What did They Look Like, Pharaohs?

Russian anthropologists succeeded in reconstructing the appearance of three pharaohs of the New Kingdom: Amenhotep III, Ramses I, and Merenptah. Nobody has seen yet the live faces of the pharaohs.

By the end of last year, British Egyptologist Howard Jones sent to Moscow, to the laboratory of anthropologic reconstruction by Miklukho-Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, X-ray photographs of three mummy heads from British Museum collection. Only one head was identified: that was the head of pharaoh Merenptah, one of the Ramses II sons. That was the well-known Merenptah, during whose government the Jew Exodus from Egypt started. As fore the other two heads, specialists were not sure. According to a version, one head belonged to Ramses II, whose body was supposed to be kept in British Museum. The third mummy was said to belong to Amenhotep III. There was even a crime story connected with it.

About two years ago, British police detained certain US antiquarian in London. He was trying to sell for 1.2 million dollars a mummy head he had illegally bought in Egypt. The ancient remains were confiscated, though to identify them, anthropology reconstruction was necessary. Howard Jones and his colleagues already rubbed their hands in foretaste of the mystery solution. And they were not deceived in their expectations. The results of the reconstruction turned out to be literally sensational.

Basing on the X-ray photographs, Russian anthropologists at first made counter drawings, and then – graphic portraits of pharaohs half and full face. Howard Jones who possessed deciphered hieroglyphic inscription on sarcophaguses could finally identify each of the three pharaoh mummies. As for Merenptah, it was everything obvious with him from the very outset. Though the second “stranger” sprang a surprise upon the scientists. The supposed Ramses II turned out to be his uncle, Ramses I, therefore that was his mummy British Museum kept. The third pharaoh was, as expected, Amenhotep III, a powerful pharaoh of 18th dynasty, who initiated building of temples in Luxor, Soleb, and Sedeing. Nobody had seen such portraits of the pharaohs: not stark deathmasks of some half-mythical figures, but live faces.

As for anthropological characteristics, all the three turned out to be representatives of Mediterranean type (like most of today’s South-European dwellers, for example Frenchmen or Italians). Which was not typical for Egyptian pharaohs, that was the prominent nose of Ramses I, who had had a long face with coarse features. While the Amenhatep III face had a less prominent, a bit hooked nose and more gentle features.

According to some characteristics, for example the teeth state, Russian anthropologists determined the pharaohs’ approximate age. Ramses I died being 60, Merenptah – about 50, while Amenhotep III – almost 40 years old. These conclusions contradicted to generally accepted information: the before-estimated duration of the Amenhotep III government made about 40 years (as long as his real live longevity), while Merenptah was supposed to have carried wars with Syrians and Lebanese being over 50. The scientists were perplexed with these discrepancies, though they were still impressed with the work of Moscow anthropologists. Howard Jones said he wantedto continue cooperation with Russian Ethnology Institute.

The Anthropology Reconstruction Laboratory by Ethnology Institute is the only place in Russia, where the appearance of any person can be restored, whenever he has lived: 10 or 1000 years ago. Main thing anthropologists need is the skull or its X-ray photograph. The laboratory uses the method of famous Soviet anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov, who formulated the correspondence rule of skull structure and features.

In this way, portraits of many historic personalities were reconstructed, in particular Old Russian dukes Yaroslav Mudry and Andrei Bogolyubsky, king Ivan Grozny, his son – tsar Fyodor, admiral Ushakov, great German poet Friedrich Schiller, and others. According to the laboratory chief, candidate of Historical Science, Tatyana Balueva, the Gerasimov method guarantees maximal objectivity.

The Gerasimov method is used by anthropologists of many countries. Though, according to Tatyana Balueva, western scientists add this method with other elements, which often only harm the reconstruction results. In particular, foreign scientists often use computer skull models in their work, while any computer model is enough to restore individual features of a person in detail, while Russian anthropologists work in contact with the “original.” Carrying out a reconstruction, western specialists use information about the thickness of the face gentle integuments they receive from studying dead body. While Russians practice up-to-date technologies of studying a live face to receive this kind of information. “This is why, we can today say our methods are more objective,” – Tatyana Balueva states.

Russian anthropologists still restore human faces basing on the skull itself, but not on its computer model. According to Tatyana Balueva, “the skull which is a very individual structure cannot be “placed” in computer in its universal appearance.” A perfect reconstruction can be made only by an experience anthropologists, who knows the thickness of gentle issues in different parts of human face, who possess knowledge about the skull relief and knows very well different anthropological types. So far, there is no computer programme, which would substitute for a scientist experience.

Apropos, before launching the work with Egyptian pharaohs’ skulls, Russian researchers carried out a study of correlation between face gentle issues and skulls of today’s CIS population. As a result of this study, measuring results of 4,000 people were gathered, who live in Central Russia, Siberia, Middle Asia, Baltic countries, and Far East. The scientists confirmed the version that correlation between gentle issues and skull measurements does not depend on the race, while all individual details depend mainly on a skull structure.

“Now, as we have perfected our method, basing on big factual material, we can speak about portrait similarity of our works with the originals. This was confirmed by some successful expert examinations, which were aimed for person identification based on bone remains (this also belongs to the anthropologist work).

Natalia Dyachkova &to=http://www.itogi.ru' target=_blank>Itogi

Translated by Vera Solovieva