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04 April 2015 @ 01:02 pm
faces of the dead  
Top ten historical forensic facial reconstructions
http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art520745-the-top-ten-historical-forensic-facial-reconstructions

This includes the recent reconstruction of Richard III (the one with blond hair), and the reconstruction of Mary, Queen of Scots done from portraits, as well as a rather nice one of a woman from medieval Edinburgh.

Of particular interest here is the "Beachy Head Lady," described as "a sub-Saharan African living in Eastbourne during Roman times." As the article says, "Beachy Head Lady was assumed to be a third century European Roman until experts took a closer look."

And this is precisely why people who talk about "the historical record" as if it is fixed and objective - usually to complain about the inclusion of people of color in media that take place in the European past, because of that terrible specter, "political correctness" - are so frustrating. (Well, there are many reasons; this is one.) The historical record is determined by what is left out and what is assumed, just as by what is there. How many skeletons might there be like this one, but which are still keeping their secrets because historians and archaeologists never considered the possibility that they might have belonged to people of different races?

(With all the caveats necessary when one talks about "race" in other periods, of course.)

And here's a story on the Beachy Head Lady, from the same site:
http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art474162-beachy-head-lady-was-young-sub-saharan-roman-with-good-teeth-say-archaeologists