How The Face of Queen Wari, Peruvian Pre-Inca Noble, Was Restored


It is believed that she was especially venerated because in her grave there were jewels and other artifacts of value.

If you saw her on the street today, you probably wouldn’t think twice. The woman has typical older Andean features. But this woman whose face was recently rebuilt and named Queen Wari by researchers is over 1,200 years old.

It is one of the 58 skeletons of noble women that were found in 2012 in a tomb of the Wari civilization, which lived in what is now Peru between 700 and 1000 BC, centuries before the arrival of the Incas.

The tomb was discovered by Polish and Peruvian experts at El Castillo de Huarmey, an archaeological site located some 280 kilometers north of the Peruvian capital, Lima.

It is believed that the woman, about 60 years old, was especially venerated because in her grave there were jewels and other valuable artifacts, such as a ceremonial ax and a silver chalice.

There were also knitting tools made of gold, an indication of why she was so admired: for her talent as a weaver.

Skeletal analysis revealed Reina Wari had spent most of her life sitting, but had used the upper part of her body extensively. It is a typical feature of the weavers. Another aspect associated with this activity was the intake of chicha, a very sweet alcoholic beverage made from corn that only the members of the elite had access to. The Queen Wari was missing several teeth, something that archaeologists attributed the frequent consumption of chicha.

The Reconstruction

Oscar Nilsson, a forensic artist based in Sweden, who specializes in reconstructing skeletons. Giersz contacted Nilsson during the European autumn to “bring life” to Queen Wari.

Using a 3D printer, the expert created a copy of the Queen Wari skull and reconstructed its features by hand using clay.  It was also guided by the shape of the bones and statistics that allow estimating the thickness of the muscles of the face. As a reference, he used photographs of indigenous people living near El Castillo de Huarmey.

It took more than 220 hours to perform his work, which included details such as wrinkles and pores, and after finishing sculpting the face he created a silicone mold. “In this way, I can be very realistic, it looks almost like a real person, even for me,” the author said.

The reconstruction is part of a sample of Peruvian objects that was opened at the National Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw this December.


Have you seen this face?

Cover Photo: Oscar Nilsson

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Mark Owen

Mark is a wonderful contributor to our Traveling & Living in Peru Feature team!