists have reconstructed what her face would have looked like some two millennia ago during the time of our Lord.
The facial reconstruction was created using the skull traditionally believed to belong to Mary Magdalene. The skull is housed in an underground crypt within the Basilica of Mary Magdalene located in the Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume commune in south-eastern France. Philippe Charlier, a biological anthropologist from the University of Versailles teamed up with Philippe Froesch, a visual forensic artist to complete the reconstruction.
Because the skull is housed within a glass case, the two took over five hundred photographs at numerous angles with various lighting. From these photos, they were able to composite a three-dimensional computer model of the skull. Using a process similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ techniques for criminal investigations, they were able to use the features of the skull to rebuild muscle and other skin tissue on top of it creating an accurate reconstruction of her face.
Their reconstruction created an image of a Mediterranean woman who died approximately in her fifties. Using mathematical algorithms consistent with her age, sex, and descent they were able to determine the shape of the nose, cheekbones, and face proportions. The model produced a round face with high cheekbone and a pointed nose. From fragments of hair remaining with the skull, they determined she had dark brown hair. They also used typical Mediterranean skin complexion to complete the image.
Froesch said that working with the skull of such a prominent figure in Christ’s life “was very emotional work for us.”
Charlier and Froesch hope to use the same techniques but with femur and rib bones located in the sarcophagus, along with the skull, to create a full body reconstruction sometime in the future.