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Face of Ancient Siberian Princess With Tattoos Replicated by Expert

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"[I]t is important that I feel the person that I am creating."

Image source: Shutterstock

A 2,500-year-old tattooed Siberian princess found mummified and preserved in permafrost 8,200 feet up in the Altai Mountains of East Central Asia is considered  "one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century."

She's known by experts as Princess Ukok, a name given to her after the high plateau on which her remains were discovered. Still fairly well intact, the only part of her body that has considerably deteriorated is her face and neck skin. But that's left taxidermy experts with little idea of what the woman, believed to have been only 25 years old when she died, actually looked like – until now.

The Siberian Times has reported that for the very first time, a replica of the Siberian princess' face has been revealed. Swiss taxidermist Marcel Nyffenegger used a 3-D model of the ancient mummy's skull to piece together muscles and tissue in an effort to recreate her facial structure. Nyffenegger even attached more than 100,000 strands of hair to her head to get an even more accurate idea of what she looked like.

<blockquote lang="en"><p>The reconstruction of Princess Ukok is on display at the museum in Germany. Pictures: Marcel Nyffenegger <a href="http://t.co/f0of8ahqKV">pic.twitter.com/f0of8ahqKV</a></p>— rougier (@laurencerougie5) <a href="https://twitter.com/laurencerougie5/status/560178

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>A taxidermist gave a 2,500-year-old tattooed mummy princess a face for us to see: <a href="http://t.co/cRQsZRtC9H">http://t.co/cRQsZRtC9H</a> <a href="http://t.co/XxNTzZ2CBH">pic.twitter.com/XxNTzZ2CBH</a></p>— RYOT NEWS (@RYOTnews) <a href="https://twitter.com/RYOTnews/status/560527660003389440">January 28, 2015</a></blockquote>

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718212386816">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote>

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"With such a soft tissue reconstruction, purely based on the bone structure, we have achieved an accuracy of 75 percent of the former appearance of the woman," Nyffenegger said. "The remaining 25 percent was our interpretation since, for example, we were missing parts of the nasal bone and thus an accurate reconstruction was not possible."

"And as for the facial expressions," he added, "[I]t is important that I feel the person that I am creating. The more information the archaeologists give me, such as in which climate the people lived, what they ate, and if they were a warrior or a farmer, then the better I can do."

Perhaps Nyffenegger can take a few clues from what archaeologists have been able to uncover so far.

Found beside her remains in mountains were the remains of two men, six horses each with saddles as well as sheep and horse meat. Also discovered beside her were  felt, wood, bronze and gold ornaments, a container of cannabis, a stone plate and a bag of cosmetics, according to the Siberian Times.

Her clothes consisted of Chinese silk, a material researchers say gives a clear indication as to her socioeconomic status since the material cost more than gold during that time. But what could offer prove useful for Nyffenegger as he reconstructs the centuries-old princess is her body art, which appears to depict a dragon-like creature on her left arm.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Photo: Princess Ukok tattoo I’m a little obsess add a sigil or two I may have a tattoo <a href="http://t.co/ItOX0kF8X2">http://t.co/ItOX0kF8X2</a></p>— Brandy Valentine (@brandyval) <a href="https://twitter.com/brandyval/status/560181590706618368">January 27, 2015</a></blockquote>

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The ancient mummy is now set to be reburied in the Altai Mountains inside a specially constructed tomb. Nyffenegger's reconstruction of the princess, meanwhile, is on display at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer, Germany.

(H/T: Siberian Times)

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