You are looking at the reconstructed face of one of the oldest-known modern humans, a woman who lived perhaps 100,000 years ago. She may be a member of the population that gave rise to all anatomically modern Homo sapiens, who migrated and survived out of Africa.
Facial reconstruction expert Richard Neave of Manchester, England, created this three-dimensional representation from the cast of the skull uncovered in the Qafzeh cave in Israel in 1969. The cast was provided by the Natural History Museum of London.
Rebuilding the features of a human face from skeletal remains is "done in anatomical way," says Neave. "It's a bit like dissection in reverse ... I used a soft wax and just re-created over the surface of the skull all the facial muscles. The eyes were inserted and all the basic underlying muscular structure was rebuilt over the face."
The result is the reconstructed face of a woman who lived relatively close — geographically and chronologically — to the African "real Eve." Her visage may give us a glimpse of what the genetic relative of all humans may have looked like.
"There are always areas of uncertainty," says Neave. "We don't know the shape of the ears, the tip of nose, the line of vermilion of the lips ... We do know the basic proportions of the face, whether the lips protruded forward or not, whether the eyes sloped upwards or downwards."
Neave reiterated that this woman, known scientifically as "Qafzeh 9," was truly modern, and was anatomically and evolutionarily no different from humans alive today.