Weird History

What The Most Famous Mummies Looked Like When They Were Alive 

Christy Box
Updated July 15, 2019 139.2k views 11 items

Mummies give us tangible examples of what the people of the past were really like, preserving the flesh, skin, and hair that can help us picture them as living people. These features also make mummies excellent candidates for 3D facial reconstruction like those of more recent historical figures.

Reconstruction allows us to see these ancient faces not as dried and shriveled remains, but as they would have looked when they lived. For the first time in hundreds or thousands of years, we can look upon the faces of King Tut, Ötzi the Iceman, ancient Chinese and Peruvian nobles, and ordinary people preserved through time by extraordinary circumstances.

Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

In 2005, three teams of artists and scientists led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, then secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, revealed a reconstruction of the face of King Tut. They based the model on CT scans of Tutankhamun's mummified remains.

The American team working on the project was not told the identity of the subject and worked "blind" off of the CT scans, while the French and Egyptian groups also referenced ancient images of King Tut to complete their models.

Ötzi is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What The Most Famous Mummies Looked Like When They Were Alive
Photo: AFP/Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

In 1991, Ötzi the Iceman - who lived in the Copper Age - was found naturally mummified in the ice of the Italian Alps. Recent 3D scanning technology allowed Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis to create a more detailed reconstruction of Ötzi in 2011 - previous attempts did not have the benefit of 3D casts of his skull.

Ötzi's latest face showed him as older and frailer than he appeared in previous reconstructions.

Grauballe Man
Grauballe Man is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What The Most Famous Mummies Looked Like When They Were Alive
Photo:  Gourami Watcher/Wikipedia/Fair Use

Peat bogs have provided some of the most incredible specimens of preserved remains, such as Grauballe Man, a bog body from the early Iron Age discovered in Denmark in 1952. Although Grauballe Man is well-preserved, his face is distorted, making his features less clear than other bog bodies like Tollund Man.

Grauballe Man passed due to harsh circumstances - he was found with his throat slit from ear to ear.

Lady Dai
Lady Dai is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list What The Most Famous Mummies Looked Like When They Were Alive
Photo: Huangdan2060/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Xin Zhui, wife of the Marquis of Dai during the Han Dynasty, lived about 2,200 years ago. When her tomb was discovered in the 1970s, scientists marveled at her excellent preservation. Medical experts could still perform a checkup, a gynecological exam, and an autopsy thanks to the mummy's condition.

Zhao Chengwen, a professor at the China Criminal Police College, developed and used advanced forensic technology to reconstruct Lady Dai's face as she would have looked during her younger years.