In 1991, the frozen remains of an ancient skeleton were found by hikers in the Alps. Archeologists estimated that this man lived 5,300 years ago, and they gave him the nickname “Otzi the Iceman”. However, Otzi didn’t die from the cold. He was murdered by getting shot with an arrow through his back. His body was perfectly preserved to the point where they could still see 60 tattoos all over his body, and that he was wearing a leather coat. Since his entire body was well-preserved, scientists were able to make a 3D representation of what he would have looked like when he was alive.
20. Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) Finally Comes to Life
In the western world, we tell children the story that Santa Claus or Father Christmas visits every home in the world to give gifts on December 25th. Adults know that Santa Claus is a fairytale, but he is actually based on the real-life St. Nicholas. He became famous because he was known for giving away money and presents to his fellow villagers in need. Today, people dress up like Santa Claus every holiday season. Because of traditions, they always wear a long, white beard and a red suit. However, this isn’t very accurate to the real-life of St. Nick. There have been several portraits painted of the real-life St. Nick over the years. In 2014, The Face Lab at Liverpool John Moores University created the 3D likeness of what Saint Nicholas would have actually looked like. Does he live up to how you imagined Santa Claus all your life?
Octavian Agustus rose to power because his great-uncle Julius Caesar was assassinated. Most of the time, inheriting power doesn’t work out very well. However, the Roman people truly loved Augustus. He continued to rule until he died in AD 14. This period of time has been called “Pax Romana“, and it was the most peaceful period of the empire’s history. There have been several busts and statues made of him, in honor of how he helped the republic flourish. An artist named Salva Ruano created a series of sculptures of Roman Emperors, titled “Cesares de Roma”. This is just one of the life-like sculptures showing what he may have looked like when he was a young man.
18. This Anne Boleyn Wax Work May Be The Most Accurate Modern Day Depiction
Queen Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII. Her appearance has been debated over the years because of the various artistic interpretations of her face. Some historians have claimed that her portrait by Nidd Hall is the most realistic because it most resembles the Moost Happi medal. An artist named Emily Pooley created the waxwork of Anne Boleyn, which is on display at Hever Castle. Pooley did months of research and wrote her dissertation on the historical written records of Anne’s appearance. These describe her as having black hair, olive skin, an oval face. Emily also decided that the sketch by Holbein looked the most accurate to the records, as well as realistic. Emily Pooley found a model who resembled the sketch as much as possible, and they used 360-degree photography to get a base structure. Then, she made adjustments based on the Holbein sketch.
Nearly everyone has heard of Napoleon Bonaparte, the former emperor of France. He ruled from 1804 to 1814, and then briefly again in 1815. A face mask was taken of him upon his death, so we actually know exactly what he looked like. Artists have gone ahead and created this face, which looks very similar to some of his portraits. While this image isn’t as spot-on as some of the recreations made from skulls of the dead, it’s still an accurate way of seeing what someone looked like. After all, this is a mold taken from the person’s face. Similar 3D models could be made for nearly any death mask on Photoshop. However, there is a lot of controversy around his death mask, and some people believe copies are fake.
Tutankhamun was the pharaoh of Egypt from 1332-1323 BC. He had a very short reign, and yet so many people know his name, since he was behind much of Egypt’s rise to power and greatness. In 2005, a famous Egyptologist named Zahi Hawass lead a group of anthropologists to recreate King Tut’s likeness. They took 3D CT scans of the Pharaoh’s mummy and had 1,700 images of cross-sections of his body. Once they began to recreate his image, they believe that it looks very similar to portraits taken of him when he was just a child. Along with images of his face, they were also able to find attributes that they would have hidden from the public, like an overbite, malformed hips, and a club foot that would have made it difficult for him to walk.
15. The Remains of Nicolaus Copernicus Were Found by Accident
In 2004, Polish archeologists uncovered remains in a church, but there was no grave marker. They weren’t sure who the skeleton belonged to, so they took it to forensic scientists in Warsaw. Once the reconstructed his face, they saw an old man with a broken nose and a scar above his brow. The features, along with the age of the skeleton, point to the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. When you put his portrait side-by-side with the 3D image, it truly is uncanny how similar the two are. Without this new technology, modern-day scientists would have never known who he was. Because of his famous accomplishments, the church had taken special care to bury him where he was found. Without this technology, his remains may have never been identified.
14. Australian Researchers Brough a Mummy, Meritamun, Back to Life
Anthropologists from the University of Melbourne discovered a detached skull that once belonged to an Egyptian mummy from 300 BC. It had been brought to Australia in the early 1900s by a professor who wanted to show the piece to the students at his college. Now that they have the technology, the team reconstructed the skull to see who this person was. They gave the woman the name “Meritamun“. After doing a CT scan of the skull, they were able to use a 3D printer to replicate the skull itself. Next, they molded her muscles, skin, and eventually hair and other features. While the recreation of Meritamun wasn’t solving a mystery, it’s still a breakthrough in technology to be able to see exactly what someone looked like, even after their death.
13. Johann Sebastian Bach Finally Reveals His Secrets
The musical composer Johann Sebastian Bach is a bit of a mystery because he was a fiercely private person. He wrote very few letters, and only posed for one portrait during his lifetime. However, the Bach Museum in Eisenach, Germany, just so happened to have his skull. An anthropologist from Scotland named Caroline Wilkinson borrowed the skull so that she could make a scan and 3D print of his skull. After putting the information into a computer program, she was able to make a depiction of what he would have looked like. Even though a skull can give you the basic shape of someone’s features, it can’t tell you about wrinkles or fat. So Wilkinson had to dig through historic documents to add on those features. The result actually does look strikingly similar to his portrait.
During the 1st Century AD, a toddler who passed away was mummified and buried in Egypt. An artist drew a portrait of him while he was alive, which is in keeping with Egyptian tradition. This was included in the burial, and attached to the mummy itself. As tragic as this story is, it still gives us a valuable insight into a part of ancient Egypt that we don’t often hear about. In an article from Smithsonian Magazine, they explained that sometimes, the portraits included on mummies don’t always match up. For example, an elderly man was found with a portrait of what he looked like in the prime of his youth when he was 20 years old. However, this 3D face was made by reconstructing his skull, without using the painting as a reference at all. The end result was strikingly similar.
11. Queen Elizabeth I Was Unmasked at a Recent Art Exhibit
The image of England’s Queen Elizabeth I is so iconic, pretty much everyone can recognize her. According to records, she wore a lot of white makeup made of vinegar and led to hide pockmarks on her skin. In all of her portraits, her skin looks flawless, because she wanted the world to believe that she was truly young, beautiful, and healthy enough to continue her rule. This is why many of her portraits look the same, even years apart. An artist named Mat Collishaw used digital scanning of her effigy death mask to get the general shape of her face. Then, they measured the distance of her eyes, lips, and nose in all of the portraits. Lastly, they used 3D printing to perfectly create a face. This face was placed on top of a robotic automaton so that it actually blinks like a real person. Creepy? Yes. But it’s accurate.
10. Ava’s Features Were Debated Because of Modern Day White Washing
In 1987, the bones of a woman who died 4,250 years ago were discovered at Achavanich in Caithness, United Kingdom. The body was given the nickname “Ava” since they had no way of knowing her true identity. According to the DNA, she was descended from mainland Europeans who migrated to England only a few generations before her birth. When researchers first did a 3D recreation of her, they gave her red hair and blue eyes. But, after doing more genetic research through the Natural History Museum in London and Harvard Medical School, it was discovered that she would have actually had darker hair and eyes. Just like The Cheddar Man, early Europeans didn’t look like how we imagine British people today. Researchers are excited by the evidence they’ve gathered from Ava, because it means that human beings were migrating from mainland Europe much earlier than originally thought.
9. Emperor Nero Was The Emperor Accused of Being the Antichrist
The Fifth emperor of Rome was Nero, and he was known for being a tyrant. He did whatever he pleased without worrying about the consequences. In his spare time, he loved to play music, perform, and recite poetry. Some historians blame him for starting the Great Fire of Rome in July of 64 AD just so he could have an excuse to rebuild the city from scratch. In the end, he blamed Christians for starting the fire, and this earned him the nickname of “The Antichrist.” This realistic model we see above is yet another sculpture created by an artist named Salva Ruano from his series “Cesares de Roma“. The artist gave him a wicked expression where you can’t quite tell what he’s about to do next.
8. Queen Nefertiti Was One of the Most Beautiful Egyptian Queens
Queen Nefertiti’s name literally means “the beauty has come”, a powerful queen of ancient egypt. Because of this, many busts and statues were made in her likeness. So to see what she actually looked like is truly fascinating. A facial reconstruction specialist named M.A. Ludwig took it upon themselves to recreate a 3D model of Nefertiti on Photoshop based on his bust. This is an artist’s interpretation, so there is still a good chance that she may look different if a proper recreation was made using her skull. However, researchers are discovering from other examples like King Tut and the Egyptian toddler that Egyptian’s artistic interpretations are usually pretty accurate to real life. Personally, I think the bust of Nefertiti is far more beautiful than the 3D model, but that’s my personal opinion.
7. Maximilien De Robespierre’s Recreation Shows the Naked Truth
Maximilien de Robespierre was a French politician who is known for his part in the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. When he was executed in 1794, they took a death mask from his decapitated head to capture his features. Because of this, it was much easier for future scientists to recreate his features. According to records, the 36-year-old suffered from a lot of health problems. He had scars all over his face from smallpox, daily nosebleeds, and yellowed eyes and skin from jaundice. Every day, he had a permanent twitching of his eyes and mouth. This is an example of how a portrait artist can make someone look more attractive and healthy-looking than they actually were in reality.
6. Mary Queen of Scots Looks Almost Too Much Like Her Portraits
Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most well-known figures in history. But in reality, she looked very different than what you may imagine from movies and TV. A team of researchers at the University of Dundee were able to take a scan and come up with this 3D recreation. She has a very large nose, and a strong, square chin. In a lot of ways, she looks exactly like her portrait. But some historians find this model a bit off-putting because her features are very different than what we see in most modern people. Even the 3D model of her larger-than-life features looks a bit like a fake avatar created for a video game. Professor Wilkinson said, “She doesn’t sound attractive, but the strong features meant she had a very striking appearance.”
4. Lilias Adie, A Scottish Woman Who Was Found Guilty In Court For Being a Witch
Older women were accused of being witches for centuries, and Lilias Adie was no exception. She was an elderly woman living in Scotland when she went on trial for witchcraft. As a result, people of her village tortured her, which forced her to confess to being in love with the devil. When she was found guilty, she committed suicide in 1704 before they had the chance to burn her at the stake. After her death, she was buried on the beach. Villagers placed a giant stone slab on top of her grave, because they believed that she might use her magic to rise from the dead. Because of this stone slab, her skeleton was well preserved enough for forensic scientists from Dundee University to make a 3D model of what she would have looked like when she was alive.
3. Jesus Christ Probably Didn’t Look Like Those Paintings in Church
In many Christian churches, images of Jesus have European features like blue eyes and brown hair. Because of this, many Christians assume that he must have been white. However, scientific evidence has proven that Jesus should have been biologically similar to Iraqi Jews. Without his remains, it would be impossible to get a completely accurate depiction. Even so, there are several different 3D interpretations out there as to what Jesus may have looked like. I went with the depiction by the Dutch artist Bas Uterwijk, because it seems to be as close to reality as I can find. He took images of Jesus from existing classic paintings and created a face based on those features. Only this time, instead of making him white, he gave him a more racially accurate depiction.
1. Philip the Arab’s Facial Reconstruction Captures His Emotions
From 244 to 249, Philip the Arab served as the Roman emperor. He was a huge figure in the Roman empire, because he negotiated peace with the Persian Sassanid Empire. He was betrayed during the Battle of Verona, and killed in a rebellion. Because of this, he only reigned for 5 years, but he’s remembered for his accomplishments in that short time. This facial recreation is yet another artistic interpretation by artist Dan Voshart. His face looks identical to his bust, except that his expression is very sad, showing the sense of betrayal in his eyes. Because of this artwork, we can really get a sense of what Philip must have gone through.
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