Face of Peru's Lord of Sipán recreated
The skull of one of the most famous archaeological finds of the twentieth century has been reconstructed using 3D imaging. Brazilian scientists have revealed what Lord of Sipán - the royal ruler of the mysterious Moche civilisation - would have looked like if he had been alive today.
|Two gold eyes patches and one for the mouth decorate the wealthy remains of the Lord of Sipán. The skeleton was |
discovered in 1987 and was the first in a series of Moche mummies to be uncovered [Credit: Caters News]
Lord of Sipán ruled the Moche civilisation, which flourished in Peru between AD 50 and AD 700. The name comes from an site in a valley of the same name which was the central city for the Moche people.
The Moche people are known for their elaborate pottery and jewellery as well as for pioneering early metal working skills. What's more, they build numerous large pyramids, some of which still dominate the landscape. Evidence suggests that the Moche people engaged in a form of ritual combat, followed by human sacrifice.
Until the discovery of the Lord of Sipán's tomb in 1979, the best known remains of the civilisation were two large structures - the Temple of the Sun (Huaca del Sol) and the Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna) - near Trujillo.
The reasons for the collapse of the Moche culture are unknown, but experts have suggested prolonged drought, earthquakes, or extreme flooding from the El Niño phenomenon may have been to blame. Some experts suggest a civil war may have been the cause of their downfall.
Cicero Moraes, the 3D computer graphics designer responsible for reconstructing the virtual features of the ancient leader, worked alongside forensic dentist, Dr Paulo Miamoto, who conducted anthropological analysis on the ancestry of the king.
'He has the typical features of pre-Columbian ancestry and looks like the original South American indigenous Indians that lived here hundreds of years ago,' said Dr Miamoto.
The project, sponsored by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University (UIGV) in Lima, Peru, has been an exciting challenge but was far from straightforward, according to the Brazilian scientists.
'The Lord of Sipán's skull was severely damaged,' Mr Moraes revealed. 'It had been smashed into about 96 fragments because it had been lying in the soil for centuries and had been crushed by pressure from the sediments,' he explained.
Mr Moraes went to inspect the relic with the permission of Peruvian Archaeologist Dr Walter Alva, in the presence of Dr Eduardo Ugaz, the dean of the faculty of engineering and computing, and Santiago Gonzales, from the same department, who helped coordinate the project.
The graphic imaging specialist was surprised to find the misshapen skull had been glued together. Conservation technicians at the Royal Tomb of Sipán Museum in Lambayeque on the north western coast of Peru, where the Moche mummy is entombed, had also pinned a plastic wireframe inside the skull cavity to stop the fragile cranial bones from falling apart.
pieces of the Lord of Sipan's crushed skull are held together by an
internal plastic wireframe |
and glue [Credit: Caters News]
To start the work, Mr Moraes used photogrammetry - a technique that uses photography to map measurements - to build 3D data of the bones. He took dozens of spatially accurate photographic measurements from all angles of the skull, digitally mapping the relic with 45 images of the upper half of the cranium and 45 of the lower half.
Mr Moraes said: 'I uploaded the photos into the computer and proceeded to break the skull into many pieces so I could start from scratch to remount it back to its original anatomy.'
To assist with the rebuilding, Mr Moraes, who is based in Sinop, a city in west-central Brazil, imported the image of an average male skull and used it as a template to reshape the old Lord of Sipán's head.
He said: 'It was like working with a 3D jigsaw puzzle but without the final correct picture to refer to.'
With detailed forensic anthropological and anatomical advice provided by Dr Miamoto along with the skull template, Mr Moraes manipulated the crushed remains, using trial and error, until he made them fit.
|The realistic face of the Lord of Sipán is finally revealed dressed in his royal finery |
[Credit: Caters News]
Dr Miamoto said: 'I was pleasantly surprised to find the Moche king had remarkably good oral health. He did have a few cavities but considering the period he lived in, his dental work showed he held a high economic position and was wealthy. During his era, it was typical for the majority of the peasants to use their teeth as tools. There was no evidence this person ever did this or did any hard work,' he added.
Dr Miamoto's work on the ancient skull was funded by the Sao Leopoldo Mandic Faculty for Dentistry and Medicine, in Campinhas, Sao Paulo. He used indicators, such as the superciliary arch, the bulky area above the eyebrows which is more pronounced in men than women, and examined the thickness of the bone behind the ears where the muscles of the neck connect, to confirm the skull was that of a middle-aged man.
He said: 'I'm confident from my research this ancient ruler didn't suffer from arthritis or have a degenerative disease. It's likely he died from natural causes.'
Nearly 2,000 years later in 1987, Archaeologist Dr Walter Alva discovered the warrior-priest's remains in an untouched pyramid burial chamber in Huaca Rajada, near Sipán. At the time, the find was listed as one of the ten most important discoveries in the twentieth century.
The excavation uncovered breathtaking burial treasures which included a crescent-shaped headdress of hammered gold, a gold death mask, gold eye and mouth patches and a necklace composed of sixteen gold discs.
The nature of the jewellery and ornaments, along with a warrior's shield lead archaeologists to conclude that he was a high-ranking warrior-priest or a lord.
Adding to the theory, the Moche leader was found buried with six other people including three women - thought to be wives or concubines - two males believed to be warriors and a child of around 10 years old.
Remains of another male were found on the roof overlooking the burial chamber.
Not surprisingly Dr Alva, who is also currently the director at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum is very protective of the excavated Moche relics. It took three months of negotiations before he finally granted permission for the ancient skull to be removed from its glass covered tomb for further inspection.
Reflecting on the collaboration between Brazil and Peru, Alva said: 'The reconstruction of the features of the Lord of Sipán and the forensic anthropological analysis has allowed us to get closer to the face of our ancestors.
'It has also been an important step in humanising and understanding more about the Moche Lord of Sipán.'
Author: Janet Tappin Coelho | Source: Daily Mail [September 22, 2016]