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posted 30 August 2016 at 10:40:55

A team of Australian scientists and researchers has used 3D printing to bring the face of a 2,000 year-old Egyptian mummy 'back to life'. The mummified head of the young female, whose age when she died was determined as between 18–25, had been languishing in the museum archives of the University of Melbourne for 100 years.

Concerned about its deteriorating state, Dr Ryan Jeffries, museum curator, had the fragile skull CT scanned, then, collaborating with Egyptological, medical, forensic, 3D printing and artistic experts, set to work recreating the woman's features.

CT scanning the ancient skull offered a chance to study it thoroughly without damaging it. 'She was once a living person, just like all the human specimens we have preserved here, and we can't forget that,' says Jeffries. 'The CT scan opened up a whole lot of questions and avenues of enquiry and we realised that it was a great forensic and teaching opportunity in collaborative research.'

Imaging technician Gavan Mitchell 3D printed a high quality model in around 140 hours, using Ultimaker hardware. 'It's been a hugely rewarding process to be able to transform the skull from CT data on screen into a tangible thing that can be handled and examined,' says Mitchell. 'We can now replicate specimens with really interesting pathologies for students to handle and for virtual reality environments, without ever touching the specimen itself.'

Sculptor Jennifer Mann then applied her skills to rebuild the young woman's face, which would have been impossible without 3D printing. Using all the data from the scan, she reconstructed the features in clay and then covered the final model in polyurethane resin and painted it in the predominant skin tone of Ancient Egyptians, before adding a plaited wig, which is based on that of another mummy in the Egypt Museum in Cairo.

Forensic Egyptologist Dr Janet Davey commented, 'By reconstructing her, we are giving back some of her identity and, in return, she has given this group of diverse researchers a wonderful opportunity to investigate and push the boundaries of knowledge and technology as far as we can go.'

You can see more of this fascinating reconstruction at