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)

Paranthropus boisei

Paranthropus boisei
(Courtesy of John Gurche)

Gurche calls P. boisei “the chewing machine,” as it had outrageously large cheekbones and a crest on the top of its head to anchor powerful jaw muscles. Its molars had four times the surface area of ours, the better to grind through tough roots. Though P. boisei lived between 2.3 and 1.2 million years ago, the species is not our direct ancestor; it represents a side branch of our family tree that died out. While Homo erectus, which lived at about the same time, was sampling meat, P. boisei remained a devout vegetarian, which is why, Gurche says, “the expression I was going for was a sort of bovine contentment.”


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