The Moche civilization is a society of mostly farmers living on the northwestern part of present day Peru during 100 to 700 AD. They are known for their painted ceramics, gold work, and irrigation systems. The Moche were ruled by a succession of priestesses-queens and the Lady of Cao was the first of them to be unearthed. Found at the site El Brujo in 2005, she was mummified, covered in 20 layers of fabric, and enveloped with gold, silver and copper artifacts.
Researchers then wanted to know what she looked like when she was alive, so they made a 3d model of her face using 3d technology of CSI.
Similar to what scientists did with King Tutankhamun and Ötzi the Iceman, the Lady of Cao is first captured with digital images of her body. But instead of using a stationary medical CT machine, the Lady was taken pictures using hand-held laser scanners made by FARO, a 3d tech company. They were initially used for industrial applications, but they're quite useful in solving forensic investigations and projects like the Lady of Cao.
After taking pictures, they entered the data into a computer and the magic of rebuilding her face started. They first exposed the bones of the skull by stripping off the facial skin using specialized software. After that, they placed tissue-depth markers and adding facial muscles to the skull, recreating her features as if she was a victim of homicide.
Joe Mullins, a forensic artist and a consultant for the project said, “It’s the exact same process you’d go through hands-on in the traditional method, adding clay to a model, but it’s rolled into the digital environment now."
The Lady's features have high cheekbones and facial proportions that are in line with the Moche. However, most of the soft features like the color of the eyes are interpretations based on educated guesses. The investigators looked for other sources of information such as the people portrayed on Moche pottery, excavated Moche skeletons, and even faces of Moche descendants who live near the area.
After they printed the model in 3d, they then add clothing and jewelry that was appropriate of her status at that time. “It was very emotional to see that final stage of the reconstruction,” says Fernández López, who worked out the details of the bust. Currently, the reconstructed figure along with the mummy is at the museum at El Brujo. “We want people of all ages to have a unique, memorable experience that connects them with the Señora of Cao,” says López.
Wow! Just imagine seeing the face of your ancestors this old. I personally wonder how similar I look like to them.