The face of a young Egyptian woman who lived at least 2,000-years-ago has been reconstructed from a 3D print out of her skull. The forensic techniques employed revealed surprising facts about the beautiful woman, who has been named Meritamun, meaning beloved of the god Amun.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia, in collaboration with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, used new technologies, including CT scanning, 3D printing and well known forensic facial reconstruction. Although, the mummy is incomplete, the remains stayed wrapped throughout the process.
The 3D printed skull of Meritamun took 140 hours to print. Picture: Paul Burston.
As Dr Ryan Jefferies, curator at the university’s Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, said:
“This allowed for a non-invasive technique where we were able to see through all of the layers of the specimen, including the remanent muscle and all of the skull,” he said. It’s a powerful insight into someone’s life who lived thousands of years ago. The advances in technology are making it easier. Whereas traditionally there was a lot more speculation, now we can be a lot more scientifically accurate with the data sets that we’re using and then it becomes easier to do the reconstruction.”
The head of a mummy has spent more than 90 years in the basement, which belongs to the University of Melbourne. According to the researchers, she died as a young woman between the age 18 and 25. It was determined due to the width of her mouth and the positioning of her teeth, and her nose shape and size was determined by the width of the nasal aperture. The researchers also found out that she had quite large eyes. Other parts of the body were lost due to unknown reasons.
The mummy was brought to Australia by English anthropologist Frederic Wood Jones, who joined the University of Melbourne as head of anatomy in 1930. It was excavated most probably between 1907 and 1908, when Jones completed archaeological survey work in southern Egypt to save ancient relics ahead of the Aswan Dam expansion on the Nile.
The reconstruction of Meritamun was just the beginning of the project related to the mysterious mummy. Now they hope to learn how she lived, where she came from and how she died. Moreover, according to Jefferies, the reconstruction is an exceptional teaching tool for students studying forensic analysis and pathology. It may have opened the doors to future works on many of the 12,000 forensic human specimens which belong to the collection from Melbourne.
Facial reconstruction from old skulls is a relatively new technique but is beginning to be practiced more frequently. In July,, 2016, Alicia McDermott from Ancient Origins reported on another impressive female facial reconstruction. She wrote:
”Although she has been dead for over 3,700 years, a woman known as ‘Ava’ became the muse for a modern artist. By combining her ancient remains with modern software and imaging techniques, the appearance of the mysterious Bronze Age woman has been brought to light.
Specifically, the work Ava inspired is a facial reconstruction and the artist who recreated her appearance is a forensic artist specializing in this area. According to Daily Mail , Hew Morrison created the reconstruction by using a variety of techniques. First, he used an anthropological/pathological assessment of Ava’s skull to better determine her age and ancestry.
Next, Morrison said that he “implemented a formula that was pioneered by the American Anthropologist Wilton M Krogman in his 1962 book ‘The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine,’” to create the shape of Ava’s lower jaw, which was missing.
The archaeologist details on her website how Ava’s was undoubtedly a special burial. The remains of the young woman were probably interred in a crouched position in the unmarked rock-cut pit. This is considered rather odd, as most burials from the location and period were underneath a cairn or in a pit dug into soil.
One of the most interesting and hotly debated aspects about Ava’s remains is her skull. Short and round skull shapes were supposedly common amongst the Beaker people, but Hoole’s website says that the Achavanich specimen is exaggerated and of an abnormal, uneven shape.”
Top image: The reconstructed face of the young Egyptian woman. Image: Paul Burston / University of Melbourne