Forensic examination

Photograph of a boy who died
by violence, and coroner’s certificate


Method of facial reconstruction from the cranium opened up new vistas for forensic examination. It is used in cases where the condition of soft tissues of the dead person precludes identification. Gerasimov’s success in this field provided a demonstration of the validity of his method.

In Russia, the method was first applied to forensic anthropology by Gerasimov in 1939.

A human skeleton with marks of predators’ teeth on bones was found in a desert area of Leningrad Region. The examination revealed that the individual was a boy aged 12-13.

Gerasimov made a sculptural reconstruction from the skull, and the sculpture was photographed in various aspects. To make the image more realistic, coat and cap were added. While the boy’s father recognized his son at once and without reserve, he said the boy had never worn such coat.

Identification of an unknown woman 

Assessing the degree of similarity


In 1950, a skull of an unknown woman, whose body had been found in a river, was handed over to Gerasimov for reconstruction. Based on the sculptured image, the investigators identified the woman as Ts.N.I., who had disappeared some time ago.

For final identification, parts of the woman’s antemortem photograph were superimposed on the reconstructed face. Both images matched not merely in general features, but in one highly important respect.

The study revealed a marked facial asymmetry caused by the atrophy of the right supraorbital margin and of the adjoining bones. Gerasimov concluded that the weakened eyelid had overhung the eye in an abnormal manner, and showed this on his reconstruction. This indeed was how the right half of the woman’s face looked on her antemortem photograph. The abnormality resulted from a chronic disease – paralysis of the facial nerve. This minor detail demonstrated how important it was to consider all individual peculiarities of the skull.

Identification of an unknown woman

In 1950, Gerasimov was commissioned to reconstruct the face of an aged woman whose remains had been found in an old blindage at the side of the road. The cranium lacked the lower jaw, which had to be reconstructed.

The reconstruction revealed that the remains were those of a forester’s wife, who had died in an accident while riding on a cart with her husband. Having pulled the shotgun, he incidentally discharged it in her face. The frightened man decided to conceal the accident and buried his wife, having told the neighbors that she had gone to visit with her relatives.

Thus Gerasimov’s work helped find out the truth.

Mikhail Gerasimov’s Career
Mikhail Gerasimov as an Archaeologist
Reconstruction of the Face from the Cranium
The Predecessors
Elaboration of the method
Stages in the reconstruction process
Fields of application
Forensic examination
Paleoanthropology and population history
Reconstructing the appearance of historical personalities.
Further development of the method
“Sinanthropus” (Member of the Species Homo Erectus)
Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man)
Neanderthal Child from Teshik-Tash
People of the Upper Paleolithic
People of the Mesolithic
People of the Early Iron Age
Drawings by M.M. Gerasimov