Cruel likeness of medieval warrior killed after being hit in the face with an ax is recreated by scientists

THE likeness of a medieval warrior, whose face was split open in one of medieval Europe’s most gruesome battles, is on view for the first time in 660 years.

Experts reconstructed the fighter’s face after his skull was recovered from a mass grave outside of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland.

Scientists have recreated the face of a medieval warrior who was killed after being hit in the face with an axe

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Scientists have recreated the face of a medieval warrior who was killed after being hit in the face with an axePhoto credit: Cicero Moraes-Pen News
He was one of 1,800 Swedish land militiamen killed by a Danish invading force in 1361

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He was one of 1,800 Swedish land militiamen killed by a Danish invading force in 1361Photo credit: Cicero Moraes-Pen News

There in 1361 AD a Danish force of about 2,500 men, many of them experienced mercenaries, carried out a massacre.

They faced a rural militia of about 2,000 poorly armed peasants, at least a third of whom were minors or elderly, excavations suggest.

In the ensuing carnage, the defenders suffered some 1,800 dead.

Among them was the warrior whose mouth had been shattered by an axe, with additional wounds above his left eye and left cheekbone, probably inflicted by a polearm.

Now, Brazilian graphics expert Cicero Moraes has brought his features to life by importing his skull into a digital interface.

He said: “Once the skull was complete, a series of soft tissue thickness marks were placed across the skull.

“These markers roughly indicate the skin boundaries in some regions of the face.

“To complete the data, we imported a CT scan from a living donor and deformed the bones and soft tissue from the CT scan to match the approximated face.

“Once the basic face was defined, we completed the approximation and created the most scientific image in shades of grey, with the eyes closed and no hair.”

The skull itself provides an incomplete data set, so some aspects – like the size of the nose, mouth, and eyes – are projections based on statistical data.

Meanwhile, things like hair and skin tone are subjective.

But the end result is an approximation of what the warrior would have looked like at the time of his death.

Whether it was an ax blow that proved fatal is unknown.

Mr Moraes said: “It’s difficult to gauge this from the skull alone.

“But such an injury would certainly not be easy to treat given the year and the reality at the time it was inflicted.”

For Mr. Moraes, the images bring home the reality of war.

Experts reconstructed the fighter's face after his skull was recovered from a mass grave outside of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland

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Experts reconstructed the fighter’s face after his skull was recovered from a mass grave outside of Visby on the Swedish island of GotlandPhoto credit: Cicero Moraes-Pen News

“These images are quite impressive,” he said.

“Today there are several conflicts taking place in the world and we usually watch the scenes from afar without knowing what is happening to the combatants.

“Imagine what it is like for those who experience such violence.”

After the battle, the citizens of Visby – the island’s capital – surrendered to avoid further bloodshed.

The victorious King Valdemar IV received a large ransom and claimed the island as part of his kingdom.

Both Sweden and Denmark continued to claim the island until 1645, after Denmark’s defeat in the Torstenson War, when the Second Treaty of Brömsebro was signed.

Five mass graves were eventually found outside Visby’s walls, with the first archaeological excavations in 1905 revealing that many of the dead were buried in their armour.

Mass grave of 300 skeletons found under former department store in Pembrokeshire
Eerie

Mr. Moraes completed his reconstruction with a three-dimensional model of the skull provided by the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

The study was published in the 3D computer graphics journal OrtogOnLineMag.

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