Birger Jarl’s face

Stand face to face with Birger Jarl, the 13th century boy who is considered to have founded Stockholm. At the museum there is a reconstruction of the Jarl’s face.

Birger Jarl is one of our most famous historical persons and probably Stockholm founder. Since his time, the 13th century, has left few written sources, we do not know much about the person Birger Magnusson.

Birger Magnusson was born around 1210, probably on the farm Bjälbo in Östergötland, and belonged to the mighty Bjälbo family. He was married twice and had eight children, of which the sons Valdemar and Magnus became kings in Sweden.

Birger Magnusson was proclaimed an Earl — Jarl in Swedish—, King Erik Eriksson’s closest man, in 1247 or 1248. When King Erik died, Birgir’s oldest son Valdemar (then 10 years) was elected King of Sweden. Birger ruled as guardian until Valdemar’s official day. During this period, according to the Erikskrönikan, written down in the 1320s, he should have founded Stockholm.

When Birger Jarl died in 1266, he was buried in Varnhem in Västergötland. There, in Varnhem’s monastery church, there is a well-known stone portrait on him that has been approved by himself.

How to recreate a face

The bust of Birger Jarl has been skillfully made from forensic methods by model maker Oscar Nilsson. The face is sensationally realistic. It has been built using osteological analyzes and a gypsum cast of Birger Jarl’s skull from the 1930s. To the skull, tissues and muscles have been applied until the face appears. In this case, a punch in the chin, a damaged eyebrow and marks after a sword.

In a skull there is the framework for our appearance. With forensic technique, a face can be recreated. The knowledge a skull gives allows you to get a good idea of ​​the thickness of the tissue, the muscles, the fat and the skin surrounding the skull and face. Based on that knowledge, the face can be built up muscle for muscle. Knowledge of the gender, age and ethnicity of the person is answered by an osteologist (osteology = the scientific study of bone) and gives a hint of the tissue's thickness in the face.

How reliable is the method?

In cases where the technology is used in police contexts to identify victims, the number of cases reported is usually at least 60%.

Face proportions, such as the relationship between eg mouth, eyes and nose can be determined with great certainty. The facial shape is given in the skull. The shape of the eyes and mouth can be predicted. The ears are, however, quite speculative, like eye color and hair color.

The bust of Birger Jarl is not an accurate portrait, but Birger’s relatives and friends would most likely recognize him.

The Artist Oscar Nilsson

Wax figure maker Oscar Nilsson in Bredäng, Stockholm, has previously made reconstructions of the Bocksten man, the thousand years old woman Estrid and the 9,000-year-old Bäckaskog woman. He worked for over two years with the Birger Jarl bust.