Via The Huffington Post, I found this fascinating article in The Daily Mail about recent efforts to reconstruct an image of the legendary Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. Cleopatra (69 BC - 30 BC) was the last Pharaoh of a (nearly) independent ancient Egypt, and her seduction of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony is a story of legend. There has been some debate as to her appearance, however, with some authors claiming she was a woman of immense beauty, while others suggesting she was short, frumpy and plain. A variety of images of Cleopatra exist in sculpture, but there is no definitive picture of the doomed queen.
For over a year, Egyptologist Sally Ann Ashton (who wrote a book on Cleopatra which came out in May) has been developing a computer-regenerated image of Cleopatra based on the collection of contemporary artwork. The result is an image of a lovely woman of apparent mixed ethnicity:
How accurate are such images? I often wonder at the authenticity of such reconstruction techniques; after all, we have no real way of comparing ancient Egyptian artwork to the real-life person. It is still a fascinating bit of work, and the resulting image looks oddly similar to my friend cairochemist, who occasionally posts on this blog!