Working 12 to 14 hour days over a three-week period this spring, Sackville sculptor Christian Corbet reconstructed the face of King Tutankhamun, the Egyptian pharaoh who lived, reigned and died more than 3,000 years ago.
“I have always been fascinated by faces,” Corbet says.
“The closest thing to the soul is the face.”
When asked what it means to reconstruct someone’s face, Corbet answers without hesitation.
“Well, it means a rebirth,” he says.
“No better word could be used in this situation than rebirth because the Egyptians firmly believed in an afterlife.”
Corbet created King Tut’s forensic facial reconstruction for a two-hour PBS documentary on the ancient ruler filmed to mark the 100th anniversary of the discovery of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile near the city of Luxor.
“For the first time thanks to CT scans and Egyptian tissue marker charts, we can see the face of Tutankhamun,” says a synopsis of the film on the PBS International website.
The documentary, called Tutankhamun: Allies and Enemies, will be broadcast on November 23rd and until then, Corbet can’t allow anyone to photograph his facial reconstruction.
Brief glimpses of it can be seen, however, near the end of the two-minute trailer for the documentary.
Corbet’s previous work
Corbet was chosen for the project by Andrew Nelson, chair of the anthropology department at Western University in London, Ontario.
The two worked together about 20 years ago when Corbet reconstructed the face of a 2,200 year-old Egyptian mummy that had been donated to a museum in Chatham, Ontario by the Sulman family in the 1920s.
He has also created other forensic facial reconstructions including one that helped identify the body of Tommy Lawless, a World War One soldier buried in Avion, France and another of the heroic Scottish king, Robert the Bruce.
Corbet says the Tutankhamun film’s director and executive producer, Hossam Aboul-Magd, wanted him to reconstruct King Tut’s face in Washington, D.C. or Egypt.
But Corbet says he insisted on doing it here in Sackville.
“I wanted to work from my home, that’s where my studios are,” he says, “and I thought this was something that would benefit not only our province, but our little town.”
The film crew spent several days in Sackville shooting scenes of Corbet creating his reconstruction, a process he describes as “where science meets art.”
He says forensic facial reconstruction involves the painstaking process of building up muscles, adding skin, open eyes and in this case, a kingly crown.
“I’m putting a face back to somebody,” he says, “by using modern-day technology and science, by understanding how to apply tissue markers and musculature…and when you add a crown to it as well…it just pulls the entire project together.
“The rebirth is seeing a king again, he’s been dead for 3,000 plus years, and he came back to life in Sackville.”