A digitally reconstructed skull of a man who lived in Japan 27,000 years ago shows an unmistakable resemblance to races in southern Asia, offering a crucial clue to the origins of the Japanese people, researchers say.

The skull, which dates from the Old Stone Age, was among the skeletal remains of four individuals discovered at the Shirahosaonetabaru cave in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

The finding was announced by the Okinawa Prefectural Archaeological Center on April 20.

The face is a reconstruction of what is believed to be the oldest known individual to have inhabited Japan, according to archaeologists at the center.

“The reconstruction was made possible by the availability of digital technology and it offers important leads,” said Reiko Kono, an associate professor of physical anthropology at Keio University, who was involved in the study of the remains.

Experts from the center, as well as the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, and a research group, recreated the head based on digital data obtained through an analysis of the remains of the four individuals.

Researchers started out by recreating the bone structure of the head of an individual labeled No. 4 through a 3-D printer. It was determined that the individual was male and probably in his 30s or around 40 when he died.

The image reflects characteristics of people from southern China and Southeast Asia as well as the ancestors of Jomon Pottery Culture that flourished in Japan from around 8000 B.C. to 300 B.C.

A replica of the head will be displayed at the Tokyo museum through June 17.