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Egyptian mummy press release

Otago Museum’s resident Egyptian mummy, who lives in the People of the World gallery, has just received a facial reconstruction thanks to modern day science – more specifically, to Forensic Facial Approximation.

The mummy has lived at Otago Museum for over 100 years, since 1894, thanks to Bendix Hallenstein who bought it for the Museum from the German Consul in Luxor, Egypt. He was told that it had come from within Thebes, the ancient city that Luxor was built around. Whilst we are unsure who she actually is, radiology images taken in the year 2000 show that she was about 50 years old and in poor health when she died. She lived around 2400 years ago, 460 BC – 350 BC.

The final model of the face is the result of scientific, artistic and historical research carried out by the Department of Anatomy and the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Otago. Dr Louisa Baillie, a researcher in Forensic Facial Approximation in the Department of Anatomy, undertook the physical work. The research allowed Dr Baillie to rebuild the mummy’s face with more accuracy than the previous reconstruction, which was done in 2008. 

CT scans and X-rays refined with medical imaging software provided highly detailed views of the surface of her skull and facial bones. These enabled a series of precise axial slice measurements for a 3D polyurethane copy of her skull. 

Markers to guide soft tissue depth were placed on this replica. Clay was sculpted to make the facial muscle and fat appropriate for her height, age and state of health. The size and shape of her nose, lips, eyes and ears were determined using current, internationally tested guidelines.

“I took a deep breath when I began constructing the clay representing her soft tissue. I knew that by the end a face would be looking back at me that, although approximate, would show features that were hers when alive” Dr Baillie said.

The clay model was cast and a silicon skin made. The colours of her skin, hair and eyes were chosen to reflect her Caucasoid, possibly Greek, ancestry. The wig is made from real human hair, and was kindly donated to the Museum by Murray and Averill Barrington of Freedom Wigs Ltd, here in Dunedin. Hairstyling was a generous donation from Nicole (senior stylist), Cody (manager), and Jamie (owner) of Zaibatsu Hair Art, also located in Dunedin.

The new facial reconstruction will go on display next to the mummy in the People of the World gallery this Thursday afternoon.

For more information please contact:

Charlotte Neilson – Marketing Manager

Otago Museum

(03) 479 3279