Paleoanthropology and population history


Archaeology had always been Gerasimov’s main research interest. He strove to visualize the appearance of people of whom nothing was known except that they had once lived and had been our remote ancestors. Therefore his first reconstructions were those of Pithecanthropus, Sinanthropus, and Neanderthal.

Sinanthropus – male and female. Gerasimov’s reconstructions from casts of original bones discovered in Zhoukoudian cave near Beijing.

Sinanthropus lived some 350 thousand years ago. These hominids were able to manufacture crude stone tools and to use fire.

Gerasimov thoroughly examined the crania and other bones of Neanderthals from various sites, and his reconstructions have become classic.

Numerous reconstructions made from skulls of prehistoric people have convincingly demonstrated that ever since the early stages of human evolution, marked individual variation existed within groups.

None of other anthropologists has so vividly shown the individual variations of people related to the same culture.

In Gerasimov’s words, “One cannot portray ancient people without regard to the time when they lived, to their environment, to a material culture created by them and sustaining them, and, finally, to their society – the outcome of social evolution.”

Neanderthal female from Steinheim. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov in 1959 from fossils discovered in Germany in 1933 Male from Broken-Hill (Kabwe), Zambia – an archaic hominid combining primitive and progressive features. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov, 1954Neanderthal male from La Chapelle-aux -Saints. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov in 1938 from fossils discovered in France in 1908.
Cro-Magnon man from Kostenki II, Voronezh. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov, 1955.A man from Cro-Magnon, France. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov, 1954.A man from Oberkassel, Germany. Reconstructed by M.M. Gerasimov, 1938

Gerasimov’s method of graphical reconstruction has provided an opportunity to collect vast statistical data on various populations of Russia. A series of documental portraits along with sculptural images enhances our knowledge of populations under study.

The method of facial reconstruction from the cranium allows to compare facial features of ancient and modern inhabitants of the same territory.

M.M. Gerasimov and his students have created a vast and amazing gallery of images, including a Scythian (a steppe nomad), a Hun (warrior and conqueror), a charming Slav woman (member of the Viatichi tribe) and a courageous Slav man (member of another tribe, Krivichi), ancient inhabitants of Armenia and Khorezm, Siberia and the Baltic. Late in life, Gerasimov addressed the appearance of the ancient Muscovites. Here, he functioned not only as an anthropologist, but also as an archeologist, an ethnologist, and a historian.

Gerasimov has reconstructed the appearance of people who lived in various epochs – Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, Middle Ages, and recent centuries.

Krivich. Odintsovo, Moscow region, 12th cent. Reconstruction by M.M. Gerasimov.Scythian from the “Sirko” burial mound at Nikopol, Kharkov region. 6th-5th cent. BC. Reconstruction by M.M. Gerasimov
Sogdian. Middle Asia. 5th cent. B.C. Reconstruction by M.M. Gerasimov.
A man from Lake Sevan, Armenia, 9th-8th cent. BC. Reconstruction by M.M. GerasimovA Hun from Kenkol burial ground, the Talas, Kirgizia, 1st cent. BC. Reconstruction by M.M. Gerasimov.A Neolithic man from Khaptsagay, the Lena. Representative of the proto-Tungus type. Reconstruction by M.M. Gerasimov.

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