Face Of Norwegian Boy Who Lived 8,000 Years Ago Reconstructed

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
October 19, 2023

Using DNA analysis and modern forensic techniques, scientists have reconstructed the face of a Stone Age boy who lived in Norway. The Vistegutten – the boy from Viste died at only 14 years old. Why he passed away so early is unknown because it seems he was healthy.

You can now see the full reconstructed figure of Vistegutten at a new permanent exhibition in Jæren. Oscar Nilsson has equipped him with a fishing spear and a fishing hook.

“The young boy was buried in the small Vistehola, a cave located a little north of Stavanger in southwestern Norway. The same little cave that his parents may have lived in.

He is the best-preserved person from the Stone Age in Norway,” Science in Norway reports.

“I spend most of my day working with skeletons of ancient people,” archaeologist Sean Denham at the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger says.

“But seeing a living person in front of me in this way is something completely different. Oscar Nilsson has done a fantastic job with this new reconstruction.”

“Denham is also happy about the increased interest in the Stone Age in Rogaland and Norway that the museum, in collaboration with sculptor and archaeologist Nilsson, has now managed to achieve with this reconstruction.

Fish and nuts

During an archaeological excavation of Vistehola in 1907, researchers found the boy’s remains.

He was only 125 centimeters tall.

Vistehola is located 10 kilometers northwest of Stavanger city center. This is one of the most famous settlements from the Stone Age in Norway. Here, the skeleton of Vistegutten was found during an archaeological excavation in 1907. New methods have made it possible to extract DNA from the skeleton.

With the help of new research methods, the researchers know that the boy has eaten as much food from the sea as from land. Cod, seal, and wild boar were on the menu for those who lived near the beach at Jæren. So were shellfish and nuts.

Even for a Stone Age man, Vistegutten was small in stature. Adult men from the Stone Age in Norway were probably 165-170 centimeters tall. The women may have been 145-155 centimeters tall.

Both sexes had strong physiques, the signs of which can be seen in Vistegutten as well. Eyes and cheekbones were often quite prominent in people in Norway at the time.

The boy was probably fairly dark-skinned.

Face shape, skin and hair

“For a while, there was some doubt about whether this was a girl or a boy. But with the help of DNA analysis, we can now say with certainty that Vistegutten was a boy,” Denham says.

The reconstruction Oscar Nilsson has made is based on DNA analysis. It also builds on a project from 2011, where researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland scanned the skull of Vistegutten with a laser, and created a 3D model of his head.

Life at Jæren was probably good when Vistegutten lived there. The landscape was covered in deciduous forests with wild boars, moose, and deer. The boy has also eaten a lot of food from the sea. The climate was milder than today and attracted people from the south to Norway. Examinations of the skeleton tell us that Vistegutten did not have any serious illnesses. He hasn’t starved either. When he died, he was buried under the family’s ‘living room floor’ inside the small cave. It must mean that they wanted to have the little boy close to them after he was dead.

“The DNA analysis that was carried out later, tells us more about the shape of his head,” Denham says. “We are a little more uncertain about his skin color, hair color, and the color of his eyes. So here we rely on the other finds we have of Stone Age people in Norway.”

The average lifespan in the Old Stone Age was not very high. This was largely due to the fact that so many young children died. When people first reached adulthood, living to be over 50 years old was not unusual.

We don’t know why Vistegutten died so young.