Genetic anthropologists reconstruct the skeleton of Skyrim

Genetic anthropologists study the connections between ancient and modern humans, delving into DNA and biology to understand evolutionary trends. One thing these scientists are doing is reconstructing the skeletal remains of ancient people using skills from various fields – such as art, osteology and anatomy – to reveal what a person might have looked like when they were alive. Usually this painstaking practice is performed using real skulls, but recently a group of researchers decided to apply their techniques to reconstruct a Bethesda skeleton. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.


A 2019 conference in Rome brought together historians from around the world to discuss Iron and Bronze Age Italy. Some of these people, due to common interests, formed a group which they later called Ancestral Whispers, eventually expanding to 10 members with additional specialties in geography, computer science, and art. Inspired by the work of renowned cranial reconstruction artist, Russian Mikhail Gerasimov, the group now painstakingly recreates the faces of ancient peoples using genetic anthropology.

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While Ancestral Whispers’ work typically covers Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Iron Age skulls and everything in between, as an April Fool’s joke, one of the team shared a Twitter post of a rarer specimen. The image of a man with reddish skin, blue eyes and a thick jaw was captioned simply: “Facial reconstruction of an ancient Atmoran from Saarthal, dated to the late Merethic era”. Skyrim fans quickly realized that these names referred to the highly acclaimed 2011 action-RPG.

For those less familiar with the details of Ancient Scrolls history and geography, the Merethic era has been estimated by Skyrim scholars to encompass approximately 2,500 years, dating to the “beginning of time” and ending approximately 4,500 years before the events of the fifth game. Atmora is a continent located north of Tamriel, where Ancient Scrolls the games take place mainly. Saarthal was once the capital of the Northern Empire and was one of the first cities established in Tamriel. In Skyrim the Dragonborn visits the ruins of Saarthal, now teeming with Draugr, to retrieve four enchanted artifacts for the College of Winterhold.

Jonah Lobe is an artist who worked at Bethesda for seven years and helped create many of the monsters, humans, and weapons found in Skyrim. Lobe responded to the Ancestral Whispers tweet saying, “I literally designed the skeletons of Skyrim – you did an AWESOME job with the rebuild. I wanted them to look like thugs, with thick jaws, thick eyebrows and a sort of Neanderthal. That’s it.”

The Ancestral Whispers researcher replied that it was great to be recognized by someone who worked on Skyrim. It’s heartening to see validation from the actual skeleton designer that the reconstruction of Ancestral Whispers is somewhat accurate and conveys his vision. The tradition of Ancient Scrolls is rich and convoluted, but many fans of the franchise know more about it than the real world. And it’s exciting to see what something as iconic and ubiquitous as Skyrim the skeletons might have looked alive.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is currently available on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

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Source: Games Radar

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