Facial reconstructions help the past come alive. But are they accurate?


The man gazes straight ahead, his eyes as dark as coals. His nose juts prominently from his tan face, which has become creased with wrinkles over time. Tufts of gray hair sprout from his balding head. He could be anyone — a neighbor, a parent, a friend.

In fact, this man was one of ancient Egypt‘s most powerful pharaohs, Ramesses II. The 19th-dynasty king ruled for 66 years, beginning in 1279 B.C., and his likeness has been chiseled into colossal statues and printed in textbooks around the world. But until recently, only those who met the man knew what he looked like.