You Won’t Believe What Some of These Famous and Infamous Figures Actually Looked Like
It’s always weird seeing how our favorite book characters are depicted when a movie adaptation is made, but what about historical figures? Many of the ancient historical figures we learn about in school and in the movies looked way different than we ever imagined! Check out these images of famous and infamous historical figures created using modern technology.
The famous boy Pharaoh who presided over Egypt from 1334 – 1324 BC is famous for becoming ruler at the age of just nine! Archaeologist Howard Carter and other researchers used using CT, DNA testing, and thousands of digital scans to discover what the young ruler actually looked like. He passed away at the young age of nineteen, and they figured out why. All of the inbreeding to keep the family lineage “pure” actually created a host of diseases and malformations in the young Pharaoh.
King Tutankhamen had a clubfoot, an overbite, deformed hips, and chronic malaria infections. Scientists and historians believe his feebleness is why he was always portrayed sitting down.
Nero reigned as the emperor of Rome from 54 – 68 AD. He was known for many atrocities; namely the burning of Rome, and the chinstrap beard.
This is what Nero looked like back then. Look at that evil stare! He certainly looks like the kind of maniacal, power-hungry, Christian-killing emperor we learned about in our history books. Yikes!
Nefertiti served as the Queen of Egypt from 1353 – 1336 BC. She is especially popular because of a beautiful bust of her found by archeologists. Underneath the bust was another one carved of limestone. This one showed what her face really looked like.
She is still beautiful, but a little more realistic looking. She has some wrinkles and an uneven nose – in other words, she wasn’t perfect! I guess these bust artists were the original Facetune. Interesting fact: Nefertiti was King Tut’s grandmother, and her husband was his father… that explains King Tut’s many different ailments.
Maximilien Robespierre is most known for his role in the French Revolution. He was a lawyer and politician who was known for wanting to abolish both slavery and celibacy. This is a painting of him in all of his glory.
This is what poster boy Robespierre actually looked like. This was created using his death mask that was made by Madame Tussaud herself! He was executed in 1774, and Madame Tussaud used his severed head to make the mask. Talk about art.
Keep reading to find out what the beautiful Cleopatra looked like, and find out a little more about her famous lover Julius Caesar…
Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce, or Robert I, was King of Scots from 1306 to 1329. He is most well known for free Scotland from English reign after waging war on the English. All of the depictions of Robert the Bruce were drawn based on word of mouth details about his appearance.
Researchers were able to use the skull of Robert I to render an actual likeness of his face. Pretty cool!
Famous for creating the Caesar salad, Julius has been depicted many different times throughout history. Just kidding! We all know Caesar is famous for greatly expanding the Roman Empire with his military genius. We have all seen him looking good in old movies, but what did the real Julius Caesar look like?
Well, he apparently looked like our high school geometry teacher. This is what Julius Caesar looked like at the time of his death on the infamous Ides of March.
Cleopatra is another ancient celebrity who has long been depicted. She began ruling Egypt when she was 18 alongside her 10-year-old brother. She was run out of Egypt, but Julius Caesar was able to help her come back to power. She birthed a son believed to be Caesar’s named after her brother, Ptolemy. Did Cleopatra look like Elizabeth Taylor in real life?
We don’t think so, but you decide! Her features are far more “masculine” than depicted.
Cleopatra isn’t the only queen on our list who looks way different than we were led to believe! Keep reading…
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I had a tough time coming to power since her father Henry VIII annulled his marriage to her mother Anne Boleyn (after he had her beheaded!). Since he had their marriage annulled, Elizabeth was considered “illegitimate.” This famous portrait was painted when Elizabeth was 55, but the artist took some leeway with smoothing out her skin.
In 2018, artist Collishaw made a creepy animatronic mask of her face. The realistic depiction looks the same as the portrait; it just makes her look her age.
We all know who this guy is. In the famous words of the 1999 hit “Girls of Summer” by fleeting boy band LFO, “Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets.” (Although, we don’t know if Shakespeare would’ve approved of those dumb lyrics!) We also don’t really know what the man himself looked like. This picture above is the most well known portrait of the writing legend.
Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel discovered Shakespeare’s death mask in 1775. In 2010 In 2010, Dr. Carolin Wilkinson analyzed the death mask to come up with this image of what the man looked like. He looks very serious – but what can you expect from a soul that wrote such tragedies as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet?
We all know who this is – founding father and first President of the United States of America, George Washington. We see his face all the time, as it graces both the quarter and the one dollar bill. But is this famous portrait what Washington really looked like?
According to this CGI image created by researchers and historians, YES! That famous painting is very accurate. Impressive!
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary Stuart, aka “Mary, Queen of Scots,” reigned over Scotland from 1542 – 1567. Did you know that she rightfully became the queen when she was a mere 6 days old? Her father, the king passed away when she was an infant, making her the heir to the throne. Her image is famous – but is this really what she looked like?
Professor Caroline Wilkinson used paintings of the Queen to create a rendering of her actual face. She is still beautiful, but she must’ve clearly been self-conscious about her nose, because it is much smaller in most paintings of her.
Our earlier subject, William Shakespeare, wrote a play about this man, Richard III, where he portrayed him as an awful tyrant. He ruled only for two years, from 1483 – 1485; but in his short reign he had a reputation for being pretty insufferable. So, what did this mean guy look like for real?
Richard III’s body was lost shortly after he died, so the team who created his likeness had to go by historical records and descriptions to come up with this (kind of frightening) face.
Meritamun was Queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Ramesses the Great. She was largely unknown until researchers from Melbourne found her skull. Below is what she looked like for real…
It was easy for researchers to portray her face since they had her skull, but not much is known about her. Her skull put her only between 18-25 years of age, and her cause of death is still unknown.
We know some people will crucify us for saying it again, but… Jesus Christ was not white. The Savior of the world looked way more like this…
a regular-looking Joe from the Middle East. The hairstyle is obviously much different than what we’ve seen our whole lives too. Does it really matter? He performed miracles, was nice to everybody, and he was technically a zombie for a while – maybe we should focus on those things!
The Lord of Sipan
The Lord of Sipan was one of the first of the Moche mummies to be discovered in 1987 in Peru. Much like the Egyptian Pharaohs and Queens, The Lord of Sipan was buried surrounded by treasures.
The Lord of Sipan’s face was a little tough to nail, on account of archeologists had to piece together a skull that had broken into 96 pieces! They did good though with this image of The Lord of Sipan. The ornate jewelry and headdress are a cool touch.
Saint Anthony passed away at the young age of 36, but in his 36 years he earned quite the reputation. He was canonized just one year after his death. He is the Patron Saint of Lost Things, and he was known for his ability to heal the sick.
Forensic experts and researchers only had his tongue and jawbone to go by, alongside paintings of the young man. This is what his face looked like when he passed.
King Henry IV
King Henry IV, also known as “Henry the Great” and “Good King Henry” became the King of Navarre at the age of 19. His wedding celebration was full of Protestants, and the celebration turned into the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. He narrowly escaped death – and this wouldn’t be the last time!
This great king went on to survive TWELVE other assassination attempts during his reign. A forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier and a facial reconstruction specialist named Philippe Froesch recreated his face and it looks really great! Unfortunately the good king didn’t survive his 13th assassination attempt and he was killed with a dagger in 1610.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach is considered one of the greatest composers in the history of the world. He was a prodigy who began writing music before most kids are speaking in full sentences.
This image of the famous composer and musician was created using his actual skull, which was in an unmarked grave and nearly lost. So all in all, portraits of Bach were pretty realistic!
Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military leader who played a huge part in the revolution against the Spanish Empire. He was sent to Spain for his education, but quickly got swept up in the resistance. What did the man they call “El Libertador” actually look like?
According to the people responsible for this recreation – kind of like a handsome, young Venezuelan Abe Lincoln. What was his deadly downfall? Tuberculosis – very tragic.
My favorite line from the show Frasier is when Frasier tells his brother Niles, “Excuse me Niles, but I have news for you. Copernicus called, and you are not the center of the universe!” A clever joke, because as we know Nicolaus Copernicus was the man who discovered that it was the sun that was the center of the universe, and not the earth. In this picture of him, he kind of looks like a weird thumbprint. Let’s see what he actually looked like.
Well, Copernicus, you can’t have brains and beauty. This recreation is incredible! Poor Copernicus looks rather sad in both pictures. He would probably look really sad today.
Lady of Cao
The mysterious Moche mummy of Lady of Cao was discovered in 2005. It’s estimated that she passed away in the year 400 in her mid-twenties.
These photos are of the Lady of Cao’s remains modified and dressed. It is uncanny and fascinating! It is not 100% certain how she died and why she died so young, but her method of burial makes researchers and archaeologists think she could’ve been on the wrong end of a human sacrifice.
We all know who “Good St. Nick” is. But a lot of people don’t know that Santa Clause was based on a real Saint, who was known for his kindness and gift-giving. His tradition of leaving treats in kids’ shoes spawned the Christmas traditions we know of today. He was insanely influential! But, he also looked insanely different from what we’ve been led to believe.
Much like our friend Jesus, Saint Nick has also been the victim of whitewashing. Saint Nicholas was from Turkey, so he was also brown in complexion like Jesus. The beard was real though apparently!
Giovanni Battista Sidotti
Giovanni Battista Sidotti was a Christian missionary who was determined to spread the religion throughout Japan. His plan was to disguise himself as a Samurai soldier to spread the word. Unfortunately for him, actual Samurai soldiers easily identified him as an outsider and he spent the rest of his days imprisoned. He is often called “The Last Missionary.”
His remains were found nearly intact in 2014, and forensic anthropologists were able to put together this figure of what he looked like.
The Mycenaean Griffin Warrior
The Mycenaean Griffin Warrior was discovered in 2015 in a tomb from the Bronze Age dating back to 1450 BC. He was an intact skeleton who was buried with over 14,000 artifacts. Writing on the tomb walls gave archaeologists insight to who he was.
The Mycenaean Griffin Warrior looked like this based on his remains. He was 5’5” tall, which at the time would’ve been pretty big. He is assumed to have long hair based on the location, the time period, and the combs found in his tomb.
Famous for his genius work The Divine Comedy, Dante is one of the most important writers and philosophers of all time.
This recreation of his face is pretty close to how he was pictured. He died in 1321 at age 56, which was pretty elderly back in the day. This CGI likeness was created using his skull measurements from 1920.
And there you have it! The real faces of some famous and infamous historical figures. Some were spot-on, and some were way off (looking at you, Cleopatra!).