Using modern-day forensic techniques, retired medical artist Richard Neave has reconstructed the face of ‘Jesus’ by studying Semite skulls.
His portrait reveals that ‘Jesus’ may have had a wide face, dark eyes, a bushy beard and short curly hair, as well as a tanned complexion. The features would likely have been typical of Middle Eastern Jews in the Galilee area of northern Israel according to Neave.
Although, according to Dr Neave the portrait is that of an adult man alive at the same time and place as Jesus, some experts say his depiction is probably far truer than paintings by the great masters.
The technique used by the team employs cultural and archaeological data, as well as techniques similar to those used to solve crimes to study different groups of people.
The team hypothesised Jesus would have had facial features typical of Galilean Semites of his era, based on a description of events in the Garden of Gethsemane, written in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew in which he write that Jesus closely resembled his disciples
Dr Neave and his team X-rayed three Semite skulls from the time, previously recovered by Israeli archaeologists and used computerised tomography to create ‘slices’ of the skulls to uncover details that make up their structure.
They then used specialist programs to calculate vital measurements and work out how the muscles and skin should look while colour of Jesus’ eyes and how his hair looked was instead taken from accounts in the book of Paul as well as studying first century artwork from various archaeological sites.
Unlike many Renaissance portrayals the Bible also offered a hint as to how Christ wore his hair – short, with tight curls. From these works, the team hypothesised Jesus had dark eyes and likely had a beard, in keeping with Jewish customs of that era.
However, it challenges the long-haired image seen in the Shroud of Turin, which is believed, by some, to bear the image of Christ.
Dr Neave, formerly from the University of Manchester, has reconstructed many famed faces including Alexander the Great’s father, King Phillip II of Macedonia.