When skeletal remains are found, and the victim remains unidentified after traditional means of identification fail, investigators may call upon the forensic artist to utilize the three-dimensional facial reconstruction technique. The three-dimensional process is initiated by placing the skull on a workable stand, where the skull can easily be tilted and turned in all directions. The skull must be positioned in the Frankfort Horizontal position. By utilizing proper tissue depth data determined by race, gender, and age. Artificial eyes are placed in the skull’s eye sockets, centered and at the proper depth. The tissue markers are glued directly onto the skull. Clay will be systematically applied directly on the skull, following the skull's contours; paying strict attention to the applied tissue markers. Various measurements are made, and logged, to determine nose thickness/length, mouth thickness/width, and eye placement. Information such as geographic location of where the deceased lived, his or her lifestyle, and the various information provided to the artist by the Forensic Anthropologist and other professionals, is heavily relied upon when completing the reconstruction. Hair is accomplished by means of a wig, or by applying clay to represent hair. Various items (props), such as glasses, clothing, hats, etc. may be applied to better accentuate the features of the individual. Upon completion, the sculpture is photographed. All procedures are documented and working notes collected. When executed properly, this technique is proven to have a high success rate.


As with the three-dimensional technique, the two-dimensional reconstruction is used when unidentified skeletal remains are found. The two-dimensional reconstruction process is initiated by utilizing the same data as used for the Three-dimensional clay reconstruction. The process begins by gluing on the proper tissue markers in the proper pre-determined locations. The skull is then placed on a stand in the Frankfort Horizontal position. The skull is photographed; profile and frontal views, at a 1:1 scale, with a ruler positioned aside of the skull. The photos are then enlarged to life size dimension. The frontal and profile photos are then taped, in the Frankfort Horizontal position, directly aside one another, to two separate flat wood boards. Upon completion of the above process, transparent natural vellum sheets are taped directly over the printed photographs. Sketching begins, where the artist follows the contours of the skull, along with using the tissue markers as guidelines. Measurements for the mouth, nose, and eyes, is the same for the Two-dimensional process as it is with the Three-dimensional process. Hair type and style is determined by samples found on the scene by investigators, or by estimation determined by victim’s race, gender, and/or ethnic background. Information provided by the Forensic Anthropologist and other professionals is utilized. All procedures are documented and working notes collected. This method has also been tried and proved over the years. Benefits of this method over the clay reconstruction are cost, and the time it takes to complete the reconstruction.

Another method of Two-dimensional identification is that of reconstructing a face from a decomposing body. Utilizing the artist’s knowledge of the face, how the soft tissue lies on the skull, and a general knowledge of how the human body reacts to decomposition, the artist can make educated estimations on how an individual may have appeared prior to death. All methods of facial reconstruction allow the investigators, and the media, the opportunity to put a face with the victim, and a chance of a quick identification – saving man-hours, and allowing the victim’s family to put the element of the unknown to rest.

2D and 3D Reconstruction Samples from the Historical Exhumation Project
3D 2D
Sample 1 Sample 1
Sample 2 Sample 2
Sample 3 Sample 3
ACTIVE CASES W/ Facial Reconstructions
Nashville PD Jane Doe
Campbell County Jane Doe
Campbell County Jane Doe / Project EDAN Write-up
Cologne, Germany Jane Doe
Memphis, TN John Doe
Hillsborough County, FL John Doe
Jacksonville NC Police Department Jane Doe
Robeson County Sheriff's Office (NC) John Doe
El-Cajon, CA Jane Doe 
 Darlington County Sheriff's Office Jane Doe
Hillsborough County ME Office "Jane Doe" - 99-06341
Hillsborough County ME Office "John Doe" - 02-990

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