The face of an ancient mummy from 800 B.C., who currently resides in the University of Chicago, has been restored by a forensic artist and a police artist in Maryland. The mummy is dubbed as 'mummy Meresamun'.
The images depict an engaging woman in her late 20s as she would have looked in 800 B.C.
Both artists, though working independently, produced strikingly similar images. The drawings are on display at the Oriental Institute Museum, and have been placed on the institute's Web site.
Dr. Michael Vannier, Professor of Radiology, began the process of restoring the mummy's facial features with two exhaustive CT examinations of Meresamun in 2008 at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
"A huge number of CT scans of the skull were used to create a 3-D digital model of Meresamun's skull," said Emily Teeter, Research Associate at the Oriental Institute an curator of a museum exhibition about the mummy.
"Those files were given to forensic artists who use methods employed in cold case investigations where skeletal remains need to be identified," she added.
The Oriental Institute wanted to compare multiple reconstructions, in order to obtain a trustworthy image of Meresamun's face.
Both a digital version of the traditional forensic reconstruction and a missing person-type sketch were submitted.
In the traditional forensic method, layers of fat, muscle and flesh are built up upon the skull.
Starting with a three-dimensional (3D) image of the skull created from multiple CT scans, Chicago artist Joshua Harker used a technique known as the Gatliff-Snow American Tissue Depth Marker Method to calculate the contours of the face to digitally recreate Meresamun's appearance.
Michael Brassell, who works with the Department of Justice/Maryland State Police Missing Persons Unit, used his skills as a trained sketch artist to produce a second, more traditional reconstruction.
"The project was no different then any of the postmortem drawings I have worked on for cold case homicides. The CT scans were very clear, making my job easy," he said.
The restoration indicates that Meresamun was 5-and-a-half feet, tall by ancient standards. Her features were regular with wide-spaced eyes and she had an overbite.
"Meresamun was, until the time of her death at about 30, a very healthy woman," Vannier said. "The lack of arrest lines on her bones indicates good nutrition through her lifetime and her well-mineralized bones suggest that she lived an active lifestyle," he added.