Reconstruction reveals mummy’s appearance

University of Otago anatomy department forensic facial approximation researcher Dr Louisa Baillie...
University of Otago anatomy department forensic facial approximation researcher Dr Louisa Baillie with a sculpted facial approximation (left) and 3-D replica skull (right) derived from scans of a 2400-year-old Egyptian mummy at Otago Museum. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
She may be a little underweight, but she looks pretty good for someone who is about 2400 years old.

Otago Museum’s resident Egyptian mummy has just received a facial reconstruction, giving museum visitors a better idea of what she looked like before her death sometime between 460BC and 350BC.

Using scientific, artistic and historical research carried out by the University of Otago anatomy department and Faculty of Dentistry, forensic facial approximation researcher Dr Louisa Baillie was able to rebuild the mummified face with more accuracy than the previous reconstruction, which was done in 2008.

"Whilst we are unsure who she actually is, radiology images taken in the year 2000 show that she was about 50-years-old and in poor health when she died."

She said CT scans and X-rays refined with the latest medical imaging software, provided highly detailed views of the surface of her skull and facial bones.

These enabled a series of precise axial slice measurements for a 3-D polyurethane copy of her skull.

Markers were placed on the replica to guide soft tissue depth, and clay was sculpted to make the facial muscle and fat appropriate for her height, age and state of health.

The size and shape of her nose, lips, eyes and ears were determined using internationally tested guidelines, rather than artistic licence, she said.

"When it comes to the guidelines, I was particularly interested in how the eyes would look. Her eyes weren’t particularly upwards, they were slightly along and down — it was the maths that told me that.

"And with the nose tip, I had to use about six different mathematically tested formulae to show where the nose tip would be and the length of the nose.

"What surprised me was that she was quite Caucasoid in her features.

"I took a deep breath when I began constructing the clay representing her soft tissue. I knew that by the end, a face would be looking back at me that although approximate, would show features that were hers when alive."

Dr Baillie said the reconstructed face was covered in a  silicone skin, and the colours of her skin, hair and eyes were chosen to reflect her Caucasoid, possibly Greek, ancestry.

The wig was made from real human hair and  donated to the museum by Murray and Averill Barrington, of Freedom Wigs Ltd, in Dunedin. Hairstyling was done by staff at Zaibatsu Hair Art.

The mummy has been on display at Otago Museum since 1894, after Bendix Hallenstein bought it for the museum from the German consul in Luxor, Egypt. It is believed to be from Thebes, the  ancient  city around which Luxor was built.

The new facial reconstruction went on display yesterday next to the mummy in the People of the World gallery at Otago Museum.

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