A Queen Died 1.2K Years Ago. Now, See Her Face

Archaeologist spent 220 hours reconstructing Wari queen's appearance
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2017 12:45 PM CST

The gold ornaments in her ears stand out among the dark hair, sprinkled with gray. Like the lined face, the corners of the mouth drooping slightly; it's a sign of her age—the roughly 60 years she spent on Earth, as opposed to the 1,200 years that have passed since. Yet the woman dubbed the "Huarmey Queen" has been reborn from a skeleton discovered in an undisturbed Wari tomb at El Castillo de Huarmey in Peru in 2012, reports National Geographic. Beginning with a 3D model of her skull, expert Oscar Nilsson reconstructed her muscle and flesh using photographs of indigenous peoples from the region. To the preserved hairline, he added real hair from Andean women of similar age. Forming the lines of the face by hand, Nilsson added gold flares to the ears, just like those found in the noblewoman's private tomb chamber.

After 220 hours, the Huarmey Queen stared out from history. Though her age is clear, less evident are the hours she likely spent weaving, perhaps with gold weaving tools found in her tomb alongside other items indicating her wealth and significance: a silver goblet and copper axe. Onlookers might also miss her habit of drinking chicha, a sugary, alcoholic drink that may explain some missing teeth. Still, Nilsson's attention to detail appears to have paid off. "When I first saw the reconstruction, I saw some of my indigenous friends from Huarmey in this face," says Milosz Giersz, one of two Polish archaeologists to uncover the Wari tomb, who enlisted Nilsson's expertise. "Her genes are still in the place." The reconstruction will be displayed at Poland's National Ethnographic Museum from Friday until the end of May. (Read more archaeology stories.)

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