Relive the Past

Using crystal-clear 3-D images from Meresamun’s historic scans, two forensic artists reconstruct the face of a 2,800-year-old Egyptian priestess

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Two forensic artists working separately and using different techniques reconstructed Meresamun’s face. Josh Harker used the latest software and imaging technology (left), while Michael Brassell created more traditional police-artist sketches by hand (right), filling in only the color digitally.

She was more than just a pretty face. The ancient Egyptian Meresamun, who lived around 800 B.C., was a working girl, a priestess-musician who served Amun, the preeminent deity of Thebes. Her mummified remains, sealed 2,800 years ago in a skintight coffin of cartonnage (layers of linen and plaster), were examined by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in September 2008 using the latest in CT scanning technology, a “256-slice” machine that produced startlingly vivid images. For months, she has since been the immensely popular subject of the Oriental Institute Museum’s exhibition, The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt.

Now, the headline-making CT images have helped two individuals–each working separately with 3-D STL (stereolithography) images of Meresamun’s skull produced from the scans, but using different techniques–reconstruct Meresamun’s face. Michael Brassell is a Baltimore-based forensic artist for NamUs (pronounced “name us”), the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System established by the National Institute of Justice. He created traditional hand-drawn pencil sketches (digitally colored for an “artsy” effect), using the exact same methods he employs when helping the police track down a cold-case victim. Josh Harker, a forensic artist who lives in Chicago and was originally trained as a sculptor, worked digitally, leveraging the latest software and imaging technology.

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(Photo courtesy Josh Harker)               (Photo courtesy Michael Brassell)

Meresamun in profile, shown without hair to reveal the contour of her skull

June 22nd, 2009 at 7:22 am


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