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Archaeologists to reconstruct the face of the old, the 1200-year-old Peruvian queen

(Credit: National Geographic)

Archaeologists have learned much about “the Huarmey Queen” in the five years since they discovered the tomb of El Castillo de Huarmey in Peru and found her body inside.

They have learned that they of the pre-Inca Wari culture, and she lived for about 12 centuries ago.

They know that they have lived past the age of 60 years, and that, although they are just one of the 58 foundation — including four queens or princesses — who were found in the remarkably untouched tomb, she was obviously special among them.

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Her body, surrounded by jewels, gold ear flares, a brass ceremonial axe, a silver cup, and weaving tools made of gold was found in a private room.

Her skeleton showed that she had a strong upper body and spent most of life sitting, indicating that she was a weaver — a position of great prominence among the Wari, who is worshiped textiles more than gold and silver.

But she had no idea what she looked like.

Now they know that also.

At the beginning of this year, National Geographic archaeologist Miłosz Giersz, who is the co-discoverer of the tomb with the Peruvian archaeologist Roberto Pimentel Nita, asked the Swedish archaeologist Oscar Nilsson if he could reconstruct the Huarmey Queen’s face.

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And Nilsson could. After creating a 3-D printed model of the woman’s skull, he used well-known datasets for the estimation of the thickness of the muscles and the flesh on the bone. Then, working with photographs of the indigenous Andean who live in the vicinity of the ancient tomb, he rebuilt her face with the hand. He used real hair of the elderly Andean women to reconstruct her hairstyle.

It took him 220 hours, but it was worth it.

“I have worked with this for 20 years, and there are many fascinating projects — but this was really something else,” Nilsson told National Geographic. “I just couldn’t say no to this project.” The finished reconstruction goes on public display Thursday in a new exhibition of Peruvian artifacts at the National Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, Poland.

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