Reconstruction of Nabataean woman to help understanding of ancient civilisation

What is believed to be the first known reconstruction of an ancient Nabataean woman’s face will be displayed in Saudi Arabia after years of work from archaeologists, anthropologists and academics.

The remains of the woman, known as Hinat, were found in a tomb on the outskirts of the ancient city of Hegra – she was thought to have died around the first century BC.

Archaeologists, anthropologists, forensic reconstruction experts and a 3D sculptor were all involved in the process – after a 3D reconstruction was completed and validated in July 2020, work began on making molds to produce a silicon bust of her face.

The reconstruction will be displayed at the Hegra Welcome Centre in AlUla from February 6.

Dr Christopher A Tuttle, a Nabataean specialist, said it is “the first chance we have to really envision what these people looked like”.

He added: “One of the problems in Nabataean archaeology and the study of the people is we lack images of them.

“They’re not portrayed very often in their own art, and for many decades of people working at Nabataean archaeological sites, we didn’t have very many human remains.”

Hinat at the Hegra Welcome Centre
The display at the Hegra Welcome Centre (Royal Commission for AlUla/PA)

Dr Helen McGauran, project lead for the reconstruction, said: “They’re still a fairly mysterious civilisation to a lot of people.

“I hope that this project will enable people to engage with the faces, the characters, the story of the Nabataeans in a much deeper way than perhaps has previously been realised.”

The Nabataeans were a group thought to be from central Arabia who became wealthy as the result of trade.

Their civilisation was said to have been a diverse one, while they carved “fabulously elaborate tombs into the sandstone cliffs that surround Hegra” according to National Geographic.