Clip | The Woman in the Iron Coffin - Forensic reconstruction reveals a face from history

A forensic imaging specialist uses facial reconstruction software to see what the woman in the iron coffin may have looked like.


Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin Premieres Wednesday, October 3 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

Streams October 4 via pbs.org/secrets and PBS apps

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I''m a forensic imaging specialist; a forensic artist.

My duties entail anything to assist law enforcement with identifying the deceased, finding the missing.

So, what we want to start with doing a facial reconstruction in this software is a pristine - you know - CT scan of the skull.

The skull tells you everything you need to know about what the face looked like in life.

Everything from the projection of the nose, to the width of the nose, to the corners of your mouth, to your eyebrow.

Seeing all that information in, its makes it very easy to find the right puzzle piece to fit on this face to get the best representation of how she looked in life.

Step one is to repair the damage to the skull, so that means there''s damage to the lower mandible and the mouth is open a little bit.

So, we''re going to kind of mirror this image over here, flip it and you know close the mouth.

The details of the face are all here, it''s all mapped out, it''s just a matter of reading the map and applying those features on the right spot.

Applying the right facial muscles is also crucial in identifying - you know how much tissue is there.

We have landmarks on the skull because the muscles attach on the same place on everybody''s skull, regardless of your age or ancestry.

So, it''s important as you''re building up these features you''re finding the nose, the ears, the lips, you want to have a kind of structure to place it in.

So, coming up with that grid, now the grid is essentially just an outline to tell us where those features are going to go.

So now we are going to start blocking in some features.

Joe selects age- and ancestry-appropriate features from a database of thousands of body parts.

Coming up with the nose this is the nose that fits this skull.

She was well preserved within the iron coffin so we could see the hairlines, we knew it was parted in the centre and braided so that takes the guesswork out of it, which is great for a forensic artist having that information in front of us.

It''s like a digital puzzle that we are piecing together.

The last step is to modify these, finding the right skin tone and then corresponding that to all the pieces, so making it a uniform skin tone, and make sure it''s age appropriate.

I''ve stared at this face, after we complete, i''ve stared at it probably a hundred times since we''ve completed it because I am just fascinated.

It''s not just a pile of remains, or a body that was found in an iron coffin anymore.

A person is staring back at me.

I have a photograph of a person who died that i''ve i''ve brought her back to life.