What The People Of Egypt Looked Like Before They Built The Pyramids

Face of a man who lived around 30,000 years ago in the Nile Valley

by J.J Olawuyi

Gazing into the visage of an individual who roamed the Nile Valley thousands of years before the grand pyramids graced the Egyptian landscape offers a poignant glimpse into prehistoric Egypt. Recent endeavors have yielded facial reconstructions of a 30,000-year-old human whose remains were unearthed at the archaeological site of Nazlet Khater 2, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Brazilian archaeologist Moacir Elias Santos and 3D designer Cícero Moraes.

Final Stages of Facial Reconstruction: Image Credit to Moacir Elias Santos and Cícero Moraes (CC BY 4.0)

The individual in question, a young male likely in his late teens or twenties, bore African ancestry and stood at a height of approximately 165 centimeters (5 foot 4 inches). The age of these remains initially eluded precise determination due to the fragmented bone quality and the relatively rudimentary radiocarbon dating technology available in the early 1980s. Thankfully, a crucial clue in the form of a stone axe found alongside the body provided a date, placing the individual’s existence between 35,000 and 30,000 years ago.

Notably, the skull exhibits “modern” characteristics, hinting at cognitive abilities akin to contemporary humans. Nevertheless, some “archaic” features emerge, particularly a larger jaw compared to modern Homo sapiens.

To recreate the face of this ancient dweller, the researchers employed photogrammetry imaging to capture the skull’s shape. Missing components of the remains were meticulously reconstructed using a variety of scientific techniques. Once a comprehensive skull approximation was achieved, the next challenge lay in determining the placement and appearance of soft tissues such as muscles and fat on the skull.

Facial reconstruction based solely on a skull is an inexact science, necessitating a degree of artistic interpretation. This arises from the skull’s limited ability to provide insights into the precise appearance of soft tissues on an individual’s face.

Consequently, Santos and Moraes produced two final images: one grounded in objectivity and science, resembling a rough bust, and the other embracing subjectivity and artistry, featuring hair, a light beard, and expressive eyes. While the “scientific” depiction offers a more conservative representation, the “artistic” rendering aims to humanize the individual more fully, recognizing the challenge of conveying a lifelike appearance solely through a grayscale image with closed eyes.

This individual would have led a hunter-gatherer existence, armed solely with stone tools and his intellectual faculties. It wasn’t until 6000 BCE, approximately 25,000 years after his time, that permanent settlements began to dot the Egyptian landscape.

Facial Approximation with Objective Elements: Credit to Moacir Elias Santos and Cícero Moraes (CC BY 4.0)

The fertile grounds of Egypt eventually bore witness to one of history’s most remarkable civilizations, renowned for its complex culture and architectural marvels. The question of how ancient Egypt achieved such advancements has often been shrouded in mystery, with some invoking extraterrestrial influence. However, contemporary researchers have been steadily unraveling the true origins of this civilization’s achievements, which, contrary to popular belief, do not involve aliens.

This compelling study is published in OrtogOnline, shedding new light on the captivating history of Egypt’s distant past.

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