Expert paleo-artist reconstructs face of ancient human ancestors

John Gurche

John Gurche

Expert paleo-artist reconstructs face of ancient human ancestors in two Bruce Museum programs Saturday, April 9, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. lecture and Sunday, April 10, from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. family workshop, at the Bruce Museum, 1 Museum Drive, Greenwich.

John Gurche is an artist whose award-winning work in paleontology brings scientific accuracy and a high degree of realism to reconstruct the face of our human ancestors, dinosaurs and other ancient life. He will appear at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich twice during the weekend of April 9 and 10 to discuss his facial reconstructions for the new hominid species Homo naledi, recently discovered in South Africa. Gurche’s painted and sculptural paleo-art has appeared on the covers of National Geographic, Discover and Natural History magazines and been featured at the Smithsonian, Field Museum and American Museum of Natural History as well as in television documentaries.

In 2014, National Geographic sent Gurche to South Africa to study the newly discovered fossil remains of a previously unknown species of human ancestor. The purpose of the study was to look at bony clues pertaining to what the creature looked like. This eventually led to a sculpted reconstruction of the new species Homo naledi that appeared on the cover of the October 2015 issue of National Geographic and in publications and news stories around the world. Gurche also completed a full body painting for the magazine of the new hominin presented in comparison with two other stars of the fossil world, Lucy, the 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis, and the 1.6 million year old Turkana boy, an adolescent Homo erectus.

In his lecture at the Bruce Museum on Saturday, April 9, Gurche will tell the story of Homo naledi’s discovery and analysis, with special focus on the anatomical clues he used to work out details of H. naledi’s appearance. The 2016 Marianne Smith Memorial Lecture includes a reception with light refreshments at 6:30 pm, followed by the lecture at 7:00 pm. The event is free for Bruce Museum members, $15 non-members.

The following day, on April 10, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 pm, he will lead “Facing the Human Past” Family Workshop for ages six and up, sharing the story of how he studies hominid fossils and recreates faces above the skeletal structure. This child-friendly, hands-on program encourages family members to build their own reconstruction of an early human over a cast of a 300,000 year-old skull from the species Homo heidelbergensis found in Zimbabwe. John Gurche will help guide the sculpting. No sculpting experience or scientific training is necessary. The event is $7 for Bruce Museum members, $15 for non-members.

Both events require registration on the Bruce Museum page of Eventbrite.com. For more information, seebrucemuseum.org.

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