Weird History

Here’s What Famous Pharaohs Looked Like When They Were Alive  

Melissa Sartore
48.1k views 9 items

Modern technology has done a lot to aid in our understanding of the past; from DNA tests to satellite imagery to audio engineering, scholars and non-scholars alike can explore what life was like for our ancestors and how they continue to impact the world around us. Through the shared efforts of archaeologists, forensic scientists, and graphic artists, we've gained a better understanding of individuals and produced facial reconstructions of historical figures. But bringing history alive isn't always easy, especially when there's a paucity of historical evidence with which to work.

Luckily, ancient Egyptian mummification methods offer unique insights into the faces of famous pharaohs. Using skeletons and masks, alongside an extensive understanding of daily life in ancient Egypt, professionals across disciplines are bringing new life to some of the best-known rulers who have ever lived.  

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Lived: c. 1341 BCE - c. 1323 BCE

Ruled: c. 1332 BCE - c. 1323 BCE

Unfortunately, there is no real contemporary historical information about Tutankhamun's appearance. But DNA tests and CT scans revealed he had malaria and Kohler disease, a bone disorder which may have given him a club foot. His medical afflictions and royal breeding within the family line may have also given him an overbite and buck teeth.

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Lived: c. 70 or 69 BCE - 30 BCE

Ruled: c. 51 BCE - c. 30 BCE

Popular representations of Cleopatra VII of Egypt show a beautiful seductress, one who bore the child of Julius Caesar before entering into a love affair with Marc Antony. Roman Historian Cassius Dio described her as follows:

A woman of surpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and a knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to [everyone]. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate [everyone], even a love-sated man already past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne.

But Greek biographer Plutarch differed in his assessment, claiming her beauty was not from her looks, but her voice and charisma. Coinage from the period depicts her with a hooked nose, pointed chin, and pronounced brow. 

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Lived: c. 1304 BCE - 1213 BCE

Ruled: c. 1279 BCE - 1213 BCE

Known as Ramesses the Great thanks to his prosperous rule, Ramesses II's body revealed he was quite tall for an ancient Egyptian, standing between 5' 6" - 5'9". His gray hair was dyed red, though he did have natural red hair when he was young. He had thin facial features, a hooked nose, and a strong jaw. He was probably plagued by arthritis, bad teeth, and hardened arteries. 

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Lived: c. 1505 BCE - 1458 BCE

Ruled: c. 1479 BCE as regent; took the title of pharaoh in 1473 BCE - 1458 BCE

Hatshepsut acted as both king and queen during her reign; thus most images of Hatshepsut depict her as masculine, with a beard and muscular physique. Her mummified body revealed she was overweight and losing her hair later in life.

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