New Technology Sheds Light on the True Faces of Ancient History’s Most Influential Figures. How Do They Do It?

Ever since elementary school, we learn history in school and become familiar with the names of famous, notable characters who have significantly impacted the world we live in today. We may see paintings of these figures, but the true faces of many historical individuals were solely up to the imagination, until now. Scientists have now developed a process to recreate the faces of historical figures from their skeletal remains.

The process of facial recognition started off as a strategic technology intended to help police with criminal investigations. Ever since, it became a practical device to help historians bring the faces of famous historical figures to life. By taking Skeletal remains and combining it with anthropological, osteological, and anatomical factors, researchers can figure out what these individuals actually looked like! You will never believe who Emperor Nero looks like! Check out some of the most famous names of the past, and see what they looked like in real life!

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Germany in 1685. He came from a musical family, but he was the one who stood out. Bach finished writing his Brandenburg Concertos in 1721 and is one of the most famous composers of all time. Well, now we can see what the man in the painting actually looked like!


Did you know that Bach spent 28 days in jail when he quit his job? In 1708, Bach started a job working as a chamber musician of the Duke of Saxe-Weimer. Bach hoped that his hard work would pay off and that he would get promoted to the music director. Ultimately, the job went to the former music director’s son, and Bach was furious. He quit and join a competing court. The Duke then put the composer in jail for 4 weeks.

Bach of the Head

While in Jail, Bach spent his time off writing preludes for organ. Luckily he got out of the slammer and wrote a song about coffee! The song was called “Schweight stille, Plaudert night,” which means “Be still, stop chattering.” The song was about a girl whose dad wanted her to stop drinking coffee. He performed it at Zimmerman Coffee House in 1735.


Dr. Caroline Wilkinson from Dundee University had used a cast of Bach’s actual skull. After the composer was buried in an unmarked grave in 1750, the skull went missing. Scientists ultimately found the skull after the church that Bach was buried in has been renovated. Incredibly, they were able to find it after all these years!

The “Good” King?

Henry VI was the only son John Gaunt (who was the son of Emperor Henry III). Sadly, Henry VI was just six years old when his father passed away. In the year 1602, he was taken away from his mother to be raised by scheming bishops. At age 19, Henry IV had enough power to declare himself king. King Richard was sent to prison (and mysteriously died there).


Henry IV got married just two months later. Unfortunately, when the city came together to celebrate, protestants attacked, and that day is now known as “Batholomew’s Day Massacre.” Even though there is a lot of bloodsheds connected with his legacy, King Henry IV is remembered as a good king.

The Face

After surviving 12 assassination attempts, the 13th ultimately killed him. Catholic Francois Ravaillac performed the final assassination attempt in 1610 when he drove a dagger into his heart. This time, the assassination was successful. Forensic pathologists, Philippe Charier and facial reconstruction expert Philippe Froesch are the ones who brought Henry IV back to life.


Unlike many of the other kings at the time, King Henry supposedly did not have a mistress. His eyes were only for his wife Margaret. It has been rumored that the king actually had a phobia of naked bodies. One chronicler has stated that King Henry ran away scared after topless women were brought to a Chrismas party as a joke. He also couldn’t stand the site of naked men.

Healing the Sick

Some people say that Saint Anthony made miraculous things happen in his 36 years of life. This was in 1195, before modern medicine. During this time, religious figures earned divine credit for healing the sick. This is what the heavenly healer really looked like.


Saint Anthony of Pauda is also known as Saint Anthony of Lisbon. He was born in Portugal to a wealthy family and ultimately died in Italy. He was the Patron Saint of lost things. He is well known for his inspiring preaching and for his knowledge of the scripture; however, he will mostly be rememebered for his love and dedication to the poor. On January 16th 1946, he was titled “The Doctor of the Church.”


Here is the face of the divine healer. His legend of Saint Anthony tells that after he passed awat in 1231, kids were crying in the streets, and church bells were ringing on their own… creepy. There was nothing left from his burial other than his bottom jaw bone. Luckily, it was enough for these scientist to figure out what he looks like.


The Saint accidentally discovered his gift for preaching. He joined his father to an ordination ceremony in Forli. The preacher did not show up, and there was nobody there to take over. Desprate, Father Provincial asked Anthony to speak about anything that popped into his mind. He gave an amazing performace speaking passionately and showing off his knowledge of the scripture.

Not Just Egypt

If you turn on the History Channel today, all you see are shows like ‘Ice Road Truckers’ or ‘Pawn Stars,’ and other reality-based “history” programs. But there was a time once when the channel put on shows that actually teach you things about the past, and if you watched them, then you may have heard about Peruvian Mummies.


There are preserved mummies dating all the way back to the Inca Period in Peru. Some were as recent as 500 years ago, where young children were sacrificed and placed on the peak of the mountains. In this area, Chinchorro mummies can also be found. These are the oldest mummified bodies that have ever been found. Due to the cold and dry climate, the corpses desiccate, which preserves them.

Buried with Treasure

The story of Peruvian mummies proves that the Egyptians were not as original as once thought. The Lord of Sipan was initially dug up in 1987. Like King Tut of Egypt, the Lord of Sipan was buried with a trove of treasures around his body. The process of recreating the body of the lord was headed by the Brazilian Team of Forensic Anthropology, and Odontology who produced this image below!


When you think of  a mummy, you probably envision someone walking around wrapped in toilet paper. However, a mummy is a deceased body (either human or animal) whose body (skin and organs) has been preserved after they died. The reason they are wrapped is so the body won’t decay. Egyptians believed that by preserving the bodies, they could come back to life one day.

Maximilian Robespierre – 1792- 1794

Maximilian Robespierre’s reign was very short. He was only head of state in France from 1792-1794, his time in office was called “The Reign of Terror” because he helped establish the Committee for Public Safety after King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed, and became its chief member. During the Reign of Terror, thousands of people were brutalized and executed by guillotine.


Maximilian Robespierre was against slavery and very outspoken about it. His opinion on slavery earned him many enemies (most being slave owners). In 1794, he finally abolished slavery in France. Unfortunately, in 1802, it was reinstituted by Napoleon. Still, Robespierre was one of the most influential people and one of the leaders of the French Revolution.

Give Me His Head

In 2013, forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier teamed up with facial reconstruction specialist Philippe Froesch to create an image of what Robespierre looked like. For research, they used his actual death mask, which was created a little earlier than Robespierre would’ve liked.


What many people don’t know is that Maximilien Robespierre actuallt beheaded some of the people who didn’t agree with his political movement, including some of his friends. He also sentenced an entire family to death for an assassination attempt that never happened. After Robespierre survived a possible assassination, 20 year old royalist Cecile Renault showed up at his house. When guards checked her they found two small knives. Renault was sentenced to death, along with her family, who were accused of conspiring with her.

The Beginning of Humanity

Before the time of modern medicine, science, and astrophysics, it was tough to convince humans to do anything without also assuring them that what they are doing is God’s will.  Throughout history, many men have come forth as messengers of God. One of these saviors being the one and only JC.


Did you know that Jesus Christ got his name from an angel? “The angel went to Mary and said ‘Greetings, you are highly favored! The lord is with you.” Mary, of course, was confused by these words and had no idea what the greeting actually meant. However the angel comforted Mary and said “Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus…”

What He Looked Like

Throughout history, monarchs, artists, and political figures claimed to have found things that belonged to Jesus, which gave them divine powers over society and provided them with favor abilities over their work. The scientist took the DNA from the cloth and combined it with bones found dated at 2,000 years to make a depiction of what Jesus may have looked like.


Although many people  believe Jesus was born on Christmas, the truth is, Jesus Christ was most likely not born on December 25th. Early leaders such as Hippopotamus and John Chrysostom started to look into his birthday. According to scholars, the weather didn’t make sense. Shepherds probably wouldn’t be out with their sheep on a winter night. If you look at the conception of John the Baptist, it will make much more sense that Jesus was born in the fall.


Meritamun was a woman of nobility, and her remains could be more than 3,000 years old. 3rd century B.C. Researchers say that she was between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, but were unable to determine a cause of death because all they had was her skull. The University of Melbourne discovered her skull in their archives. She was from ancient Egypt, and how the skull went halfway around the world is a mystery.


As disturbing as this sounds, Mertamun was the fourth daughter of Pharoh Ramesses the Great and his favorite wife. Around the time her mother passed away, Meritamen and her half-sister became Great Royal Wives. Today, Mertamen is mostly remembered for her stunning limestone statue.


Over 140 hours were required from researchers who performed CT scans on the skull and used a 3-D printer to produce the above figure. From this, researchers were also able to determine that the young woman suffered from anemia, which may have caused her to be weak and lethargic before her death.


After her death, Meritamen was buried in the Valley of Queens in QV68. Her tomb resembled her mother Nefertari’s tomb. Buried in QV60 is speculated to be Mertamen’s daughter; however, that was never confirmed. Interestingly, two of Ramses III’s sons are buried there as well. These lavish Royal burials are what strained the economy in Egypt at the time. This caused a lot of pressure in the nation, especially among the tomb workers. Ramses III ultimately weakened Royal power.

Lil’ Richie

From 1483 to 1485, Richard III was the King of England and Lord of Ireland. History hasn’t exactly been kind to Richard. In Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, he portrayed the king as a ruthless dictator. Richard was the last king of the House of York and the last king of the 330-year Plantagenet dynasty before the Tudors took over.


A little known fact about Richard III is that he had a lot of siblings. Of course, a lot of people during that time did. However, Richard was his parent’s eleventh son. He was their fourth son that made it to adulthood, but no one ever suspected he would become king. It’s been recorded that Richard was very small! Shorter than 5 feet!


A team from Dundee University was assembled to bring Richard III to life. There aren’t actually any paintings of him from when he was alive, but researchers had used historical records and portraits of the king. This, with a newly discovered skull of the king buried under a parking lot, gave scientists everything they needed to provide us with an image of the king before the Tudors.


Another fact about King Richard III is that he was married to a relative. This was the norm at the time but pretty disturbing, coming from a 2019 perspective. Anne Neville was Richards’s wife and his first cousin once removed. That’s not so bad. At least he didn’t marry his sister or his daughter (which wasn’t uncommon at the time).

Queen Mary

Mary Stuart is more commonly known as “Mary, Queen of Scots.” Sadly, her father died soon after she was born. Since she was the only surviving child of King James V, she became Queen when she was just six days old. She ruled Scotland from 1542-1567.


Contrary to popular belief, Queen Mary Stuart is not Bloody Mary. Mary Stuart and Mary Tudor were both Catholic, and they both had major beef with Elizabeth I (Mary Tudor’s half-sister and Mary Stuart’s first cousin once removed). Mary Stuart’s grandmother was Margaret Tudor so technically, both Mary’s were related. It’s easy to confuse the two Marys; however, the Bloody Mary is Mary Tudor. The legend says that her ghost can appear in the mirror after saying her name 3 times in the dark.

Nice Jewelry

As we previously mentioned, Queen Mary Stuart was cousins with Elizabeth I. The two got along perfectly fine at first. Queen Elizabeth even accepted Queen Mary into England when the Scottish revolted against her! However, she quickly got involved in a scheme to overthrow her. She was stripped of her throne and was forced to spend 19 years in prison.


The Stewarts ruled Scottland for centuries, and Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots was number eight. At age five, she was secured into a marriage tready intended to unite Scottland and France. Before her marriage, Mary decided to change the spelling of her name from Stewart to Stuart so that it would be much easier for the French to pronounce.

Georgie Boy!

As we know, George Washington led the army during the revolutionary war, and then in 1789, he became the first president of the United States and served until 1797. The Virginia-born leader was feerless. He guided a new country and developed it during his presidency. Of course, he is the face on the one dollar bill and is recognized as the founding father of American democracy and bravery.


Here is a random fact about George Washington. He did not have a middle name! He was born on February 11th, 1731, and this was actually not uncommon during the 19th century. If you look at the first 20 presidents of the United States, only five of them had a middle name!

A Face of Fearlessness

Researchers at the New jersey Medical school in Newark came up with this computer-generated picture of our first president. They actually did a pretty good job bringing his facial features to life! He does look like a pretty serious man that I definitely don’t want to mess with!


Researchers from New Jersey Medical school in Newark came up with this computer-generated image of the first president of the United States. Scientists did quite an extraordinary job of bringing his facial features to life. Looks like a pretty serious man that you don’t want to mess with!

Shaking it Up!

William Shakespeare was and English playwright from 1564-1616. He was a genius and considered the most successful playwright in history. Many schools are required to study his work, and he is referenced all the time, so everybody knows who William Shakespeare is. He created terms like “Full Circle,” and “Night Owl.” There is also a memorable line from the classic play, Julius Caesar. “Cowards die many times before their deaths.”


Shakespeare got married at age 18 to his wife, Anne Hathaway. She was 26 years old and pregnant with Shakespeare’s baby when they finally got married. Their first child was named Susanna and was born 6 months later. They had another daughter named Judith and a son named Hamnet, who sadly passed away.

The Face of Genius

Dr. Caroline Wilkinson from Dundee University used a computer to scan the interior of the death mask to create a 3-D image of what Shakespeare looked like when he died on April 23, 1616. This portrayal of his look gives us a glimpse into his last days.


Did you know that there are over 80 different recorded variations of the spelling of Shakespeare’s name? In some of his original surviving signatures, he spelled his name “Willm Shaksp,” “Willaim Shakespe,” Wm Shakspe,” “William Shakspere, “Wilm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare.” What is even more interesting is that with all these different spellings, there is no recording of him ever spelling his name “William Shakespeare,” which is how we spell it today.

Queen Lizzy

Queen Elizabeth, I reigned over England from 1559-1603, Elizabeth’s early life was full of drama, she’s lucky she became queen at all. Her father went through six wives in order to find a male heir, and Elizabeth only took the reins after her brother and sister passed away. But she definitely became a strong and inspiring Queen.


Queen Elizabeth was highly educated. She was taught by numerous governesses and tutors throughout her entire life. In addition to art and music, she was taught languages. The queen spoke English, French, Latin, and Italian fluently. Catherine Parr (Henry’s last wife), cared for Elizabeth and wanted her to be educated. Education for woman was very uncommon at the time. However, it didn’t top Elizabeth from learning the art of public speaking and captivating her audiences in her inspiring speeches.

Say Hello to the Queen

Using 3-D printing and scans, scientists created an animatronic version of her face that blinks and gives the appearance that it’s thinking. The Armada portrait at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, London, was the inspiration for her face, and now we have an actual depiction of what she looked like.


Queen Elizabeth was almost killed by her half-sister, Mary (also known as Bloody Mary). After Elizabeth’s little brother Edward VI passed away suddenly, no one was sure who would take over. Both Elizabeth and her sister, Mary had supporters to claim the throne. After Mary earned the throne many protestants rebelled. Mary put her sister in prison but let her free when she claimed she knew nothing about the rebellion.

Named After the Best Salad Ever!

Okay, maybe not, but regardless if I were Julius Caesar, I would have been happy to know that a great salad was named after me! The emperor lost his cool though in real life, and ended up getting assassinated by his own court. Let’s see what he really looked like beyond the statues.


It has been reported that Julius Caesar was born by a caesarian section. I guess because of the association with his name; many people believe that this rumor is true. Caesar was born in 100 BC so it is very unlikely. At the time, Caesarian sections were dangerous and extremely fatal. They were only performed if the mother was dead or dying. Explanations for where his name originated, include long hair (Caesaries in Latin), bright green eyes (Oculis Caesiis in Latin) or even, killing and elephant in battle (Caesai in Moorish).

Can You Shame a 3-D Animation?

You, like me, have probably seen countless statues and depictions of Julius Caesar. In none of them was he portrayed with a top-heavy forehead, little lips, a big nose, pointy chin a balding head, and a flat scalp. I’m not saying anything wrong with that, but I am making an observation. He looks healthy though!


When he was in his twenties, Julias Caesar was kidnapped by pirates! Julius Caesar left Rome and sailed to the Aegean island of Rhodes in 75 BC so that he could study oratory by a famous professor (Apollonius Molon). While he was crossing the Aegean Sea, pirates kidnapped him and held him prisoner! The pirates wanted 20 talents of silver as ransom, but Caesar told him to ask for 50. After the ransom was paid, Caesar was released. He then captured the pirates and crucified them.

Don’t Mess with This Queen!

Cleopatra reigned as co-regent over the Kingdom of Egypt for 30 years. She was highly intelligent, speaking several languages, and has been described as a woman of great strength. Her reign of influence spread across the Mediterranean and the middle east, and she was known to have sway over many foreign leaders.


Contrary to popular belief, Cleopatra was not Egyptian. Well, she was born in Egypt, but her family origins are traced to Macedonian Greece. She was also a product of incest. As disturbing as this sounds, more historic Royal figures participated in incest relationships and it was the norm at the time. The intention was to preserve the royal bloodline. Keeping the tradition, Cleopatra ultimately married two of her older brothers.

The True Face of Cleo-P

The marble bust of Cleopatra was created sometime between 40-30 B.C. and is thought to be the most accurate depiction of her. This is because artwork representing the Macedonian queen of Egypt shows her with similar features and the same style of hair. Her “melon hairstyle” and the bun she sported were typical of Ptolemaic queens and were depicted in many works of art and coins that included her face on them.


What many people don’t know about Cleopatra is that she was partly responsible for the death of some of her siblings, one being her brother and first husband, Ptolemy XIII. He ran her out of Egypt when she tried to take complete control over the throne. They then battles in a civil war. After teaming up with Julius Caesar, she downed her husband/brother in the Nile River.

Don’t Mess with the Bruce

Robert I, otherwise known as Robert the Bruce, claimed the throne in 1306 when King Edward I named Scotland part of England proper as opposed to its own Kingdom. Bruce conquered and the English army at Bannockburn in 1314, which preserved Scotland’s autonomy. in 2016, the University of Glasgow historians teamed up with the University of Liverpool face lab specialists, and they showed us what Robert the Bruce actually looked like.


Robert the Bruce actually spent time living in a cave, and strangely, he was inspired by a spider. The legend goes that Robert was taking shelter in a cave when he saw a spider trying and failing to spin a web. Still, he didn’t give up. Bruce was inspired and promised to return to Scotland and fight.

The Man Behind the Crown

When the historians form the University of Glasgow got together with the face lab experts at the University of Liverpool, they were also able to show us what he would look like. You can almost see the emotion behind the King’s face. Luckily this isn’t Bruce while he had leprosy… that would have been disturbing.


It is widely believed that the king did suffer from Leprosy. The disease carried a heavy stigma in the 1300s, but researchers at Western University restored his legacy. Their work concluded that Robert the Bruce did not have leprosy. At the time, saying someone was a “leper” was the worst thing you can say about them. It looks like it was just a rumor that got out of hand.

Never Mind That

Queen Nefertiti reigned alongside her pharaoh husband from 1353-1336 B.C., and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest she reigned independently after her husband’s death. Unlike other queens, she was depicted in powerful positions in Egyptian artistry. Just like King Tut, Nefertiti became far more famous when archaeologists discovered a statue of her, except hers, was buried upside down in the sand.


The name Nefertiti literally means “a beautiful woman has come.” She and her husband promoted Egyptian artwork that was considered racially different at the time while establishing the cult of Aten, the sun god. You probably recognize Nefertiti because she remains one of the most iconic symbols of Egypt leaving back a legacy of beauty and power.

Behind the Bust

The CT scan reveals an elegant yet severe demeanor. Nefertiti mothered six children in her time, and one of them became the mother of King Tut. What’s far more unsettling is that King Tut’s father is Nefertiti’s husband, which would explain the deformities that plagued the boy king.


As we mentioned, Nefertiti and her husband had a very active role in establishing the Aten cult. This religious mythology considered Aten (the sun), the most important god and the only one that deserves to be worshiped.  At the time, it was speculated that the King and Queen were priests; if any regular citizen wanted access to Aten, it had to be through them. The Queen changed her name to Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti meaning “Beautiful are the beauties of Aten, a beautiful woman has come.”

Emperor Nero

Nero Claudius Caesar ruled as the last emperor of Roman dynasty from 54-68 A.D. He is remembered as a psychopath who thought he was an incredible artist. His great-uncle Claudious adopted him and Nero became the Claudius Heir and Successor. He also competed in the Olympic Chariot Races. This definitely looks like the face of a leader you don’t want to mess with.


Nero became emperor at the young age of sixteen years old. He was the youngest emperor until Elagabalus, who became the emperor at the age of 14. Nero’s mother, Agrippina, was “meant to rule through her son” according to Scullard’s writings. Unfortunately, he was the one who got his mother executed after she opposed to him having an affair.

Kind of Looks like Carson Wentz

The mankind of looks like a mix of NFL quarterback Carson Wentz, with a little bit of Carrot Top. But if you told him that in 54 A.D. He would have ripped you limb from limb! You definitely want him on your team in a football game, though! “What an artist dies in me!”


After he divorced and Octavia (his first wife) because of infertility and adultery, he later had her executed. He then married Sabina. The two had a daughter who sadly died in infancy. Sabina died while she was pregnant with her second child. Supposedly it was because Nero kicked his pregnant wife. After forcing her husband to commit suicide, Nero married Statilia Messalina. Nero then killed a former slave and married him afterwards.

Best for Last

King Tutankhamun was the pharaoh of Egypt from 1334-1324 B.C., and outside of Egyptologists, no one would know his name if it weren’t for the discovery of his tomb in 1922. Archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered a great deal about the boy pharaoh, and thanks to modern technology, we now know what he looked like in his heyday!


King Tutankhamun is better known as King Tut. From 1334-1324 B.C., he was the pharaoh of Egypt. He began his reign when he was just nine years old and earned the nickname, Boy King. Sadly, Boy King died when he was kist 18 years old. His body was mummified. This means his body was preserved and it was not uncommon in Ancient Egypt.

All His Glory

King Tut succeeded his father’s throne over ancient Egypt when he was just nine years old, and he only ruled for ten years. Modern CT scans showed that his death at age 19, was a result of an infection to his lower leg after a bad chariot accident. The young king got a real nice burial though! Look at us talking about him now.


Interestingly, Tutankhamun’s tomb is the smallest in the Valley of Kings. On top of that, he was buried in a second-hand coffin. King Tut’s mummy lies within three golden coffins that were combined next to each other, side by side. The coffin was intended to be for the mysterious Neferneferuaten. The strange part is that nobody knows what happened to Neferneferuaten or how King Tut ended up being buried in her coffin.

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