Tag Archives: mummy reconstruction

Otzi the Iceman’s mitochondrial DNA


The Iceman reconstruction and mummy

For anyone not familiar with the Ice mummy, he’s a copper age man from the Alps, about 5,300 years old. He’s too well documented on for me to bother with a full biography of him. But the more interesting points are in brief..

He had tattoos of dots and spirals, that are possibly related to the arthritis in his knee as a form of acupuncture. He also had the blood of several people on him and his gear, so he seems to have been in some kind of conflict, possibly a tribal raid. He had an arrow head lodged in him (probably the cause of death) and his position suggests that he may have been turned over so the arrow could be removed. This suggests he wasn’t alone when he died.

Close examination of his mitochondrial DNA showed mutations associated with low sperm mobility, so it’s possible he was infertile. The more interesting thing about his mt DNA is that it is a previously unseen variant of K1, and it’s quite possibly extinct in the modern European population. What’s that? Banging on about how mt DNA types can be lost? How out of character.


Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequence of the Tyrolean Iceman

Luca Ermini et al.


The Tyrolean Iceman was a witness to the Neolithic–Copper Age transition in Central Europe 5350–5100 years ago, and his mummified corpse was recovered from an Alpine glacier on the Austro-Italian border in 1991 [1]. Using a mixed sequencing procedure based on PCR amplification and 454 sequencing of pooled amplification products, we have retrieved the first complete mitochondrial-genome sequence of a prehistoric European. We have then compared it with 115 related extant lineages from mitochondrial haplogroup K. We found that the Iceman belonged to a branch of mitochondrial haplogroup K1 that has not yet been identified in modern European populations.This is the oldest complete Homo sapiens mtDNA genome generated to date. The results point to the potential significance of complete-ancient-mtDNA studies in addressing questions concerning the genetic history of human populations that the phylogeography of modern lineages is unable to tackle.


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.


Mummy reconstruction of two Egyptian ‘brothers’

At the Manchester museum.

The two mummies were found by Flinders Petrie in 1907 at Rifeh in middle Egypt. They date to the middle Kingdom

These are the coffins of and Nekht-Ankh. Oddly, the black brother was found in the lighter faced coffin, which suggests there may have been a mix up at some point.

Upon examination, the ‘brothers’ who are named as brothers, having the same mother. However, Khnum-Nakht was a negroid and Nekht-Ankh a Caucasian, and it seemed very unlikely they were blood brothers, as the skulls and bodies showed no similarity to each other. It’s thought possible that one was possibly adopted.

The skulls and reconstructions.

Khnum-Nakht  and  Nekht-Ankh .

The full museum item is more complete.

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.