A Closer Look at Evolutionary Faces

John Gurche, a “paleo-artist,” has recreated strikingly realistic heads of our earliest human ancestors for a new exhibit

"Paleo-artist" John Gurche recreates the faces of our earliest ancestors, some of who have been extinct for millions of years. (Courtesy of John Gurche)

Homo heidelbergensis

Homo heidelbergensis
(Courtesy of John Gurche)

Appearing 700,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis is closely related to our own species. “It has huge brow ridges,” Gurche notes. “A lot of people think that’s kind of a shock absorber for the face, that it dissipates pressure put on teeth at the front of the skull, if you are using your mouth as a clamp to grip implements or a skin.”

The huge brow ridges tempted Gurche to create a scowling expression, and in fact he had reason to believe that this particular individual wasn’t a happy camper: the model skull had nearly a dozen abscessed teeth. But “I happened to catch him in a good mood,” Gurche says. “I wanted that positive feeling to be somewhere in the line-up.”


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