Building a mummy from scratch

Through anthropological analysis, 3D printing and facial reconstruction, scientists are "resurrecting" real mummies

By Katie McDonough
January 25, 2013 11:39PM (UTC)
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(Victoria Lywood)

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a young woman was buried only yards away from a king's pyramid. She was 5 feet 2 inches in height, and around 20 years old when she died.

And now, through high-resolution CT scans, 3-D printing technology and anthropological analysis, researchers are pretty sure they know what she looked like, even down to her hairstyle. As reported by LiveScience:


"The mummy's hair is readily appreciable, with longer strands at the middle of the scalp drawn back into twists or plaits that were then wound into a tutulus, or chignon at the vertex (crown) of the head," writes a research team in a paper published recently in the journal RSNA RadioGraphics. They note that it was a popular hairstyle at the time, which may have been inspired by a Roman empress, Faustina I, who lived in the second century.

The eerily realistic mummy is set to be unveiled today at the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Western University researcher Andrew Wade, a leading member of the reconstruction team, said at a recent Egyptology symposium in Toronto that improvements in high-resolution CT scanning has played a critical role in advancing the study of Egyptian mummies, unveiling previously unknown details to bring their past to life.

"The high spatial and contrast resolution of the last decade of CT studies of mummies has allowed us to examine the paleo-anatomic minutiae (of mummies)," he told Live Science.




Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Egypt History Mummies Science