Tag Archives: mummies

Great look at Tiye and Kiya mummies.

Unfortunately no sound, but you get a good look at Tiye in particular. I never realised her hair was auburn.

Ancient Scots mummified their dead in peat bogs

Bronze Age Britons practised the art of mummification at the same time as the Egyptians. And it appears that the ancient Britons invented the skill for themselves.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons of a man, a woman, and a 3-year-old girl under the floor of a prehistoric house at Cladh Hallan on the Scottish island of South Uist. Although no mummified body tissue remained, other evidence was found. The adults’corpses were locked with their knees close to their chests, similar to Peruvian “mummy bundles”. “The bodies must have been trussed up that way because you can’t bend a body like that normally,” says Jeri Hiller, a. biophysicist at the University of Cardiff, UK, who examined the skeletons.

Hiller thinks that the bodies were immersed in an acid peat bog for a few months – long enough to remove some of the soft tissue but keep the tendons and ligaments intact. The acid would also slowly demineralise the bones, an effect that could be tested. Hiller’s analysis showed a breakdown of minerals in the outer 3 millimetres of the bones (Antiquity vol 79, p 529).

This is the only example of mummification in Europe, she says,”It’s nothing like the techniques used in Egypt. People used the natural resources, available to them to carry out this incredibly sophisticated process.”

Longer item here. It seems trying to preserve the dead is a global phenomenon.

Ancient Egyptian hair and wigs.


Joann Fletcher

The hair of the ancient Egyptians has only relatively recently become the subject of long-term,  serious study after long being regarded as a rather “frivolous” subject when compared to the texts and chronologies pored over by generations of learned men. Unfortunately such an attitude  created something of an imbalance in Egyptology, and although of immense importance, literary  evidence is by no means the only way to understand a culture. And given literacy rates of less than 1%, it can hardly be the best way to study the lives of the ancient Egyptians themselves.

Yet this of course depends on whom one imagines the Egyptians to be. Certainly for many  scholars, ancient Egypt seems to have been populated by a literate male elite of kings, priests and scribes while the silent majority have simply been dismissed as little more than illiterate “peasants”.

But these same “peasants” who built the monuments and produced the wealth on which the  culture was based deserve to be the subject of serious study too, regardless of their ability to  produce convenient written evidence. As an alternative source of information the remains of the people themselves provide a wealth of evidence, with Egypt’s democratic climate preserving both  the artificially mummified bodies of the elite and the remains of the poorest individuals. Simply  buried in the sand, the hot dry conditions promoted natural mummification by allowing the fluids  responsible for decomposition to drain away while at the same time desiccating and preserving  the soft tissue of skin, hair and nails. Not only were these features subject to various forms of  adornment, they also contain a great deal of information which can be extracted using virtually  nondestructive techniques of analysis.

With scientific research becoming increasingly detailed, each part of the body is beginning to tell  its own fascinating story. This is particularly the case with hair, which Egyptians of all social  groups treated in a wide variety of ways for a wide variety of reasons. The way they chose to  portray it and the resulting development of hair styles can also be used to establish a useful  chronology for the whole dynastic period, which can then be compared to the various types of hair remains that have survived.

Yet it is clear from both the archaeological remains and the artistic and literary record that the Egyptians’ hair was not always their own, a choice dependent on personal preference, wealth and  social status and influenced by the fashions which inevitably changed over several millennia. The wigs and hair extensions worn as items of both daily and funerary attire combined the desire for  ornate and impressive styles with the practicalities of cleanliness. In Egypt’s extreme climate, the  coolest option of a shaven or cropped head could be shielded from the harmful effects of the sun with a wig, a choice preferable to a simple linen head cloth as it would allow body heat to escape  through its net-like foundation base while keeping the head protected. The removal of the natural hair and subsequent adoption of wigs was also a hygienic measure and greatly reduced the healthrisks associated with parasitic infestation, particularly head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis).

Indeed, the Greek historian Herodotus stated that “Egyptian priests shave their bodies all over every other day to guard against the presence of lice, or anything else equally unpleasant, while they are about their religious duties.”

The hair used in the construction of wigs and hair extensions was human, and was either an individual’s own hair or had been traded for, hair itself being a valuable commodity ranked alongside gold and incense in account lists from the town of Kahun. Once the required amounts of hair had been collected, it would be sorted into lengths and any tangles removed with fine-toothed combs which also removed any  lice eggs, traces of which can still sometimes be found between their teeth. Using an impressive array of hairdressing tools, the wigmakers would then work the prepared lengths of hair into an assortment of braids, plaits or curls depending upon the style required, with each piece coated in a warmed beeswax and resin fixative mixture which would harden when cooled. Since the melting point of beeswax is 140°–145°F, this method of securing the hair would have been effective even in Egypt’s extreme climate.

Hairdressing scene of Queen Nefru, 11th Dynasty, Deir el-Bahari, Brooklyn Museum.
Photo copyright Dr. Joann Fletcher.

The individual locks or braids could then be attached directly to the natural hair in the form of extensions, or alternatively they could be used to create a whole wig by fastening the individual sections of hair onto a mesh-type foundation base manufactured on a head-shaped wooden mount. Although linen strings or leather strips were occasionally employed in its construction, the base was most often made from fine lengths of plaited or woven hair. The separate locks could then be attached by weaving them directly into wefts of hair which in turn formed part of the net base, or alternatively knotting them into position.

A further method was to attach each lock by looping its root end around a part of the net and pressing it back on itself, securing it by winding a smaller substrand of hair around it and applying  a further coating of the beeswax and resin mixture. Such construction techniques and the obvious skill of the wigmakers themselves produced wigs of a standard often equivalent to  modern examples, and despite continued speculation that their weight might be sufficient to  cause parietal thinning of the skull(!), their lightweight construction would have made them as  equally easy to wear.

Our recent discoveries at the manual workers’ cemetery at Hierakonpolis reveal the use of hair  extensions as early as 3400 BCE5, with the earliest fragments of actual wigs dated to the very  beginning of the dynastic period. These have been found in relatively large numbers at the Umm el-Qa’ab necropolis at Abydos and, despite their fragmentary nature, nevertheless reveal highly  complex construction techniques that involved lengths of hair weft to which a wide variety of curls, ringlets and plaits were attached.

Although there are relatively few “hair finds” from the Old Kingdom, the 11th Dynasty necropolis  at Deir el-Bahari has produced a wealth of fascinating examples relating to the court of  Mentuhotep II (c. 2061-2010 BCE). Several of the king’s wives were discovered in a wonderful state of preservation, including his 20-year-old “Great Royal Wife”, Ashayet, whose own short,  bobbed hair had been set in numerous fine plaits. The ends of each had been secured with a drop of resin fixative and her natural dark brown colour had been enhanced with an application of dark  brown vegetable colorant. Yet perhaps the most interesting example was found in the mass grave  of the king’s soldiers, one of whom was found to have supplemented his own hair with short  curled extensions of false hair. Since his burial seems to have been hastily carried out following  battle, this cannot be explained as a post-mortem feature and must have been worn in life,  supporting the theory that hair was the soldier’s only protection prior to the introduction of  helmets.

The oldest intact wigs also date from this period, the earliest of which would appear to be that  found in the tomb of the priestess Amunet. Wigs were also discovered within their wooden  storage boxes in a number of 12th Dynasty tombs around the cemetery site of el-Lisht, and  despite their poor state of preservation they all appear to have been made of human hair coated  in a resinous fixative substance.   By the New Kingdom, the range of wigs and false braids that have survived reflect the large number of styles fashionable at the time for both men and  women. A particularly fine example from Thebes and now in the British Museum Man’s  double-style wig, New Kingdom, Thebes, British Museum,is composed entirely of human hair set in  two distinct sections: an upper part of light brown curls set over an undersection of several  hundred dark brown plaits which originally measured up to 38cm (14.96 inches) in length.

This is clearly an example of the “double” (or “duplex”) style so favored by male officials and  noblemen of the period, but repeated references to “a noblewoman’s wig” reflect a tendency to  assign anything vaguely decorative as having belonged to a woman.

A similar unprovenanced example of slightly later New Kingdom date, now in Berlin, again features  this arrangement of curls and plaits set on a net base, with a further fragmentary example of the  same double style formed by the portions of Yuya’s wig found in his tomb (KV 46) in the Valley of the Kings. An intriguing sample of “artificially curled ringlets”, suggestive of a shorter  wig, was discovered in a small calcite chest among the funerary equipment of Yuya’s probable  great-grandson, Tutankhamun. The Nubian fan bearer, Maherpra, was also buried in the Royal  Valley, but in contrast to the previous highly artificial styles he wore a unique coiffure of short tight  spirals of his own heliotrichous (Negroid) hair set over his shaven head, creating the impression  of a totally natural style.

It is also quite apparent that women’s wigs were considerably less elaborate than those worn by  men and consequently appear more natural. The best preserved example of the long full style so  favored by New Kingdom women was found inside the tall wooden wig box of Meryt in the Deir el-Medina tomb she shared with her husband Kha. It is made of numerous wavy braids of dark brown hair a little over 50cm (19.68 inches) long, set by means of complex knot work around the narrow plait which forms a central parting. A similar wig of long plaits was found on the head of the mummy of the princess Hontempet who had also been provided with a second wig, made up of artificially curled locks complete with a fringe of small ringlets.

The wig of Hontempet and the mummy of Nofretari.

In addition to complete wigs, individual braids were employed to create wider and longer dimensions. The hair of a man buried at el-Mustagidda had been artificially lengthened with human hair attached to his own hair with thread, while the wavy brown hair of Queen Meryet-Amun had been filled out around the crown and temples with numerous tapered braids to produce the “top-heavy” effect fashionable at the time. She had also been buried with a duplicate set of braids as part of her funerary equipment, and similar sets of false braids were found in the burials of the female relatives of Hatshepsut’s great official Senenmut. A large number of tapered plaits of dark brown human hair had been attached to the short grey curls of his mother, Hatnefer and, arranged in two thick masses at each side of her head, the ends had been set in two rounded sections to create the so-called “Hathor” curled, bouffant style featured in artistic representation.

False braids could also be worn to denote religious affiliation, with devotees of the goddess Hathor sometimes attaching a triple strand of braids at the back of the head. And on a more practical level, such braids could also be used to disguise areas of baldness most often caused by old age. The mummy identified as Queen Tetisheri was found to have substantial plaits of brown hair woven into her own sparse white locks, and a similar technique had been employedby the hairdressers of Queen Ahmose-Nofretari and Hontimihou.

Wigs clearly remained high status items during the Third Intermediate Period, with the double style well represented by the enormous wigs on display in the Cairo Museum that were discovered in the Deir el-Bahri cache of priests’ mummies discovered in 1881. One such wig was found inside a box bearing the seals of High Priest Menkheperre, and despite its huge double-part structure of curls and plaits, it was assumed to have belonged to his wife, Istemkheb. Yet the wig that was recently identified as hers is much smaller, a simply creation of curls and typical of the short, feminine styles of the time. A further seven huge examples of the male double style from the same cache again exhibit the two-part construction of curls and plaits of human hair, although small bundles of date palm fiber were used as an internal padding in order to create impressive dimensions while economizing on hair.

The same trend can be found in the construction of many of the women’s wigs of the period, the dark brown plaits of Queen Nodjmet’s wig being described as being “tied to strings” to form the foundation base. Linen was also employed as the base for the plaited hair which made up the wig of Nany, Chantress of Amun-Ra, while a wig composed entirely of “black string” set in narrow  spirals was found at the head of Queen Hentawy.

Despite losing popularity during the Late Period, the fashion for wigs was revived during Roman  times. Although the most elaborate examples were again made entirely of date palm fibre or grass,  hair was still used in the production of other wigs and smaller hairpieces. A section of plaited hair set in a rigid crescent shape and supported by 62 bronze pins was found at the settlement site of  Gurob, and known as an “orbis”, was described as “probably the only example surviving of a  well-known hairdressing of the period of Trajan”.

Short curled wig of Istemkheb, 21st Dynasty,Deir el-Bahari cache (DB 320), Cairo Museum.
Photo copyright Dr. Joann Fletcher.

Despite such wonderful examples of the hairdresser’s art, it seems surprising that hair had never  received the detailed treatment it so obviously deserved. When not ignored altogether, it had  tended to be misinterpreted, as exemplified by the way in which many archaeologists and curators often assume that all hair fragments are “wigs” when closer examination can reveal that this is  simply not the case.

Rather more disturbing are the attempts to use hair to prove assumptions of race and gender,  one of the most extreme examples involving the 1888 Gurob excavations of Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie. Having discovered a body of unspecified sex, he noted that the head was covered by “a copious wig of black hair, reaching down to the waist, but beneath this on the scalp was yellow or light brown hair”. He goes on to conclude that “the person was light-haired during life, and wore a wig of black, hiding the foreign token” … an interesting comment given Petrie’s attempts to find evidence to support his theories of Aegean settlers. Yet our analysis of the “black wig” has shown that it originally formed part of a dark blue woollen head cover, and far from disguising his or her fair hair, the individual in question had actually accentuated its lightness with a yellow vegetable colorant.

Unfortunately, such attitudes have by no means disappeared and there is still the tendency to assume that bodies with short or shaven hair are male and those with long or intricately styled hair are female, when again this is simply not the case. Human hair was treated in a wide variety of ways for an equally wide variety of reasons, and so all aspects should be carefully considered.

First and foremost it is necessary to ascertain the precise nature of the hair in question and decide if it is the natural scalp hair, albeit desiccated and possibly separated from the scalp itself. Alternatively, the hair could be described as “false”, i.e. originally part of a wig or separate extensions. There is also the possibility that the hair could be one of the many votive or funerary deposits buried separately from the body, a practice found from Predynastic to Roman times despite its frequent omission from excavation reports.

Once the nature of the sample has been established, it is then possible to undertake examination  using a variety of techniques, all of which can provide some incredible details about the individual  in question, from their general state of health and quality of diet to their social status and even profession. A simple visual examination can establish basic facts such as condition, color and length,  evidence of styling techniques and any parasitic infestation, particularly the presence of head lice capable of transmitting diseases such as typhus and relapsing fever and so useful in the study of  disease transmission, we have found evidence for lice in the hair of kings and commoners alike, demonstrating that lice are no respecters of social status. And contrary to popular belief, they much prefer clean short hair which gives easy access to the scalp’s blood supply on which they must feed five times each day in order to survive. Their presence in hair samples can also be used to confirm the identification of natural hair rather than a wig, since lice can only thrive in the natural hair rather than in a wig which could be removed at any time and thus proving a totally unsuitable habitat. Such parasitic infestations can be examined in greater detail using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) which is also used to look at the surface of the hair shaft to identify and   distinguish  between animal hair of different species and human hair of varying ethnic types and individuals.

The hair of the mummified “Elder Woman” found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35) has been identified as Queen Tiy after scanning electron microprobe analysis and ion etching were used to compare a sample of the mummy’s hair with a lock of the queen’s hair found in an inscribed coffinette in the tomb of her probable grandson, Tutankhamun.

Further examination of the hair’s surface structure can also help to ascertain the original hair color which may have faded over time, been changed by environmental conditions, the process of mummification or by the use of dyes which we have found in a number of samples and extracted and identified by absorption spectrophotometry and thin-layer chromatography. Microscopic examination of the hair ends can also reveal details of specific styling techniques, with recent analysis having revealed the use of very sharp blades to cut the hair as early as c. 3000 BCE. SEM can also indicate the individual’s health, with specific areas of interest followed up using trace element analysis to provide information regarding diet and nutritional deficiencies, diseases, levels of environmental pollution and even the use of drugs and poisons which remain in the hair shaft long after they have left the rest of the body. And almost all of this is possible using a single hair as a biopsy material or a sample size of <0.1mg, literally the size of a pin head.

Over the past few years, careful examination of various hair samples has provided much  fascinating information. In 1998 the plundered burial of a middle-aged woman from the predynastic workers’ cemetery at Hierakonpolis proved particularly revealing after numerous scattered fragments of skull and hair were reconstructed to allow us to recreate her original hairstyle. This was clearly the result of many hours’ work undertaken by someone other than the lady in question, her natural hair of slightly more than shoulder-length having been turned into an imposing crest-like coiffure using numerous hair extensions, providing the earliest evidence of false hair yet found in Egypt.

The find was even more significant when we discovered that the woman’s graying brown hair had been dyed either shortly before death or as a post-mortem treatment, the dye turning the brown parts auburn while transforming the unpigmented white hairs bright orange. Those familiar with the vegetable dye henna (Lawsonia inermis) will recognize its characteristic effect, and indeed henna shrubs still grow at the site and continue to be used for the same purpose by the local population. They kindly showed us where the best leaves were to be found and, allowing us to help ourselves, they demonstrated the heavy stone they use to grind them to a fine powder which is mixed with water to color the hair, skin and nails. Inspired, we decided to undertake comparative tests using modern hair samples kindly supplied by members of our team, and our tests  eplicated exactly the effects observed in these ancient samples.

Our most recent field season, earlier this year at the site of the mysterious royal tomb KV 39 in the Valley of the Kings, revealed more wonderful hair finds, with the remains of at least four carefully plaited wigs of early 18th Dynasty date demonstrating a range of shades from the darkest brown to a mid-brown, almost blond color which may once again be the result of vegetable dyes.  Although we have only just begun our work on these finds, the ongoing results are continuing to provide clues to previously unanswered questions, not only regarding the hair but also the nails, soft tissue and indeed the linen mummy  wrappings and mummification materials which are being studied in detail.

As the most modern analytical techniques are starting to reveal the secrets of these ancient people, it is well worth remembering that what at first may appear as nothing very special can often have an interesting tale to tell, if only we pay such material as much attention as the ancient Egyptians themselves so obviously did.

Dr. Joann Fletcher has a B.A. in Egyptology and Ancient History from University College London and a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Manchester University. She specializes in human remains which she has studied in museum collections around the world and on site in Egypt, Yemen and South America. She is Egyptologist at Harrogate Museum and field director of York University’s Mummy Research Project. As well as her own publications, Dr. Fletcher writes regular features for the Guardian newspaper and the BBC’s History Online Web site.

Oldest Egyptian deliberate mummification found.

Wooden coffin yields ancient mummy

Archaeologists have discovered some of the oldest evidence yet of mummification.
The find will provide valuable new information
Human remains covered in resin and cloth were found inside a 5,000-year-old cedar wood coffin at Sakkara near Cairo, Egypt.

The coffin had been placed in a tomb thought to date from 3100 to 2890 BC under Egypt’s 1st Dynasty.

“We found more than 20 tombs built of mud bricks in this area and inside these tombs we found sarcophagi intact for the first time, completely enclosed in mud brick,” said Dr Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

“When I opened this mud brick up I found the oldest mummy inside.

“The mummy has been dated as being some 5,000 years old and this mummy was covered completely with linen when we found it.

The discovery was made on Sunday.

Artificial preservation

The Egyptians were known to be burying their dead in small pits in the sand as far back as 5000 BC, relying on the heat and dryness of the desert to preserve bodies.

Chemical means of preservation were certainly in use by about 2700 BC.

Methods used between 1567-1200 BC were the most effective at preserving the dead, and the remains of King Ramses II, who ruled during that period, have been displayed at the Egyptian Museum.

Mummification could involve removal and dehydration of internal organs and embalming with linens and resins.

“In the last few years we’ve had to revise our views on how long mummification has been going on,” commented the British Museum’s John Taylor.

“Some bodies were found at a site called Hierakonpolis in the southern part of the Nile Valley. They show signs of mummification with resin and linen and they go back to around 3400 BC,” the assistant keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan told BBC News Online.

“This latest find is obviously a very early example of mummification. Any new information like this is bound to add to our knowledge of what is quite an unclear picture at the moment.”

This means the Uan Muhuggiag mummy only predates the Egyptian mummification process by about 500 years.

3D computer recreation of Egyptian mummified head.

3D facial reconstruction and visualization of ancient Egyptian mummies using spiral CT data

This a  page on the reconstruction of this nameless mummy head, (inv. N .8643) presently in Florence. It’s a long read, but it shows the scans, and explains the whole process in detail. They firstly put the mummy through a CT scanner, then build up textured layers, the last one ‘borows’ someones face and maps the texture onto the fleshed out digital image. It’s interesting, but too long for me to post in it’s entirity. I get the impression this was on old guy wuth a grey beard when he died from the mummy, but the reconstruction looks a bit too young, and is missing the thin hair.


CT scans of Egyptian mummy skulls

Head and Skull Base Features of Nine Egyptian Mummies: Evaluation with High-Resolution CT and Reformation Techniques

OBJECTIVE. CT is an indispensable imaging tool in the evaluation of Egyptian mummies because it can noninvasively generate large amounts of data. We applied current CT imaging and postprocessing techniques to methodically survey the head and skull base features of nine Egyptian mummies in the hope of providing paleopathologic and radiologic information.

MATERIALS AND METHODS. Nine Egyptian mummies were evaluated on helical CT using 1-mm axial scans obtained from the skull vertex to the mid cervical spine. Systematic evaluation of the skull and intracranial contents, paranasal sinuses, craniocervical junction, orbits, temporal bones including the middle and inner ears, teeth, and superficial soft tissues was undertaken. Reformatted and volume-rendered images were generated.

RESULTS. CT findings indicated that the intracranial contents of the nine mummies varied tremendously. Destruction of the anterior skull base structures in mummies without intracranial contents suggested a transnasal, transethmoidal approach to excerebration. A large amount of expensive embalming material within the skull of one mummy suggests that he may have been a royal pharaoh. A cleft palate deformity was identified in a child mummy. Temporal bone analysis revealed one case of asymmetric mastoid air cell erosion and dehiscence, which is strongly suggestive of prior mastoiditis. Craniocervical junction abnormalities and ossicular chain disruption in several mummies were attributed to postmortem damage. The orbital structures had intentionally been removed in several mummies. Dental disease was ubiquitous among the adult specimens.

CONCLUSION. The systematic evaluation of the head and skull base of mummies with CT can provide insight into the life, disease, death, and postmortem treatment of these ancient Egyptians.

Technically interesting to me, probably not to most of you!

The bog bodies of Europe

Yde Girl

This is one of Europes bog bodies, found in 1897 by peat cutters by the village of Yde in the Netherlands.  Carbon dating on the body dated her to the first century AD. She had been killed by strangulation; a woolen belt was wrapped around her neck three times and was she then strangled. A small stab wound was found at the base of her throat, suggesting this was some kind of ritual killing.

She is estimated to have been about 16 years old at the time of her death, and in rather poor health, with curvature of the spine, and some trouble from her right foot. She was only about 4’5” tall.

The skull reconstruction was achieved using a CT scan and a polystyrene skull overlaid with a wax skin.

Tolland man

This exceptionally well preserved body was found in Denmark, and dated to about 2,000 years old. He is thought to have been hanged or strangled by the rope around his neck, and he had eaten a drugged meal, a kind of vegetable and cereal porridge containing high levels of ergotamine, a strong hallucinogen.

He was so well preserved that the local police believed he was a recent murder victim when they first found him. Only his head and one hand are not still with us, as in 1950 when he was found preservation techniques weren’t so advanced.


Graubelleman man

Is another mummy from Denmark, found in 1952. He’s thought to have died about 55 BC. He was killed by having his throat cut. he had also suffered a blow to the skull and a leg fracture. His body showed no signs of manual labour.

Clonycavan man

This is the most recent find, from Ireland in 2003. He is believed to have died about 200 BC, and killed by a powerful axeblow to his head. He had also been hit in the chest, and disembowled.

He is thought to have been very short even by ancient standards, only 5’2” tall, and was in his twenties when he died. One of the most interesting things about the body is his hair, which showed a lot of lice, and it was welded into a tall style using a hair gel made from vegetable oil and pine resin imported either from Southern Spain or France. This maintained his hair in a kind of mohawk stle that survived over 2,000 years in a bog, so in life it must have been welded into place by the mixture. The fact that he could afford imported cosmetics suggestes he was fairly wealthy.


A lot of these bodies have flaming red hair. It wasn’t because red heads were singled out for ritual sacrifice. Although human hair will usually maintain its hair well if kept in a dark dry place, the acid condition of peat bogs attacks the brown- black pigment in the hair (eumelanin), but is leaves the naturally red-brown pigment (pheomelanin) in the hair alone, over thousands of years turning the hair red

Bakt en Hor and the bodiless man.

Both of these mummies are the subject of some forensic investigation for a tv program called ‘Mummy Forensics’, headed up by Dr Joann Fletcher, an Egyptologist with a speciality in mummy hair.

This is the mummified head of a young man circa 600 BC from ancient Egypt.

This is the CT scan of Bakt Hor Nekht, bought in an Egyptian market, and now a resident of the Hancock museum in England. She’s about 3,000 years old.

She was 5 ft tall and had a full set of teeth. Her bones show no signs of arthritis or bone disease, suggesting that she was aged between 21 and 35 when she died; and she is wrapped in elaborate cartonnage (fibres) indicating that she was most likely middle class.

I’m looking forward to the show.

Egyptian mummy reconstructions.

I’m in an Egyptian mood this week.

There have been a few reconstructions of Egyptian mummies, and I’ve done my best to track them all down.

Lets start with the really big names first.

Ramses II

This is a slightly incorrect reconstruction, as the very elderly king (in his nineties) had his hair hennaed to a light auburn colour to make him look younger. It’s also likely, since he was a natural red head (and of Libyan descent) that his skin tone was a few shades lighter, as nobles wouldn’t have gone out in the sun much.


The Mummy of King Tutanhkamun was carefully placed in a cat scanner, and an image made of his skull, created without damaging him.They gave a model of the skull to three teams, one American, one Egyptian and one French. They then let them all use their varying techniques. This very lifelike one is the French reconstruction with a silicon skin.

These computer rendered images also support the French reconstruction. The grey one is the American one, and they were working blind on it. They identified it as a Caucasian North African, and after taking a little time to decide the sex (as he had a very feminine skull) they come up with the very weak chinned young man you see here. The jawline on the Egyptian one is somewhat stronger (suspiciously so). I think they may have ‘butched him up’ a touch.


First of all I’d like to say that this looks absolutely nothing like the bust of her. The busts of Nefertiti all have much thinner lips and the face is less angular with rounder cheekbones, and the shape of the eyebrows is totally wrong. The skin tone is also well off the skin colour of the bust, she’s a should be a much pinker tone. But, it may well be an accurate representation of the mummy it’s of, as the identity of Nefertiti is up for debate. I think the fact that this recon doesn’t look anything like the bust suggests it’s not Nefertiti they’ve got their hands on here.


Asru was a chantress (temple singer) of fifty or sixty years old. When she died she appeared to have been in poor health for quite some time, suffering a slipped disc, ear infection and a cyst due to a parasitic infection that would have caused shortness of breath and chest pain. She also suffered from schistosomiasis. 


This man dates from the twenty second or twenty third dynasty, about 945–715 BC. There’s a link to the reconstruction process here.

 Pesed and ‘Bess’

Pesed was a fifty five to seventy year old woman from 300 BC, who lived in Akhmim.

‘Bess’ was five feet tall and died between 25 and 35. She was likely from a wealthy family and died died 3,000 to 3,500 years ago. She was modeled by high-resolution CT scans, which captured detailed visual slices every millimeter.

Nefer-ii-ne and Natsef Amun

Nefer-ii-ne dates to around 250 BC. She looks a lot like like a Nigerian comedienne you see on British TV, and appears to be fairly prognathic, so I’m guessing she had pretty dark skin, as does the man next to her…

Natsef Amun was a priest at the temple of Karnak from 1,100 BC. He died in middle age. He appears to be strongly Nubian in appearance, which isn’t uncommon in Upper (Southern) Egyptians


Recently reconstructed by the British museum. He died about 800 BC. There’s a link to the Museum article on the reconstruction here. If you think the cat scan image is a bit odd, it’s because he’s wearing a bowl on his head. Apparently as part of the mummification process.

Ta-irty bai

Reconstructed from a CT scan by the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium. She dates to the 3rd century BC. She was aged 35 to 40 when she died, about the average for ancient Egypt.

‘Annie’ and Peten-Amun

This is the body of an unnamed teenage girl from Akhmim circa 250 BC.

Peten-Amun was a minor priest from the early Ptolemaic era (300 BC) who died aged about sixty, a long life by Egyptian standards.

Bodiless mummy head

Digitally reconstructed. You can see his grey beard and thin hair more clearly on the mummy though. 

The faces of Ancient Egypt.

The average Egyptian

This contains over 400 images, and will require some time to load. It is also is under more or less permanent construcion, I will finish sorting them all by dynasty eventually.

These are the faces of ancient Egyptians from smaller tomb portraits, not usually including the larger monumental statues, as these have weathered a lot and the facial features are generally indistinct and damaged. These are meant to represent the Egyptian people, in a reasonably accurate and life-like fashion. The older dynastic images are nearer the top. If anyone needs to know the identity of the larger statues for reference, I can supply the names, dates and site found for most, upon request (leave a request in the comments). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the mummy boards and masks.

As some of the more observant readers have pointed out, some images of various portraits either contradict each each (Tutankhamen is a prime offender), or look nothing like their mummy.


Tutankamun’s many faces. The middle image is somewhat redder than it looks here, and is a thought to be a tailors dummy. The mummy of Tutankhamun is seriously damaged by poor storage, hence the ‘decomp-black’ skin colour (he was described as being a ‘whitish grey’ when first unwrapped).

Tiye. Either the ‘elder woman’ mummy isn’t Tiye (it has a tentative DNA ID on it from hairs in Tut’s tomb) or the busts aren’t very accurate portrayals. Tiyes parents Tuya and Yuya are in the mummy section. It’s not obvious from the balck and white shot, but Tiye has auburn hair and a light skin tone. There’s a great view of her here.

If you really want a better idea of what they all looked like in the flesh, the mummy section at the bottom of the page is pretty comprehensive.

Old Kingdom statues and busts

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Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom statues and busts



Unsorted (as yet).






Mummy cases and masks (except Greco-Roman)


Greco-Roman era Mummy boards and masks.

If anyone spots a duplication let me know, as they all start to look the same after the first hundred.

Smaller servant statues and shabti


The Fayum mummy portraits (Greco-Roman era)

These are from around the era of Cleopatra and onwards (Greco-Roman). As you can see by the style of dress these are Hellenised and  Romanised Egyptians. They don’t appear to be physically different from the earlier population, and DNA studies on modern Egyptians have shown only low amounts of European haplotypes in the Northern part of Egypt (about 15% male, so about 7% total).

Studies of the Fayum mummies indicate the only a minority of them were Greeks. They appear to have been the burials of the Greek soldiers/officials, their local wives and Egyptian children and grandchildren. A study on the teeth by JD Irish showed that they didn’t seem to be particularly different from the rest of the population at the time, so the amount of Greek ancestry in them seems to be pretty low.

The mummy gallery


There are also mummy reconstructions here

Here is a montage of modern Egyptians, their descendants.

Not much change, I’d say.
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