King Tut's face reimagined in new 3D reconstruction

Researchers have reconstructed a 3D facial approximation using existing CT scans, images, and X-rays of King Tut’s skull.
Sejal Sharma
Pharaoh Tutankhamun's face in 3D
Pharaoh Tutankhamun's face in 3D

Cicero et al 

In what is being called the closest facial resemblance ever to the young Egyptian ruler Tutankhamun, researchers have reconstructed a three-dimensional facial approximation using existing CT scans, images, and X-rays of King Tut’s skull.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun's face has been a great matter of interest among archaeological circles, and over the last few decades, it has been the target of many attempts at facial approximations using forensic techniques.

According to Live Science, which spoke to the researchers involved in the study, the new investigation corroborated the findings of the previous studies, which had noted Tutankhamun's skull was slightly longer than normal. The researchers noticed that not only did King Tut have a uniquely shaped skull but he also had an extremely large brain size.

King Tut's face reimagined in new 3D reconstruction
Steps of 3D reconstruction of King Tut's face

The average man has a brain volume of approximately 75 cubic inches, whereas the pharaoh's was 87 cubic inches.

"His skull has a particular shape; in our study the measurements showed affinities with skulls that underwent [skull reshaping], but this does not seem to be the case of Tutankhamun, because although it has a peculiar, elongated shape, everything indicates that it is a natural skull," study co-researcher Cícero Moraes told Live Science. "Interestingly, its structure differs from the characteristics of other Egyptian mummies present in our database."

The team worked on two approaches related to facial approximation, a technique which uses the skull as its base to reimagine what the face of an individual must have looked like. One approach was objective and scientific, while the other was subjective and artistic.

The scientific approach generated images with closed eyes to avoid speculations about his skin tone. The color chosen was grayscale. The most artistic approach consisted of a color image with open eyes, eyebrows, and face painting.

"To me he looks like a young man with a delicate face," said Cicero Moraes, a graphics expert and an author of the study, in an interview with Mail Online. "Looking at him, we see more of a young student than a politician full of responsibilities, which makes the historical figure even more interesting."

A bit of history

King Tut succeeded his father at the age of nine and remained a figure of great notoriety until his death a decade later at the age of 19. He is known for breaking with ancient Egypt's old religious and artistic tenets.

Another reason he remains an important figure in the historical context is that he was buried with approximately 5,000 amulets and pieces of jewelry. His tomb was discovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt by the British Egyptologist Howard Carter.

Inside his small tomb, King Tut’s mummy was kept in a set of three coffins. The innermost was made of solid gold, and the two outer ones were made of wood covered with hammered gold. On the king’s face was a golden portrait mask. The treasures from the tomb are displayed at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, Egypt.

Study abstract:

This article offers a novel and original facial reconstruction of Pharaoh Tutankhamun based on data published in the biomedical and Egyptological literature. The reconstruction adopts the Blender 3D software, running the add-on OrtogOnBlender, which allows for a refined presentation of the soft tissues. The present reconstruction is also compared to other approaches produced in the past.

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