Craniofacial Depiction for Forensic Identification and Archaeological Investigation
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Dundee
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Biological Sciences: Genetics
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing
Studies In Human Society: Anthropology
Summary of the impact
Wilkinson has developed, evaluated and applied techniques, standards and
datasets for facial depiction and identification of the dead. The impacts
- Improved social welfare by establishing an international forensic tool
that has enhanced forensic identification from human remains, and
correspondingly improved law enforcement services and disaster victim
- Delivered highly skilled people and international standards in
forensic craniofacial identification.
- Provided cultural enrichment through enhanced public engagement with
science and art internationally, through the craniofacial depiction of
historical figures and ancient human remains.
The underpinning research was carried out under the leadership of Prof
Caroline Wilkinson from the Forensic Art Research Group established
in Oct 2005 through collaboration between the Centre for Anatomy &
Human Identification and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art &
Design, the University of Dundee, and followed on from her research at the
University of Manchester.
Wilkinson up-dated and further developed a 3D computerized craniofacial
depiction system utilizing existing 3D modelling software and haptic
technology (SensAble Technologie's Phantom hardware and Freeform Modelling
Plus software), a database of modelled anatomical structures and a 3D
facial feature database collected from laser scans (3.1). In
addition, standards were created from clinical images (CT, MRI, X-rays)
and direct measurement of living subjects by her research team (2005-13)
and applied and evaluated (3.2).
This system was tested in a number of blind studies using CT and laser
scan data from living subjects from the USA (2010-2012), Korea (2009-11)
and UK (2011-12), and evaluated in relation to the cross-race effect,
reliability, reproducibility and accuracy (3.3,3.4). The
degree of similarity between the subjects' face shape and the surface of
the craniofacial depiction could be quantified using morphometric and face
recognition software, and this directed further study into those areas of
the face with highest error.
The relationships between the hard and soft tissues of the face were
studied using cadavers, living subjects and donated ante-mortem and
post-mortem data (3.2). In this way, standards enabling the
determination of facial feature morphology from skeletal structure were
developed and then tested for reliability, such as facial crease patterns
(2010-2013), facial tissue depths (2012) and ears (2012). The use of
craniofacial analysis in disaster victim identification was evaluated as
part of the EU FP7 funded FASTID project (3.7), and new
standards developed (2008-2013) for craniofacial superimposition,
post-mortem depiction from partially decomposed remains and automated face
Wilkinson has employed the craniofacial computer system to analyse,
authenticate and/or depict the faces of key historical figures, such as
Richard III (Wilkinson REF 3), Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns, J.S.
Bach (3.5), Rameses II, Arsinoe — the sister of Cleopatra, St
Nicolas, and people from the past from skeletal remains, death masks and
portraits. This work has directly influenced the current digital human
research (3.9), especially in relation to the creation of 3D
facial avatars and facial recognition.
The researchers involved in this team are Dr Chris Rynn
(Lecturer), Caroline Erolin (Lecturer), Janice Aitken
(Lecturer) and Dr Won-Joon Lee (Postdoctoral Researcher) at the
University of Dundee, and through collaborative links with many
international forensic research groups, such as the FBI Academy (3.3),
Interpol (3.7), Fraunhofer Institute (3.7),
National Museum of Scotland (3.6), Catholic University of
Korea (3.4), Ministry of Defense (3.9) and many
archaeological research groups, such as the Bachhaus (3.5),
Richard III Society (5.7) Theban Mapping Project in Egypt (3.6)
and University of Leicester(5.7).
References to the research
3.1 Mahoney, G and Wilkinson, CM (2010) Computer generated facial
depiction. Cpt 18 in Wilkinson, CM and Rynn, C. (Eds) Craniofacial
Identification. Cambridge University Press (Wilkinson REF 2);
222-237; ISBN: 978 0 521 768627 hardback.
3.2 Wilkinson, CM (2010) Forensic facial reconstruction —
anatomical art or artistic anatomy? J. Anat. 216, 235-250; Online
ISSN: 1469-7580 (Wilkinson REF 4).
3.3 Wilkinson, CM, Rynn, C, Peters, H, Taister, M, Kau CH and
Richmond, S. (2006) A blind assessment of computer-modelled forensic
facial reconstruction using Computed Tomography data from live subjects. Journal
of Forensic Science, Medicine & Pathology 2 (3) 179-187; ISSN:
1556-2891 (electronic version); Journal no. 12024 (Wilkinson RAE2008 2).
3.4 Lee, WJ, Wilkinson, CM and Hwang, HS (2011) An accuracy
assessment of forensic computerised facial reconstruction employing cone
beam computed tomography from live subjects. J Forensic Sci doi:
3.6 Wilkinson, CM (2008) The facial reconstruction of ancient
Egyptians. Cpt 11 in David, R (Ed) Egyptian Mummies and Modern Science.
Cambridge University Press; 162-180 ISBN: 978-0-521-86579-1 hardback.
3.7 Sue Black PI, Caroline Wilkinson CI: FASTID (Fast and
efficient Identification) project in collaboration with Interpol,
Fraunhofer Institute, Bunderskriminalamt, Crabbe Consulting and Plassdata
— EU FP7: 2010 to 2013 — €2.3 Million.
3.8 Sue Black PI and Caroline Wilkinson CI: Prevention of the sexual
exploitation of children — CAST and ISEC funding; 2011-14 — £250,000.
3.9 Chris Rowland PI and Caroline Wilkinson CI: Credible Avatars — MOD
funding, 2012-14 — £380,000.
Details of the impact
Improved social welfare and cohesion
In international disasters, mass graves and scenes of crime facial
recognition may be one of the only viable options for identification.
However, misidentification from visual recognition is frequent and a
reliable facial depiction system has improved the efficacy of
investigations, which in turn has a positive effect on society with the
efficient repatriation of victims and return of the deceased to the family
and for judicial matters of estate. The use of these craniofacial
techniques has been incorporated into Interpol's Disaster Victim
Identification procedure (5.1) and has been confirmed as
directly responsible for efficient identification by the police (5.2).
Delivering highly skilled people and international standards
Wilkinson's, 3D computerized craniofacial system is now utilised
in international forensic institutes, such as the FBI Academy, National
Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Turkish Forensic Institute,
BostonPD and Royal Newfoundland Police (5.3), and this group
has trained approximately 50 practitioners worldwide (South Korea, India,
Malaysia, Japan, USA, Canada, Israel, Australia, Europe, South Africa,
Turkey, Mexico and Romania) and has provided police training for Saudi
Arabia, the UK and South Africa (5.4).
Wilkinson has acted as an expert witness in criminal courts in
Britain and South Africa and is currently the only craniofacial
anthropologist accredited by the Royal Anthropological Institute as a
forensic practitioner. With the increase in social media and CCTV
surveillance this is important to international security, law enforcement
and social cohesion. She has had a direct effect on international policy
through membership of US and UK Government sponsored Scientific Working
Groups, e.g. Facial Identification (5.1) and Anthropology and
the Association of Chief Police Officers Facial Identification Group (5.1).
She has been involved in the drafting of numerous international codes of
practice and practitioner guidelines through those groups and the British
Association of Forensic Anthropology steering committee, the EU New
Methodologies and Protocols of Forensic Identification by Craniofacial
Superimposition (MEPROCS) research consortium (5.1) and the
International Association of Craniofacial Identification Board of
[text removed for publication]. She is also frequently consulted by UK
Police, Ireland's National Police, Netherlands Forensic Institute and Abu
Dhabi General Directorate in relation to facial identification (5.2)
[text removed for publication].
Cultural enrichment through improved public engagement with art,
science and history
This research has enabled more reliable and realistic
historical/archaeological interpretations of ancient remains and this has
increased public engagement through museum exhibitions, publications and
media events (5.5, 5.6, 5.7). The computerized facial
depiction of people from the past became a recognized scientific method as
a direct result of the BBC2 series History Cold Case (5.8)
and Wilkinson featured as part of the Dundee team in each episode
producing a digital craniofacial depiction, the reveal of which was the
climax of each programme. Series 1 (2010) recorded over 2M viewers and led
to a second UK series (2011).
The most significant historical projects of this group include the
depictions of Mary, Queen of Scots (5.7), Richard III (5.7)
and J.S. Bach (3.5). The former was central to an exhibition
at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) with >28,000 visitors, the
second was integral to a C4 program with >4.1 million viewers and 64
million web discussions about the face, and the latter was placed in
permanent exhibition at the Bachhaus with >7 million web page
discussions. This work was directly responsible for a change in the way
the public viewed these historical figures, away from the Shakespearean
view of a twisted Richard III monster and towards the only portrait of
Mary, Queen of Scots showing her during the period of time she lived in
Wilkinson uniquely applied craniofacial analysis techniques to
study the Lewis Chessmen (5.9) (discovered in 1831
on the Isle of Lewis)
and this research was influential in changing the view of the production
and likely use of these pieces.
Since 2008 Wilkinson's team have reconstructed approximately 25
archaeological faces and their work is exhibited in >ten new
exhibitions around the world (5.7), including the National
Museum of Ireland, Stirling Castle, Heritage Malta, Ulster Museum,
Bachhaus (3.5), National Museum of Scotland, and the British
Museum (Wilkinson REF 3).
In March 2013, the Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification applied
for the 2013 Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education (awarded 22
November 2013) (5.5) for their study and application of human
anatomy, forensic human identification, disaster victim identification and
forensic and medical art. This award recognised the Centre as being an
international leader in craniofacial identification and forensic facial
reconstruction for the identification of the living and the dead.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 International policy and professional guidelines:
5.2 Forensic casework: (available on request).
- Letter of corroboration from UK Police
- Contact emails relating to UN, SOCA and international police forces
5.3 Forensic institutes using computerised system:
5.4 List of National and International practitioner training (available
5.5 Public Engagement:
5.6 Wilkinson and her team are frequently invited to speak at
approx. 8 international public events per year, such as Elgin Museum,
National Portrait Gallery, RCS Edinburgh, STEM, National Museum of
Scotland, National Museum of Ireland, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris:
5.7 Exhibited in museums around the world, including:
5.8 Wilkinson and her team have appeared in 16 television
programs over the last 5 years for C4, BBC, STV, Discovery Channel, C5 and
History Channel, including:
5.9 News articles (available on request):