A 500-Year-Old Inca Mummy in Peru Now Has a Face

A famous mummy of a young Inca girl who was sacrificed in a religious ritual more than 500 years ago on a mountaintop in Peru now has a face.

A silicone bust depicts the Inca teenager, who has been called Juanita and the Maiden of Ampato, after the snowy mountain where she was found, with dark eyes, high cheekbones and tanned skin. The model was revealed last week at a ceremony at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa, Peru, where it is on display to the public.

A team of Polish and Peruvian scientists worked with a Swedish archaeologist who specializes in facial reconstructions to create the bust, based on the frozen Inca girl’s body.

“It’s a reconstruction, muscle by muscle,” Franz Grupp Castelo, a coordinator of Andean sanctuaries for the museum, said at a news conference, describing the finished product as an “impressive work.”

Dagmara Socha, an archaeologist at the Center for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw, who also attended the ceremony, said that the reconstruction of the girl’s face “was very emotional” for her.

She said the face gives a “hyper, hyper-realistic impression of looking at the living person.”

The CT scan, she added, was “crucial to reconstructing the thickness of soft tissues” for the model.

“A well-made reconstruction allows us to show the people who were behind the story we want to tell,” she said.

Oscar Nilsson, a Swedish archaeologist and sculptor, was the specialist who helped turn the scans of the mummy into the lifelike facial reconstruction of the Inca girl. Dr. Socha said that the face was first modeled in clay and then cast in silicone.

Dr. Socha noted that the reconstruction process took around half a year and that Dr. Nilsson spent about 400 hours working on the model.

Scientists from the University of Warsaw created an exhibition at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa María where the bust will be on view to visitors.

Artifacts and ceramic objects decorated with geometric figures that were found next to the girl’s body will also be on display.

Those objects, Dr. Reinhard said, have “helped us better understand her life and the Inca culture,” he said.

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