Japanese researchers unveil digital reconstruction of 1,600-year-old woman

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Researchers in Japan have digitally reconstructed the image of a woman born 1,600 years ago using DNA technology and advanced computer graphics.
The research team of scientists from seven research institutes, in cooperation with the Department of Education of Yonezawa City, released the photo and video of the replica model named "Himiko of Okitama" on November 4.
Himiko is depicted in the images, made possible by DNA analysis and forensic facial reconstruction, with droopy eyes, a flat nose, and straight black hair.
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The woman's skin color and hair type were reportedly determined based on genetic data derived from her skeletal remains exhumed in 1982. Her "droopy eyes" were based on the estimated thickness of her skin.
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The bones were taken from a stone coffin found in Totsukayama Tomb No. 137, one of the 200 tombs at the foot of Mount Totsukayama in Asagawa District of Yonezawa.
Himiko's coffin also contained a long-pronged comb and a small knife.
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A study conducted by Dokkyo Medical University found the woman was about 143 to 145 centimeters tall and was estimated to have died around the age of 40.
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In 2017, a separate excavation conducted by Tohoku Gakuin University at the Haizukayama burial mound in Kitakata resulted in the excavation of the skeletal remains of a 50-year-old man.
The research team held a symposium in Yonezawa City on November 13 to explain the process involved in Himiko's reconstruction project.
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The project began after nuclear DNA extracted from her teeth was compared to the man's remains, leading to the conclusion that her genetic data was about 96 to 97 percent well preserved, The Asahi Shimbun reported.
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Hideto Tsuji of Tohoku Gakuin University, who led the project, noted that the "complete nuclear DNA data" they extracted from the remains are rarely found in ancient human bones.
In 2021, Tohoku University's Yuka Hatano and Toshihiko Suzuki began examining the woman's remains and reconstructing her facial features. The research team also commissioned the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo to analyze the nuclear DNA.
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The results of the National Museum of Nature and Science analysis show that she had straight black hair and brown or black-brown skin. Her eyes were reportedly a color somewhere between black and brown.
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While Himiko's skull had already lost his nasal bone and part of his right side, the researchers were able to visualize the old woman likely clenching her teeth, which could provide insight into her eating habits.
"Her teeth were found worn down with obvious signs of temporomandibular joint dysfunction," Hatano said. "The conditions appeared to result from her chewing style and other habits, and her jaw was distorted slightly to the left."
Researchers noted that while Himiko may have descended from people from the Yayoi pottery culture period (1000 BC - AD 250), they also share characteristics of people from the earlier Jomon pottery culture period (c. 14500 BC - 1000 BC).
Featured image via The Asahi Shimbun Company

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