Scientists reconstruct face of man who died 700 years ago in Cambridge

Researchers have reconstructed the face of a man who died in Cambridge during medieval times, giving moderns viewers an opportunity to see what someone looked like 700 years ago. Not surprisingly, the man shown in the reconstructed image looks no different than a modern man. According to the researchers, this man's skeleton shows a lot of 'wear and tear' indicative of having lived a hard working-class life. He died at an age somewhere north of 40.

The work was recently detailed by the University of Cambridge, which says the skeletal remains were found in a medieval hospital's graveyard, which was itself found beneath a Cambridge college. The man's name, of course, is unknown, though researchers refer to him as 'Context 958.' The excavation of the graveyard happened from 2010 to 2012.

Not much is known about the man, except that he was older than 40 when he died and that he was likely living at the charitable Hospital of St John the Evangelist, which operated until 1511. The graveyard remains were dated from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The hospital took in indigent individuals, and it is thought that this man, Context 958, was possibly homeless and ill.

By analyzing the remains, scientists have determined that this 13th century man ate a lot of fish or meat (or both), perhaps to a greater degree than the average poor working class individual. This could hint at his job, which may have given his better access to the food.

The man suffered at least two periods of great stress during his childhood, as indicated by his tooth enamel, and he also at some point was struck over the back of the head severely enough to leave lasting evidence of blunt-force trauma. That wasn't the cause of his death, however.

One big source of mystery remains about the man — he was buried facing down rather than up, an unusual thing to find amongst the graves. The reason for having been buried this way is unclear.

SOURCE: Cambridge University