Image: Paul Burston (

Meritamun                                                                                                Image: Paul Burston (

Researchers have produced a reconstruction of the bust of an 18 to 25-year-old woman who lived at least 2,000 years ago in ancient Egypt.

“The idea of the project is to take this relic and, in a sense, bring her back to life by using  new technology,” says Varsha Pilbrow, a biological anthropologist who teaches anatomy at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience.

Writing in the World Economic Forum, Varsha said “this way she can become much more than a fascinating object to be put on display.

“Through her, students will be able to learn how to diagnose pathology marked on our anatomy, and learn how whole population groups can be affected by the environments in which they live.”

They have named her Meritamun, which means “beloved of the god Amun”.

Her face is only the start of the team’s work to answer questions about how she may have died, what diseases she had, when she lived, where she was from, and even what she ate.

How and why the University of Melbourne has a mummified Egyptian head in the basement of its medical building is a mystery.

It may well have been part of the collection of Professor Frederic Wood Jones (1879-1954) who, before becoming Head of Anatomy at the university in 1930 had undertaken archaeological survey work in Egypt.

It took 140 hours of printing time on a simple consumer-level 3D printer to produce the skull that has been used to reconstruct Meritamun’s face, not counting the tweaking and design work of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience’s imaging technician Gavan Mitchell.

Because the 3D printer builds from the bottom up and the print is always more detailed at the top, Mitchell had to print the skull out in two sections to better capture the detail of the jaws and its base.

“It has been a hugely rewarding process to be able to transform the skull from CT data on a screen into a tangible thing that can be handled and examined,” says Mitchell.

The printed skull formed the base on which sculptor Jennifer Mann used all her forensic and artistic skill to reconstruct Meritamun’s face.

“It is incredible that her skull is in such good condition after all this time, and the model that Gavan produced was beautiful in its details,” says Mann.

Mann learned the technique for facial reconstruction at the Forensic Anthropology Centre at Texas State University. She practiced on skull casts previously used in actual cases to reconstruct unidentified murder victims.

“It is really poignant work and extremely important for finally identifying these people who would otherwise have remained unknown,” she stated.

She cautions that any facial reconstruction could only be an approximation of what someone actually looked like in life, but the results she had at Texas closely matched those of the eventually identified murder victims.

Source: World Economic Forum

Author: Yemi Olarinre