Face of elite ancient Peruvian “Lady of the Four Brooches” reconstructed. Kinda.

In April of last year, archaeologists discovered a 4,500-year-old intact burial of a noblewoman at the ancient site of Apero in Caral, northcentral Peru. Her remains were found buried in the Huaca de los Idolos, a pyramidal structure made of overlapping platforms accessible via a central staircase built by the Norte Chico civilization, the oldest in the Americas which flourished in the area between the 4th and 2nd millennia B.C. She was carefully positioned in a crouch and wrapped in layers of textiles, a swath of cotton wrapped around her head, another cotton textile wrapped around body. Thus wrapped, her body was then bundled in a final layer, a reed fiber mat that was fastened closed with ropes. The mummy bundle was placed atop a stone basin containing plant matter offerings including a bowl of mate fragments, tubers and seeds. That was covered with a layers of ash and soil.
Pinned to the cotton sheath that was wrapped around her body archaeologists found four “tupus,” brooches carved in the shape of animals: two birds with long tail feathers and chrysocolla minerals as eyes and two howler monkeys. They were placed on top of her shoulders and earned her her modern moniker. Underneath her where her tucked head almost touched her knees was a splendidly long necklace made of 460 white mollusk shell beads with a large pendant made from the shell of the spondylus mollusk. This was a rare and luxurious item that attests to her high position in Apero society, as do the tupu fasteners.
Caral was a major urban center, long thought to be the most ancient city in the Americas and is certainly one of its most ancient. Covering more than 150 acres in area and inhabited by 3,000 people at its peak, it one of the largest Norte Chico sites known and its most thoroughly studied. No evidence has been found of defensive structures — no walls, no earthenware ditches, no battlements — nor have any weapons, mass graves or other indicators of warfare. Neither have archaeologists found remains suggesting the Norte Chico peoples practiced human sacrifice as later civilizations like the Incas would. About 14 miles from the main city of Caral, Apero was Caral’s harbour town and its primary source of fish.
Since the discovery of the mummy bundle, the Lady of the Four Brooches has been studied thoroughly. She was about five feet tall and right-handed. While her elaborate grave goods, burial method and location indicate she was a member of the elite of Apero, her bones show tell-tale signs of hard work during her lifetime, likely in agriculture or perhaps the local mainstay, fishing. She also appeared to have suffered a serious fall shortly before her death, fracturing three bones. Her skull was flattened on top between the occipital and parietal regions, the result of intentional cranial deformation done when she was a baby before her skull bones had hardened, a widespread practice around the world, including in ancient Andean societies. She was between 40 and 50 years when she died.
To bring her features back to life, an international team of archaeologists, scientists and artists collaborated on a facial reconstruction project, now complete. This was not a simple task. Her skull is 4,500 years old, after all, and has areas that are missing or severely stained by the decomposition process and the remains of the organic materials she was wrapped in. Brazilian 3D computer graphic artist Cicero Moraes was enlisted to turn that skull into a face. It took him two months to fill the gaps in the skull, replacing the missing eye socket by mirroring the complete one, comparing the Lady’s skull with that of a modern Peruvian woman of similar age and genetic ancestry and utilizing computer technology that simulates natural facial muscles using the skull as a foundation.
I don’t know why he would do such a thing in an ostensibly scientific research project, but he also softened the Lady of the Four Brooches’ features. He altered her markedly square, strong jawline he described as “masculine” so that her chin was more pointed giving her a softer more “feminine” appearance. (Women can’t have square jaws now? Somebody alert Paulina Porizkova to her lack of femininity stat!) He also hid her flat skull behind a headdress which was not among her grave goods. Cranial modification was not something hidden by the societies that practiced it. That was the opposite of their intent. In fact, it was often a designator of societal status and considered beautiful. There is no justification I can think of for projecting one’s own highly subjective aesthetic choices using a modern woman’s skull to distort the reconstruction. It should map directly to her real skull. What’s the point of using all those complex data tables and software to build up the soft tissues in an anatomically accurate manner if you’re going to gin up the bones they map to because you think a lady’s jawline isn’t dainty enough?
This bizarre choice is covered in the news stories and press materials entirely without comment as if it were totally ho-hum and not worth addressing. They just get right to the (admittedly compelling) finished digital reconstruction, unveiled Wednesday, October 11th, by the Ministry of Culture in Lima. I get it, because I’m always curious about facial reconstructions and have covered several, but I’ve never seen this kind of deliberate modification based on perceived chin cuteness and the artist’s preferred head shape. So I’d like to tell here she is, but the best I can do is say here are a few parts of her, including how her handsome adornments looked when worn.

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Comment by Hermann Munster
2017-10-25 03:35:30

Mind-boggling – A peruvian mummy that looks like a peruvian mommy: However, regardless of her square, or maybe not so square chin, the reconstruction with her full attire and the “tupus” is not bad at all. In comparison to her 2800y younger relative, the ‘Lady of Cao’, she looks almost ‘modern’. The chin of ‘Osterby Man’, himself not related to her at all, with -his ‘suebian’ knotted hairstyle, for example, is not even his own 😆

“typically with them is to twist their hair back, and fasten it in a knot. This distinguishes the Suebi from other Germans, as from their slaves. With other tribes, either connected to the Suebi, or often imitating them, the practice is an occasional one, restricted to youth. The Suebi affect the fashion of drawing back their wild locks till their heads are gray, and often they are knotted on the very top of the head.”

“… insigne gentis obliquare crinem nodoque substringere: sic Suebi a ceteris Germanis, sic Sueborum ingenui a servis separantur. In aliis gentibus seu cognatione aliqua Sueborum seu, quod saepe accidit, imitatione, rarum et intra iuventae spatium; apud Suebos usque ad canitiem horrentem capillum retro sequuntur. …”

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Comment by The Jannie
2017-10-25 05:23:36

I can just hear the work in progress . .

“Sorry, guys, she’s looking a bit dodgy.”
“That won’t do at all; make her a looker then we’ll be sure to make the newspapers . . .”

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Comment by Cordate
2017-10-25 06:59:12

Reconstructions like this are usually of questionable veracity but this one’s choice to simply change the data they didn’t like is certainly extra weird.

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Comment by Trevor Butcher
2017-10-25 09:34:17

Post-mortem plastic surgery, it is all the rage…


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Comment by Karen
2017-10-25 10:25:31

Even 4500 years after death, a woman isn’t worth knowing unless she’s deemed beautiful.

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Comment by Jean @ Howling Frog
2017-10-25 13:35:43

What a bizarre thing to do. I want to know what she actually might have looked like, what’s the point of this??

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Comment by Renee Yancy
2017-10-25 14:42:25

I am always interested in facial reconstructions, too, but this is crazy. I want to see the best possible depiction of what they really looked like, not this guy’s idea of femininity.

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Comment by Hermann Munster
2017-10-25 17:47:57

The ‘Apero’ site is located at 10.8156°S , 77.741°W – According to the Spanish version of the above mentioned article, she died at about 40 (‘una mujer de aproximadamente 40 años’) and at 5 ft (152.4 cm) she was indeed not very tall.

Personally , I came to the conclusion that he simply ‘3d-constructed’ her after Archaeologist Ruth Shady – only that the archeologist’s cranium is not flat. This also would explain why it was hidden :yes:

Cf.: ‘Ruth_Shady_en_Caral_2014.JPG’ (wikimedia).

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Comment by Cicero Moraes
2017-10-28 12:51:32

Thank you for sharing our work!

For who have doubt about the technic of reconstruction, please download our free e-book: http://goo.gl/QUIIJu

The ebook is in Portuguese, but have a lot of images and… you can use Google to translate the part of interest.

A big hug for all!

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Comment by Cicero Moraes
2017-10-28 12:52:08

Thank you for sharing our work!

For who have doubt about the technic of reconstruction, please download our free e-book: goo.gl/QUIIJu

The ebook is in Portuguese, but have a lot of images and… you can use Google to translate the part of interest.

A big hug for all!

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Comment by Bob
2017-12-20 14:27:05

Well, apparently Peruvian national honour was at stake so you can understand him taking a few liberties to improve her appearance. :shifty: The closest genetic relatives to the Ainu of Japan are said to be the ancient “Peruvians”, and from the photos we have, Ainu women tended to have pretty strong jaws.

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