Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000 Page: 25
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interest among the public, and
the articulated remains of an individual
found on a forward deck
in the hold of the Belle has been
no exception. The skeleton was
in excellent condition when it
was recovered, due to the
anaerobic conditions afforded by
the silty sand in which it was embedded.
Not only was there tendon
tissue remaining on the
bones, but a large portion of the
brain was preserved in the cranium.
In fact, the excellent preservation
and completeness of
the skeleton has allowed the
CRL staff to use it as a case study
to demonstrate the technology now available
to archeologists (as well as for crime
and forensic purposes) that can assist in the
interpretation of data.
In most instances, the conservation of
waterlogged bone (human or faunal) is a
rather simple process. In the case of the
skeleton from the Belle, the first step was
to remove all of the salt water that had been
absorbed by the bones during the threecentury
submersion. The soluble salts in
the bone were removed by rinsing them in
successive baths of water. The bones of the
skeleton were then dried and consolidated
with a resin in acetone.
An exact replica of the skull from the
skeleton found in the Belle was produced
using a new casting procedure, known as
stereolithography. A detailed computer tomograph
(CT) scan was conducted in
March 1997 at the Texas Scottish Rite
Hospital for Children in Dallas. The scan
produced a digital 3-D image of all the diagnostic
features inherent in the skull, including
information about how much of
the brain was preserved in the skull. The
information from the scan was stored on a
computer diskette and is now a permanent
part of the skeletal/archeological record of
After securing the CT scan, CyberForm
International of Arlington, Texas, took the
digital data, and through a casting process
known as stereolithography, made two exact
resin replicas of the skull (image, page
24), which includes a resin cast of the brain
in the cranium.
Before the face of the individual could
be reconstructed, a skeletal analysis was
necessary so that the age and facial features
would be displayed correctly. Dr. Gentry
Steele of the Department of Anthropology
at Texas A&M University volunteered
his time for this project and determined
that the individual was a male of European
stock, stood at least 5 feet 3 inches tall,
but no more than 5 feet 7 inches, and was
approximately 35-45 years old at the time
he died. A break on the left side of his nose
occurred well before his death, and he also
Conservators get a
chance to cool down
while aligning the
suffered from lower back
pain. He was missing several
teeth, and at the time
of death, he had numerous
bad cavities and abscesses
that had eaten
through the upper jaw.
Using one of the
casts of the skull, Professor
Denis Lee of the
School of Medicine at the
University of Michigan, modeled the face
of the individual (see image on this page) directly
onto the cast. This requires a thorough
knowledge of the musculature of the
face, and the hands and eyes of a sculptor.
Is the individual found
on the Belle a
"Barange," and is he
related to the Barange
families living in the
same port city from
which the Belle set sail
some 312 years ago?
A flexible mold of the clay model was made
so that a more permanent plaster-of-Paris
cast could be produced.
It should be noted that it was impossible
to determine either the color of the
eyes and the hair or the exact shape of the
ears. Also, most men of this era wore
beards. Considering that this individual
was stranded in the wilds of coastal Texas
in 1686, he probably was very emaciated
HERITAGE * 25 * FALL 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000, periodical, Autumn 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45391/m1/25/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.