Facial reconstruction demo at Red Point Artists Association

UOW facial anthropologist Dr Susan Hayes is combining art and science through her collaboration with the Red Point Artists Association. Picture: Robert Peet
UOW facial anthropologist Dr Susan Hayes is combining art and science through her collaboration with the Red Point Artists Association. Picture: Robert Peet

She created an image of Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson following the discovery of her remains at Belanglo State Forest in 2010; depicted how William Tyrrell may look two years after his disappearance; and put a face to the ancient human relative known as the ‘Hobbit’.

As one of just three facial anthropologists in Australia, Dr Susan Hayes’ work can be a crucial tool in current missing person or homicide investigations; as well as in uncovering ancient mysteries.

Back in the Illawarra after three years working with archaeological remains in Indonesia, Dr Hayes is keen to show the public how she estimates facial appearance from a skull.

As a new member of the Red Point Artists Association in Port Kembla, she will be giving a free interactive demonstration covering her work and research on February 25, from 2-3.30pm.

Dr Hayes, who has a Master of Fine Arts and a PhD in biological anthropology, hopes to combine art and science in interesting ways through collaborations with local artists.

‘’In my work I bring art and science together – to represent a face you have to know how to depict a face artistically as well as scientifically,’’ she said. ‘’I think a lot of scientists have a naive concept of artistic creativity and overlook that it’s as technical as working in a lab.’’

Much of Dr Hayes’ work has been with historical remains –  most famously putting a face to an 60,000-year-old species of hominin discovered in Flores in 2003, known as the ‘Hobbit’.

In the past few years she’s worked with the remains of a woman who lived 2000 years ago in the Balinese town of Pacung, who was excavated by an Indonesian research team.

Facing facts: Dr Hayes' facial reconstruction (inset) of 'Angel' whose skeletal remains were found in 2010; she was identifed as Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson in 2015.

Facing facts: Dr Hayes' facial reconstruction (inset) of 'Angel' whose skeletal remains were found in 2010; she was identifed as Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson in 2015.

But it has been helping in modern-day investigations that has been confronting. The cold case of the woman dubbed Angel, whose remains were discovered in Belanglo forest, haunted her for years. Unable to discover her identity, police turned to Dr Hayes. Using the woman’s skull, she built up the layers of flesh, muscle and then skin using computer imaging techniques and CT scans.

It was in October 2015, when the woman was identified as Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson, that she was able to see how close her facial approximation had been. ‘’I was able to identify one area I had misinterpreted the data, and other areas that had worked well.’’

She also uses photos to construct age progression images, such as with toddler William Tyrrell who disappeared in 2014.

A research fellow at University of Wollongong’s Centre for Archaeological Science, she’s conducted workshops locally and internationally, and will do more at the Port Kembla collective.

Facial approximation by Dr Susan Hayes of the Hobbit released in December 2012. Picture: Supplied

Facial approximation by Dr Susan Hayes of the Hobbit released in December 2012. Picture: Supplied

From skull to skin - Dr Hayes works with the skeletal remains of modern humans and ancient hominins to approximate their facial appearance.

From skull to skin - Dr Hayes works with the skeletal remains of modern humans and ancient hominins to approximate their facial appearance.