5:11 a.m. Back when I was a student I went down to Scotsdale, AZ to learn how to do forensic facial reconstruction from Betty Pat Gatliff. She was a sculptress that worked for years with Dr. Clyde Snow, a Titan in the forensic anthropology world and the man that revolutionized facial reconstruction techniques using tissue depth measurements gathered from the faces of hundreds of cadavers.
Forensic facial reconstruction is pretty much a last-ditch effort that death investigators use to get a skeleton identified. This is because it is equal proportion art and science.
You cannot, for example, tell the shape of lips or a nose from a skull...or the color and style of hair...or eye color and shape. You can't tell whether the person was fat or skinny. You can't tell if they had scars or moles or traumas the left them with distiguishing marks.
What you CAN tell, (with the help of a forensic anthropologist) is the approximate age, race, and gender of the decedent. You can look at the shape of the nasal bones and get a general idea of whether the nose flared or was turned up at the end. And because of tissue depth markers specific to race and gender, you can get a pretty accurate feel for the shape of the face.
So, basically, if you get a bunch of reconstruction artists working on a caste of the same skull, you'll end up with a room full of sculptures that look like cousins. (Interestingly, without a model to work from, people tended to give their reconstructions noses and lips similar to their own.)
At the time, I was only taking this class as research for an idea I had to gather more accurate tissue depth readings. Even back then, actual clay reconstruction was falling rapidly to the wayside in favor of computer-based reconstruction and age progression models.
Anyway, my idea was based on the fact that gathering tissue depths from cadavers creates a whole host of inaccuracies. The most obvious being the rate at which skin dehydrates after death, scewing your results.
And having asked around to friends, family, strangers on the street, I determined that most people wouldn't volunteer to have needles inserted into several locations on their skulls for the sake of my research. My hope, provided I could wade through a ton of beaurocratic red tape, was to use the thousands of cross-secting head CT scans stored in the university hospital's radiology department to get more accurate measurements.
Anyway, my nerd is showing. How embarrassing.
I never ended up undertaking the project for various reasons, but I'm sure it's been done ten times over by now. There is no such thing as an original thought, after all.