Thanks to evolving forensic science, researchers now know what this legendary mummy's face looks like.

Nebiri Mummy Reconstruction

Francesca LalloThe mummified head of Nebiri

3,500 years ago, Nebiri was an Egyptian dignitary under the 18th Dynasty pharaoh, Thutmoses III.

Now, Nebiri is a fairly well-preserved head, famous mostly for being the oldest ever documented case of chronic heart failure.

And thanks to a remarkable reconstruction project by a team of international researchers, we finally get to see a face to match that fairly depressing legacy:

Mummy Reconstruction Nebiri

Philippe FroeschNebiri’s reconstructed face

The computer rendering of Nebiri’s mug was made possible through forensics and modern facial reconstruction software. And to those involved in the process, the product is about a lot more than aesthetics.

“The reconstruction is nice, but this is not just art in my eyes,” Philippe Charlier, a forensic pathologist and physical anthropologist at the University of Paris 5, told Live Science. “It is a serious forensic work based on the latest techniques of facial reconstruction and soft tissues over skull superposition. Beyond beauty, there is anatomical reality.”

Nebiri was anywhere from 45 to 60 years old when he died. His remains were found by an Italian Egyptologist in 1904, but his body had already been destroyed by tomb-raiders years earlier.

His head, however, stayed fairly undamaged due to what experts have called “perfect packing.”

Nebiri was wrapped in linen bandages that had been soaked in a complicated mix of some kind of animal fat or oil, a balsam or a plant, coniferous resin and Pistacia resin.

His buriers stuffed bandages into his nose, ears, eyes, and mouth, which allowed his face to maintain some of its human structure even as the organs deteriorated.

Researchers also performed a CT scan on the remains and were able to reconstruct the brain without removing it — finding no anatomical abnormalities.

The extensive insight from these tests is exciting for the mummy-studying community. If researchers can learn this much from just a head, imagine what they’ll be able to do with a whole body.


Next, read about the rare child footprints recently unearthed at an ancient Egyptian royal temple. Then, find out whether or not the Victorians really hosted mummy unwrapping parties.

Annie Garau
Annie is a NYC-based writer. For tips, write to [email protected]
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