He may be shown as a Caucasian man with long, flowing light brown hair in many religious artworks, but Jesus would have likely had a darker complexion and short, dark, curly hair, a forensic expert claims.
Retired medical artist Richard Neave has recreated the face of ‘Jesus’ by studying Semite skulls using modern-day forensic techniques.
His portrait shows the Son of God may have had a wide face, dark eyes, a bushy beard and short curly hair, as well as a tanned complexion.
Without a skeleton or remains that can be categorically confirmed as Jesus, and a lack of physical descriptions in the New Testament, many previous images have been based either on the society in which the painter or sculptor lived, or hearsay.
With this in mind, Dr Neave, formerly from the University of Manchester, used a technique called forensic anthropology as well as fragments of information from the Bible, to create the portrait that may resemble the religious figure, Popular Mechanics reported.
Jesus is traditionally shown as a Caucasian man with long, flowing brown or dark blonder hair in religious art, (a mosaic in Istanbul, Turkey is shown) but would have likely had a darker complexion
Dr Neave, formerly from the University of Manchester, used techniques typically used to solve crimes, to create the portrait as well as fragments of information, such as a Biblical account saying Jesus closely resembled his disciples. A side view of ‘Jesus’ is shown
The technique uses cultural and archaeological data, as well as techniques similar to those used to solve crimes to study different groups of people.
The team hypothesized Jesus would have had facial features typical of Galilean Semites of his era, based on a description of events in the Garden of Gethsemane, written in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew.
He wrote that Jesus closely resembled his disciples.
Dr Neave and his team X-rayed three Semite skulls from the time, previously found by Israeli archaeologists.
WHY IS JESUS DEPICTED IN DIFFERENT WAYS?
No physical description of Jesus is found in the Bible
But he’s typically depicted as Caucasian in Western works of art, but has also been painted to look as if he was Latino or an Aboriginal.
It’s thought this is so people in different parts of the world can more easily relate to the Biblical figure.
The earliest depictions shown him as a typical Roman man, with short hair and no beard, wearing a tunic.
Medieval art in Europe typically showed Jesus with brown hair and pale skin. This image was strengthened during the Italian Renaissance, with paintings such as The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci showing Christ with long, flowing hair
It’s thought that it’s not until 400AD that Jesus appears with a beard. This is perhaps to show he was a wise teacher, because philosophers at the time were typically depicted with facial hair.
The conventional image of a fully bearded Jesus with long hair did not become established until the 6th century in Eastern Christianity, and much later in the West
Medieval art in Europe typically showed him with brown hair and pale skin.
This image was strengthened during the Italian Renaissance, with famous paintings such as The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci showing Christ.
Modern depictions of Jesus in films tend to uphold the long-haired, bearded stereotype, while some abstract works show
Dr Neave (pictured) and his team X-rayed three Semite skulls from the time, previously found by Israeli archaeologists. They used computer technology to work out how the muscles and skin should look, upon which they based a 3D model (seen on the computer screen) and a clay bust of Christ (right)
The experts built a digital 3D reconstruction of the face (shown) before creating a cast of the skull and adding layers of clay to match the thickness of facial tissues calculated by the program
They used computerised tomography to create ‘slices’ of the skulls to uncover details that make up their structure.
They then used specialist programs to calculate important measurements and work out how the muscles and skin should look.
Analysis of the skulls (cast shown) did not reveal the colour of Jesus’ eyes or how his hair looked. This was instead taken from accounts in the book of Paul
From this data, the experts built a digital 3D reconstruction of a face, before creating a cast of the skull and adding layers of clay to match the thickness of facial tissues calculated by the program.
Features including the eyes, lips and nose were then estimated to follow the shape of the underlying muscles predicted by the shape of the skulls.
Of course, analysis of the skull did not reveal the colour of Jesus’ eyes or how his hair looked.
So Dr Neave’s team studied first century artwork from various archaeological sites, created before the Bible was written.
From these works, they hypothesised Jesus had dark eyes and likely had a beard, in keeping with Jewish traditions at the time.
The Bible also offered a clue as to how Christ wore his hair – short, with tight curls, unlike many Renaissance depictions, for example.
This comes from a Bible passage by Paul, who wrote: ‘If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,’ suggesting Jesus did not have this hairstyle.
However, it contradicts the long-haired image seen in the Shroud of Turin, which is believed, by some, to bear the image of Christ when he was wrapped in a cloth after his death on the cross.
The team analysed skeletal remains of Semite men from the time of Jesus to come up with the average build of a Jewish man living in Galilee.
From this, they suggested Jesus was likely around 5ft 1inch tall (1.5 metres) and weighed around 110lbs (50kg).
They also theorised he would be more tanned and muscly than traditionally depicted in Western art, because he would have worked mostly outside as a carpenter until he was 30.
Dr Neave, the author of book of Making Faces: Using Forensic and Archaeological Evidence, has reconstructed many famous faces including Alexander the Great’s father, King Phillip II of Macedonia.
The Bible offered a clue as to how Christ wore his hair – short, with tight curls, unlike many Renaissance depictions, for example. A painting by Titian is shown left. But the description contradicts the image seen in the Shroud of Turin (right), which is believed, by some, to bear the image of Christ with longer hair