The shape of the face is dependent on the complex amalgamation of twenty-two cranial bones according to a basic genetic blueprint. Minor deviations in the intricately designed skull result in variations of the overlying soft tissues, causing inevitable facial deviations such that no two faces are truly identical.
Postmortem identification, such as craniofacial reconstruction and superimposition, focuses on the underlying structure of the face. In facial reconstruction, the artist builds a face onto a skull following scientific rules, with special attention paid to the depths of soft tissues based on the topography of the skull. Though facial reconstruction carries some inherent subjectivity, its basis is in anatomical fundamentals. The degree to which a practitioner adheres to the anatomical structure varies.
Though facial reconstruction is commonly placed under the headline of “Forensic Art,” many cases (e.g. museum exhibitions) are archaeological rather than forensic.