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3-D Reconstruction Reveals the Faces of Three Ancient Egyptian Mummies

In a feat seemingly straight out of “The Mummy” movies, DNA is helping researchers reanimate the faces of people who lived more than 2,000 years ago. As Mindy Weisberger reports for Live Science, scientists used genetic information taken from three ancient Egyptian mummies to produce digital images of what the men might have looked like at age 25.

Residents of Abusir el-Meleq, an ancient Egyptian city south of Cairo, the men died between 1380 B.C.E. and 450 C.E. A team from Parabon NanoLabs presented the trio’s facial reconstructions at the International Symposium on Human Identification in September.

“[T]his is the first time comprehensive DNA phenotyping has been performed on human DNA of this age,” says Parabon, a Virginia-based company that typically uses genetic analysis to help solve cold cases, in a statement.

To approximate the men’s faces, researchers used DNA phenotyping, which predicts individuals’ physical appearance based on genetic markers. (Phenotyping can suggest subjects’ skin, hair and eye color, but as Caitlin Curtis and James Hereward wrote for the Conversation in 2018, the process has its limitations.) The team determined the mummies’ other characteristics through examination of their physical remains, reports Hannah Sparks for the New York Post.

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