Weird History Groundbreaking CGI Shows What Historical Figures Actually Looked Like  

Stephan Roget
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Many a Social Studies teacher has promised to “bring history to life,” but the art of 3D facial reconstruction actually pulls it off by showing the people of today what famous figures looked like when they were still among the living. The technique, more properly referred to as a component of forensic anthropology, has helped modern historians, professional and amateur alike, finally come face-to-face with some of the most important individuals in human history.

Forensic facial reconstruction isn’t easy, especially when it’s being performed on people that have been gone for centuries. Originally used to help identify extremely decayed human remains for the purposes of criminal investigation, facial reconstruction has advanced far enough that it can be used for more academic pursuits. Although some historical figures had plaster “death masks” made that provide an easy starting point for modern scientists, facial reconstruction usually involves using the human skull as a base, and extrapolating outward from there to map out probable soft tissue placement until a discernable face appears. The technique relies on natural marks on the skull that indicate approximate soft tissue depth, telling reconstructors how much tissue to layer on. In the days before computers, facial reconstructions were done painstakingly by hand, but new technology has made the process much more efficient and accurate. It’s not a perfect process, but it’s as close as any modern person is going to get to looking King Tut in the face.


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Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. He is popularly referred to as King Tut. His original name, Tutankhaten, means "Living Image of Aten", while Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun". In hieroglyphs, the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amen-tut-ankh, because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters, and likely the 18th dynasty king Rathotis who, according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years—a figure that conforms with Flavius Josephus's version of ...more on Wikipedia

Birthplace: Ancient Egypt

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Anthony of Padua is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Groundbreaking CGI Shows What Historical Figures Actually Looked Like
Photo: Cicero Moraes/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Saint Anthony of Padua, O.F.M., also known as Anthony of Lisbon, was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-most-quickly canonized saint after Peter of Verona. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of finding things or lost people. ...more on Wikipedia

Age: Died at 36 (1195-1231)

Birthplace: Lisbon, Portugal

Profession: Physician

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Robert I, popularly known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation, and eventually led Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland's place as an independent nation and is today remembered in Scotland as a national hero. Descended from the Anglo-Norman and Gaelic nobilities, he was a paternal fourth-great grandson of David I. Robert’s grandfather, Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale, was one of the claimants to the Scottish throne during the "Great Cause". As Earl of Carrick, Robert the Bruce supported his family’s ...more on Wikipedia

Age: Died at 55 (1274-1329)

Birthplace: Turnberry Castle

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Henry IV, Henri-Quatre, also known by the epithet "Good King Henry", was King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon. Baptised as a Catholic but raised in the Protestant faith by his mother Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, he inherited the throne of Navarre in 1572 on the death of his mother. As a Huguenot, Henry was involved in the French Wars of Religion, barely escaping assassination in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and later led Protestant forces against the royal army. Henry, as Head of the House of Bourbon, was a direct male-line descendant of Louis IX of France, and "first prince of the blood". ...more on Wikipedia

Age: Died at 57 (1553-1610)

Birthplace: Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France

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