The first stage of creating a good map is choosing the right type of map layer for the project's purpose. In most cases, a blank white map layer will not help create an intuitively understandable design, but at the same time a properly made map must look clean and avoid a dense clustering of labels, symbols or anything else. Every important identifier in a map must have its own 'private space' in order to be light on the eyes of the viewer. While, for example, creating a map about genetic admixture, it is interesting to see if there is any relation between the spread of admixture levels and natural geographic barriers like rivers, forests, seas, deserts and mountain ranges. The visible topography of the terrain will also tell the viewer where approximately he is located on the map, even when the map has no political borders.

After choosing the fitting layer, a set of colors must be chosen for usage. Colors might have varying purpose based on a map. In some cases colors are helpful to portray relationships between cultures or its inhabitants. At the same time, colors must be picked wisely in order to be conflicting enough with the chosen map layer colors. For example, it would be foolish to use a light blue for a culture near a large body of water - this might cause confusion. In AW maps, the colors of the body and borders are usually the same, as it creates a smoother appearance, but sometimes there is a necessity to accentuate the borders, in which case we use a border color which as a rule is a slightly darker version of the body color.

Finally, during the process of creating the map, there are always some small adjustments. The map is created in layers, so that it is easy to change specific parts of it in the future, either due to inaccuracies or requests of the client. Sometimes the adjustments happen due to more research being done on the subject of the map. After the creator(s) of the map finish the project, they present the map to AW team members in case of any criticism and errors. This is repeated until the map is decided to be as accurate and well-made as possible.


The reconstruction method that we're using is largely based on Gerasimov's 1955 book, which provides data with soft tissue estimations, possible nose shapes based on the nose bridge of the skull, plenty of cranial measurements as well their reconstructions with detailed explanation. Gerasimov's book was revolutionary for the time, and ever since then his students have been perfecting the method, while up to date technology allowed us to predict soft tissue thickness with even better precision.

In this page we'll be delving deeper into the facial reconstruction process. As an example, we'll be reconstructing the famous Sungir1 skull. The cranial measurements for Sungir1 as well as the skull itself can be found in "The People of Sunghir" by Erik Trinkaus, Alexandra P. Buzhilova, Maria B. Mednikova, and Maria V. Dobrovolskaya.

Sungir1 skull and description

The dry skull breadth of Sungir1 was 144mm, porion bregma height - 118mm, bizygomatic - 142mm, bigonial - 106mm. Taking that into account, we can get an approximation of how much soft tissue we need to add to the skull. Aside from the soft tissue data given in Gerasimov 1955, other more up to date data can be found in "РЕКОНСТРУКЦИЯ ВНЕШНЕГО ОБЛИКА ЕВРЕЕВ БИБЛЕЙСКИХ ВРЕМЕН С ТЕРРИТОРИИ ИЗРАИЛЯ" by T.S Balueva, E.V Veselovskaya, E.D Kobylianski, A. Arensburg:

Standard soft tissue chart

Note that the previous graph is based on European averages. Each individual skull will ultimately have its own soft tissue thickness. The calculations are to be adjusted based on the given averages. Once the data is calculated, we then can draw the outlines of the skull. Sungir1 was a big game hunter, so very strong masseter muscles are typical for his kind, we also know from old Soviet analyses that Sungir1 diet was rich in meat, thus we'll be giving him powerful jaw muscles. The finished sketch will then be the base for the reconstruction.

Sungir1 sketch

Next step is pigmentation prediction. Sungir1 is an Upper Paleolithic specimen, so dark skin, dark hair and brown eyes are typical for his kind, but since Sungir DNA is sampled, we can also do a hirisplex analysis to be completely sure.

Hirisplex chart

As predicted, Sungir1 turned out to be quite pigmented. The next step is to use the acquired data in GAN, and after that is done, photoshop is required to make sure his facial features match the traits of the skull. A side shot of the skull is very useful for this, here's a list of some of the traits that the skull exhibits: Powerful and long jaw, good forehead protrusion with visible browridge outlines, and not so projecting nose.

Sungir1 skull

After some time in GAN and Photoshop we're left with a good reconstruction. Last step is to add the hair and a bearded version. We'll be going for the wavy Cro-Magnon hair here. We are then left with this end result:

Sungir1 reconstruction