Face to face with Merseyside's earliest skeleton
In July 2005 the Museum of Liverpool Life welcomed the return to the North West of a long-absent resident. The oldest surviving skeleton from Merseyside, found on the Wirral shore in 1864, had finally returned to the region. As part of the Living with the Romans exhibition, which ran from 23 July 2005 to 4 June 2006, the skeleton was borrowed from the Natural History Museum in London as the centrepiece of a display on our Romano-British ancestors.
The skeleton was found by workmen repairing the embankment at Leasowe on the north Wirral coast. They came across the body laid out under a bed of peat. The owner of nearby Leasowe Castle, Sir Edward Cust, donated the remains to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1864. Eventually the skeleton found its way to the Natural History Museum in London where it was recently rediscovered by Dr Silvia Gonzalez, a scientist from Liverpool John Moores University.
For over a century the skeleton was thought to be prehistoric, perhaps as old as 4000 BC. However, radiocarbon dating has shown that the skeleton is actually Roman in date. As such it is the only Roman skeleton from Merseyside.
A 21st century reconstruction of the skull
We decided to commission a reconstruction of the skull for the 'Living with the Romans' exhibition. The skull was first scanned in three dimensions with a laser scanner by National Museums Liverpool's Conservation Technologies team. A replica was made and then Dr Caroline Wilkinson of Manchester University created a clay model over the replica. She used the skull as the basis of a reconstruction of the face.
A case study of the digital reconstruction of Leasowe Man with step-by-step images of the process is available on the Conservation Technologies website.
Tracey Seddon, (Organics Conservation), Joe Parsons (Conservation Technologies) and Lorraine Cornish (Natural History Museum) examining the Leasowe Man skull in National Museums Liverpool's Conservation Centre