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Forensic sculptor reconstructs 325-year-old face

By Elena Watts
May 1, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
Updated May 2, 2014 at 12:02 a.m.


FORT ST. LOUIS FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION

• Facial reconstruction

WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 6-10

WHERE: Main galleries of the Museum of the Coastal Bend, 2200 E. Red River St.

HOW: Open to the public for viewing and discussion with Amanda Danning, forensic sculptor, on pay-what-you-want basis.

• Lecture: The Facial Reconstruction Process presented by Amanda Danning

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. May 9

WHERE: VC/UHV Library, Basement Room L-2

HOW: Limited seating; reservations are encouraged; call 361-582-2434.

Family Discovery Program - Forensics Day

WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (activities happening all day) May 10

WHERE: Museum of the Coastal Bend

WHAT: Extract real DNA from wheat germ or strawberries with simple chemistry; explore the museum looking for fingerprints and identifying who left them; measure bones to discover how scientists learn about a person from their remains (the bones are laminated paper, not real remains); put together a face based on descriptions of the person's features.

Crossroads residents can soon get a glimpse of the face that belonged to a 325-year-old French colonist from the earliest settlement on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend will host a five-day facial reconstruction project that begins Tuesday and ends with a family discovery program May 10.

Amanda Danning, a forensic sculptor, will reconstruct the face of the Marquis de la Sablonniere. He and Isabelle Talon were killed by Karankawa Indians in Victoria County in the 1600s.

Their bones were unearthed during the Fort St. Louis excavation more than a decade ago. Despite being killed the same day and buried in the same grave, the conditions of their skulls were inconsistent. Enough of the Marquis' facial bones were intact to allow reconstruction of his face, but Talon's were too deteriorated for the project.

The Marquis' skull was reconstructed in plastic by Medical Modeling in Colorado. Danning will re-create the Marquis' face as accurately as possible with soft clay atop the skull.

Danning will also deliver a lecture in the VC/UHV Library about the facial reconstruction process May 9.

"Science has come a long way in five years - we can know things about the missing parts from the existing parts," Danning said. "In the hands of someone qualified to do this, the recognition rate is 89 percent."

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