Scientists give a face to ancient Greek girl
Tue, 14 Sep 2010 12:48p.m.
Greek scientists and archaeologists have given an ancient Athenian girl from the 5th century BC a face by using her skeleton, found in an ancient grave. 'Myrtis' has been brought back to life through facial reconstruction from her intact skull and teeth.
The 11-year-old Athenian girl died of typhoid fever in 430 BC during a plague, and her bones were found in a mass grave near the ancient Athenian cemetery of Keramikos when the Athens subway was being dug up in 1995. The mass grave was full of 150 men, women and children.
Professor and orthodontist from the University of Athens Manolis Papagrigorakis, with a team of one Swedish and 19 Greek scientists, said Myrtis was chosen because of the good condition of her skull and teeth that gave them a lot to work with.
"We had all of the skull, the jaw, and the teeth, and something very rare - the milk teeth on the skull. These all helped us to be accurate with the final product, and we are very close - 95 percent close to reality with the final product," said Papagrigorakis during a presentation at the National Archaeological Museum.
The scientists used a 3-D technological program called the "Manchester method" - from the University of Manchester - often used on Egyptian mummies, for the reconstruction process.
Papagrigorakis took DNA from the teeth of the other skulls in the grave to prove that they had died of typhoid fever. DNA was not taken from Myrtis herself because the team did not want to damage her intact teeth.
"The first part of the research was an analysis of the ancient DNA in order find out what the Athenians of the period had died of in Athens. This study took place in 2006 and it was found to be typhoid fever," Papagrigorakis explained.
Typhoid fever killed many during the period, including Pericles, the great ancient Athenian statesman who had the vision of building the Acropolis. The Classical period of Greece is its most famous, when art, architecture and philosophy flourished.
Greek archaeologist Efi Baziotopoulou, who excavated the Keramikos site, contributed historical information for the colour of Myrtis hair, eyes, and dress, and gave her her name, said Papagrigorakis.
Myrtis has been placed near funerary steles from the cemetery of the same period in the museum.
The exhibition at the museum has been called "Face to Face with the Past", and Papagrigorakis says they will also attempt the same reconstruction on another man and woman.
Because of her death from typhoid fever, Myrtis has even been made a representative of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a project to raise awareness over various issues in the world including child health.
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17/05/2012 5:00:19 p.m.
Zeus, God of Thunder and Sky wrote:
10,000 years is not nearly long enough for humans to grow wings or whatever it is your concept of evolution misconstrues.
You may be interested in read up on 'lactase persistence", however.
8/05/2012 4:48:13 p.m.
fascinating Jim .seriously could not care less about the hair color but its interesting how life like she looks . funny she is say 10 thousand years old not even a hint of evolution interesting well that's as the law of nature like physical laws do not change. seeds only bring after their own kind and thats the law of seed . you have to hybrid it in a lab to get seed to act diffrent and then its dead it cant reproduce live seed . you have to make the seed in the lab again .the are laws in nature .
21/09/2010 10:01:12 a.m.
I find it hard to believe the ancient child had "red" hair in the sense of carrot top, as we know it in English. If there were references in ancient literature to "red," I suspect it was "red" in the sense of brown, as we would say in English. As opposed to black hair, which paintings by Mediterranean peoples show plenty of Mediterranean people had. Other than that, my only comment is, what a cutie! Too bad about the typhoid. And what a great job of restoration.
18/09/2010 9:35:27 a.m.
Charles Eggen wrote:
I think it will be necessary to seriously consider offshore exploration. Looking at the future, New Zealand either needs to find and extract any significant oil and gas deposits or it will need to consider nuclear power. I think that, between those two, oil and gas is the lesser evil. At least it will provide the time and funds needed to improve and implement such alternatives as solar, wind, steam and biofuels.
16/09/2010 7:23:38 a.m.
Dear Manual of L.A."whiten her up".Good grief! Your racial prejudices are showing.Of course she is pale. She is a juvenile, female, Athenian child. And it is well known that female Athenians usually kept themselves mostly at home and really did not go in for that nice bronzed, sun-tanned look as their male counterparts did.Sappho even bemoaned the fact that she was dark-skinned when all the rage was to have light skin and light-colored hair? - and this was back in the 6th century (long before any racial mixing of which you have so readily introduced into the topic). So this goes to show that there were Hellenes with light features. Besides, is not sun-tanning a rather modern preference?Oh, there was only one Germanic invasion of Balkan Hellas - the Visigoths under Alaric (late 4th century), so your intimation of several "invasions" is historically incorrect. There was an incursion of Heruli, but they only attacked Athens. Your assumption that there was some great racial intermixing is just that - an assumption.And lastly, your pre-occupation with racial purity and classification and all those "buzz" words you use - I suppose we can thank the "good" folks in FYROM for emphasizing that - being the ever-so accurate historians that they have so readily proved to be. So, unless you have a rather complete analysis of what almost every individual ancient looked like, it think it would be rather best to leave that topic alone.In actuality, and using one's logic about it, one can say that the ancients were already a rather mixed lot:Palaiolithic inhabitants - anybody's guess about them.Neolithic Invaders - DNA indicates from Anatolia.Pre-Hellenes (including Minoans and various others) - probably from southwest Anatolia based on placename and some cultural (i.e., mostly religious) similarities.Hellenic invaders (c 2200/2000) - traditionally from the north - somewhere.The Dorian Invasion (traditionally 1100) - again, somewhere from the north (perhaps). I like to also call this a migration - assuming that the 12th century decline caused a largescale drop in the population as evidenced by a dramatic decline in artefact finds and burials.The Hellenes of Krete differed from those that lived in the Peloponnesos, who differed from those on the islands, who differed from those in Thessalia, Aitolia, Epeiros and other parts of the country. But, in the end, they all recognized themselves, to one extent or the other, as sharing a common culture in all its manifestations - and that is what being a Hellene was all about, not this modern notion of some kind of racial purity and exclusiveness. Let us leave Skopje to weave fantasies about that one.I have studied the Hellenes for decades. I have seen theories come and go. I have learned this one great lesson - be careful about basing one's ideas on a set of shakey assumptions - many times these will come back and bite you. The best example is the disproved "Linear-B-is-anything-but-Greek" argument - need I say more?
15/09/2010 10:55:07 p.m.
@ Jamie from Canada
I'm gonna take a wild guess and say Jamie, that you (or your) derive from Greece's a tiny neighbouring country, FYROM..Please leave your nationalistic hate-speech (so obviously tied to genetic purity delusions preached by own countrymen) for another time and place.
Greeks come in all shapes, colours and sizes..And yes i'm a Greek!
15/09/2010 10:17:44 p.m.
Kimon from Greece wrote:
I come from a Greek island. My mother is dark skinned (remnant of the Ottoman Turks). My father is brown-haired -as I am-, maybe an Italo-Ottoman-Slave-Bulgarian-Russian remnant? I have a brown haired daugter and a blond son with dark brown eyes (a Germanic-Celtic-Frank-Albanian-Finnish remnant?). Please, Manuel from LA, help me to understand who I am.
15/09/2010 10:00:04 p.m.
Karl from NZ wrote:
The decision to make her a pale redhead is surprising, unless they've checked out her DNA, though there are redheads mentioned in Mycenean and Classical Greek literature it would hardly be the kind of average you would normally apply to this kind of speculative reconstuction. I also think you would struggle to find anyone not Albino with that skin tone.
Modern and ancient Greeks are the same people, though naturally with the admixture brought by centuries like the rest of us. They're not Ottomans, or the product of 'Germanic invasions', which didn't occur in any numbers anyway. 'Whitened up', I suspect you've never been to Greece with that comment. There are many sun-darkened Greeks, but many fair ones too, like any Mediteranean population.
15/09/2010 12:47:04 p.m.
Jamie from Canada wrote:
Manuel from LA:
the trouble is that the modern Greeks are nothing like their modern counterparts. The dark skinned Greeks you see today are the remnants of the Ottoman Turks which ruled Greece until quite recently (though the Greeks might be loath to admit it). In today's politically correct world, the mere idea that a group of researchers would distort the colour of a person's skin to please a demographic group is preposterous. Can you imagine the scandal that would cause? No. I don't think Myrtis has been "whitened up at all".
15/09/2010 1:21:14 a.m.
Luke from Brisbane QLD wrote:
i got all excited cos Sky News in Australia reported it like this " Scientists have brought back to life an ancient greek girl who lived over 2000 years ago" i got all excited cos i thought she was actually alive lol
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