They named her Meritamun and 2,000 years ago, she was a beautiful young woman between 18 and 25 years old. Modern science and technology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, has restored the face of this ancient woman with the hopes of learning more about her past.
For generations, humans have been fascinated by the discoveries at ancient Egyptian burial grounds. Mummies can tell scientists so much about the way these ancient peoples lived, what they ate and the diseases that they suffered from. By looking into the past, we can treat illness and determine how entire populations are affected by their environments.
Where did she come from?
Meritamu's skull lay forgotten in the basement of the University's Medical department for almost 100 years before she was re-discovered. The University suspects that she was brought over as part of the collection of Professor Frederic Wood Jones (1879-1954), carefully preserved and then forgotten.
It took about 140 hours and a 3-D printer to construct the skull that would later become Meritamu's face. She was identified as Egyptian by Dr. Janet Davey, a forensic Egyptologist from Monash University, but it is still uncertain where exactly in Egypt she lived. Dr. Davey estimates that Meritamu was about 5'3" and likely held high status within her community, judging by the quality of her linen bandages.
How did she die?
Researchers believe that Meritamu's death was likely caused by anemia. According to the University's press release, the skull had "two tooth abscesses, there are patches on the skull where the bone had pitted and thinned. It is a clear symptom of anemia, which is a lack of red blood cells that starves the body of oxygen."
Without the rest of her body, it is hard to be completely sure that this is the only cause of death, but these symptoms probably contributed to it. One theory is that she contracted malaria later in life, which would have left her pale and lethargic at the end.
"There is always a lot of mystery to unravel in forensic Egyptology and it is why it is so important to keep an open mind and follow the evidence," says Dr Davey.
There are still a lot of questions that need answers, but the collaboration on this project has opened opportunities for unique teaching experiences for medicine and health science:
"The idea of the project is to take this relic and, in a sense, bring her back to life by using all the new technology," says Dr Varsha Pilbrow, a biological anthropologist who teaches anatomy at the University's Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience.
"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."
Watch the process unfold below, and don't forget to Like and Subscribe!