Sts. Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres and Juan Masias, all of whom died more then 400 years ago, will soon have their faces recreated by the most cutting-edge technology used in forensic odontology.
The remains of the three saints lie in Santo Domingo Convent in Lima, where a team of forensic odontologists from San Martin de Porres University and the Brazilian Forensic Anthropology and Legal Odontology Team went at the beginning of this month to take 3D images of their skulls.
The skulls were transported, each in an urn guarded by friars amid strong security measures, to the odontological clinic of the university in Lima to have their images taken by the kind of tomograph used for surgeries and implants.
The purpose was "to determine the thickness of the soft tissue" in settlers of the epoch, forensic odontologist Jesus Quiroz told EFE.
He said that facial reconstruction needs data about the thickness of the soft tissue in order to get a reliable result, but such information is nonexistent because there were no photos 400 years ago, just representations of the saints in paintings.
"We have to consider that these skulls are 400 years old and were from the first generation of (sons and daughters of) Spaniards with Peruvians of Spanish descent and with Indians," Quiroz said in reference to St. Rose, born in 1586 of a Lima native and a Spanish soldier.
In the case of St. Martin de Porres, there was a "mixture of races," the expert said, since he was the son of a Spanish noble and a woman of African descent from Panama.
About Spanish-born St. Juan Masias, who took his vows in Peru in 1622, Quiroz said they do have details of his soft tissue because Spain was one of the most advanced countries in facial reconstruction.
Tomographs of the skulls provide information about the ancestors, race, stature and sex of a person, Quiroz said, as well as about his or her health and nutrition.
"For example, St. Martin was a professional in herbal medicines and he cured others," he said.
The largest skull is that of St. Juan Masias, which shows the characteristics of a 60-year-old man from the way the bones are joined, while that of St. Rose is smaller and "pretty," Quiroz said.
In Brazil, the tomograph images will be uploaded to software with which its experts will work, "and they're going to begin, based on the skull, to reconstruct the soft tissue and make a projection of the face," Andres Agurto, head of radiology at the university clinic, said.
Forensic odontologist Paulo Miamoto of the Brazilian team gave a workshop in Lima last year on facial reconstruction, during which he showed the work that had been done on the faces of St. Anthony of Padua and Mary Magdalene.
Miamoto and graphic digitizer Cesar Moraes visited Santo Domingo Convent last year and asked the authorities for approval to do a reconstruction of the three saints.
In late November, Miamoto will bring to Lima the three busts of the saints complete with their facial reconstruction in order to present them to the convent.