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CSI Tools Bring a Mummy's Face to Life

In 2005, a mummy like no other was found in northern Peru. The young woman of the Moche culture was wrapped in 20 layers of cloth, among which sumptuous jewelry was concealed. Buried about 400 AD, she is now called the Señora of Cao, after a nearby town. She must have been some kind of aristocrat. Señora of Cao now resides at the Complejo Arqueológico El Brujo (the El Brujo Archaeological Complex). Museum curators wanted to preserve her body as it is now, and also see what she looked like in life.   

To solve the mystery of what she looked like, investigators first had to produce digital images of her mummy. In similar cases, such as King Tut and Ötzi the Iceman, bodies have been scanned with a stationary medical CT machine. But the Señora had her pictures taken with state-of-the-art, hand-held laser scanners designed by FARO, a 3D technology company. The devices were originally created for industrial applications, but they’re now proving useful in forensic investigations and in cultural heritage projects like this one.

After the scanned data were entered into a computer, forensic experts began to rebuild the Señora’s face.

Read more about the restoration of the Señora of Cao at National Geographic.

(Image credit: Fundación Augusto N. Wiese)

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