Elvis, four months before his death
Below is one of the last known photographs of Elvis Presley, and it was taken close to his death at the age of 42. The “King of Rock” was born on Jan. 8, 1935, so if he was alive in 2019 he would be 83 years young.
Elvis Presley was what you might call a “strapping lad,” but as you can probably tell his looks had faded by the time he died of respiratory failure on Aug. 16, 1977. Addiction to drugs and a die-hard commitment to keep performing for his fans led to his downfall. But what if he went sober and was still alive today? What would he look like?
What Elvis would look like now
The two images side-by-side show an uncanny resemblance and are highly accurate predictions of what Elvis would look like today. Artists at Sachs Media examined how Elvis aged over the years and came up with the Computer Generated Image (CGI) of “the King” on the right.
As you can see, Elvis’ famous, slight lip quiver and faint wink of his left eye have led to a few more wrinkles on that side of the face. Elvis also still has a full head of hair, as the man who was famous for his jet black hair (he used shoe polish for dye by the way) never lost a shred of his hairline.
John Lennon, four months before his death
This photograph of John Lennon was taken about a mile and a half from The Dakota (the building where he was killed) at the age of 40. The ex-Beatles songwriter, singer, and guitarist was born on Oct. 9, 1940, which would make him 79 years old if he was alive today.
Despite the fact that Lennon certainly didn’t shy away from substances that would’ve aged him, he appears to have aged very well in the course of his lifetime. He was relatively healthy when he was gunned down by March David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980, and one can only surmise that if the lunatic Chapman hadn’t done that terrible deed, Lennon would still be looking good today.
What John Lennon would look like now
You can almost see the wisdom in the eyes of the 79-year-old Lennon, as the outspoken champion for world peace likely would’ve reached philosopher status. He’s also opted for contact lenses, showing us the first Lennon without glasses since his starring in How I Won the War in 1967.
Lennon’s hair has thinned and his hairline has receded, but the Sachs Media artist has been kind to the color of Lennon’s hair, as even at 40 he showed no sign of going grey. As for his attire, Lennon adopted a more avant-garde look after marrying Yoko Ono, and gone were his days of psychedelic suits and fur coats.
Jimi Hendrix, two weeks before his death
The happy Jimi Hendrix that you see below is shown arriving at Heathrow Airport in London in August of 1970. A tragic member of the 27 Club, Hendrix was born on Nov. 27, 1942, so if he was alive today, he would be 76 years old.
Hendrix didn’t really seem to age a day while he was in the spotlight, and perhaps he wasn’t alive long enough to show it. It would’ve taken a Herculean effort to get Hendrix sober, at least enough so that he would live long enough to know what he looked like when he was older, as he was accustomed to abusing barbiturates and alcohol at the same time.
What Jimi Hendrix would look like now
Jimi Hendrix was considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and we can only dream about what music as a whole would’ve been like if he had been alive all this time. The CGI pictured on the right matches his nose and lips perfectly and even has him sporting the same goatee.
Although his hair has thinned and his hairline receded, he looks pretty good for a man in his mid-70s. Music fans missed out on many groundbreaking tunes because Jimi Hendrix was the first guitarist to master the art of feedback. He also had a unique style where he’d use his pinkie to play a note higher on the string, so extra sound filled his melodies like a fire in the night.
Janis Joplin, three months before her death
Janis Joplin, or “Pearl” as she was commonly known, should still be screaming her raw authentic style into microphones around the world. But instead, she died on Oct. 4, 1970. The photograph below was taken about three months before she died in late June 1970, and she’s pictured wearing some unique clothes, as she was famous for designing her own outfits.
Janis Joplin was born on Jan. 19, 1943, so she would be 76 years old this year. Joplin likely would’ve had a few hard years ahead of her, as she frequently drank and used drugs simultaneously. In that way, she’s a lot like Jimi Hendrix, and just like him, Joplin is another member of the 27 Club.
What Janis Joplin would look like now
Janis Joplin is considered the first female rock star in history, and just like the first rock ‘n roll artists, Joplin had her origins in blues. In any photograph of Joplin singing music, she looks like she’s in a rage-filled trance, as she sang with the feeling of a thousand poets.
But when she wasn’t singing, she was smiling, and it appears she kept that part of her in her old age. It’s caused some happy wrinkles (with love to Bob Ross) in her face, and her eyes still hold that energy that captivated audiences for a time that was too short.
Jim Morrison, 10 months before his death
It seemed unlikely that Jim Morrison would make it to his 30s, given his disdain for sobriety and consciousness in general. Morrison was born on Dec. 8, 1943, and in a world where pigs could fly and hell could freeze over, he would be 76 years old today.
The photograph above was taken in San Diego in August 1970, and during this time, his face and body had already begun a transformation. Morrison’s consumption of substances was part of an extremely unhealthy existence that saw him gain a lot of weight in his last few years. He also added a beard, which masked his boyish good looks.
What Jim Morrison would look like now
As the front man of the Doors, Morrison’s entire existence was an experiment in reality and perception. The reality of his 76-year-old self is that he’s aged fairly well. Jim’s hairline has receded and his curls seemed to have been ironed out.
Would Jim be smiling if he was older? So few photographs actually show him smiling that it’s hard to tell. But if he had been able to put down the bottle of Jim and stop chasing the dragon, that could’ve cheered him up. The artists at Sachs Media decided to keep Morrison’s beard, which looks a lot better short than it did bushy.
Kurt Cobain, four months before his death
The photograph below represents our last good memory of Kurt Cobain when he recorded his final album “Unplugged in New York.” Cobain was born on Feb. 20, 1967, making him the youngest rock star on our list. If he were alive today, he would be 52 years old.
Cobain was considered an icon of his generation, but he didn’t like being given that label. Nonetheless, he transformed rock when he fused it with punk and created “grunge.” He’s the last string of members from the 27 Club, and you can only wonder after only 25 years since his death on April 5, 1994, what would he look like now?
What Kurt Cobain would look like now
Cobain’s steely blue eyes look like they’ve seen a few things in this world. He actually looks a lot like the 27-year-old version of Cobain in a lot of ways with his long blonde hair and a short goatee. Credit to the artist at Sachs Media that had him wearing a flannel (a look he popularized).
A tortured soul near the end of his days; whether he was happy or sad, sober or not, Cobain always captured his feelings and manifested them into rock ‘n roll. His skill with the guitar also landed him in Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 guitarists of all time.”
Bob Marley, eight months before his death
Bob Marley was born on Feb. 6, 1945, and that would make him 74 years old if he was alive today. With exception of John Lennon, the CGI images of these rock ‘n roll legends show rock stars that could’ve saved themselves. Bob Marley’s tragic death might have been preventable, but certainly was unfortunate.
The above photograph shows Bob Marley in his second to last show. Marley and the Wailers rocked the crowd at Madison Square Garden so wildly, that the band who came after — the Commodores — were a huge disappointment. Just a few days later, Marley was jogging through Central Park and collapsed.
What Bob Marley would look like today
Marley was an avid athlete his entire life, and it was actually his love of soccer that got him into trouble. After collapsing at Madison Square Garden, it was revealed that Marley had cancer of the liver, lungs, and brain — all stemming from an old soccer injury to his big toe.
One can only imagine what the world would’ve been like if that hadn’t happened, as Marley was a champion love and human equality. That’s why his eyes look resolute and still hold the fire that burned within him as a young man. His dreadlocks look almost blonde as if he’s been basking away in the sun in Jamaica all this time.
Dennis Wilson, one year before his death
Dennis Wilson was one of three brothers that founded the Beach Boys, and the middle child was born on Dec. 4, 1944. That would make him 74 years old today. Not only was Wilson the drummer, but he also sang backup vocals and wrote his own songs.
Wilson even had a successful solo career and was the only member of the Beach Boys who actually surfed. This photograph shows Wilson in a more dilapidated state one year before he died. He also struggled with substance abuse, and shortly after he was kicked out of the Beach Boys, he drowned at Marina Del Rey.
What Dennis Wilson would look like today
As you can see from the photo on the left, Wilson was a good looking guy before substance abuse began taking a physical toll. Assuming he recovered and didn’t drown that the night of Dec. 28, 1983 (it happened in shallow water, and he was trying to retrieve items he’d thrown in the marina three years earlier), he would look like the CGI rendering on the right.
Wilson has ditched the beard, which in his case is a good call, and even though wrinkles grace his 74-year-old face, he looks pretty good. His blue eyes are a little somber, befitting of the man whose downward spiral came about because he introduced Charles Manson into the Hollywood scene. True story.
Keith Moon, nine months before his death
Keith Moon was the boisterous drummer of The Who and is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. Moon was born on Aug. 23, 1946, so if he were alive today, he would be 72 years old. This photograph was taken about nine months before he died, and he actually looks pretty good.
The Who were one of the most influential bands in rock history, selling more than 100 million albums and performing at some of the most iconic music festivals ever. They rocked the crowds that filled the Monterey Pop Festival during the Summer of Love in 1967, then tore up the stage at Woodstock in 1969.
What Keith Moon would look like today
Moon had severe problems with alcohol but was actually an anti-alcohol drug that claimed his life. He overdosed on a drug meant to combat symptoms from alcohol withdrawal, but he took 32 of them when one was the prescribed dosage. Moon looks a bit more serious in his old age, and it would’ve taken him getting serious about sobriety to make sure he lived to 72 years old.
Even so, he’s nearly a spitting image of the character pictured on the left in 1973 (taken when he was 26 years old). It looks like he still has his hair, bushy eyebrows, and still hasn’t fixed that missing tooth, which is why he’s still closing his mouth.
Karen Carpenter, two years before her death
Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters — the sibling band that included her brother Richard — was born on March 2, 1950. She makes the third drummer in a row that Sachs Media has recreated using CGI. But unlike Dennis Wilson and Keith Moon, Carpenter had other complications that led to her being taken from the world too early.
Photographs of Carpenter prior to her death on Feb. 1, 1983, are hard to look at, as she had an eating disorder that ultimately claimed her life. Carpenter’s smile could light up the stage, but anorexia put such a strain on her heart, that it gave out when she was just 32 years old.
What Karen Carpenter would look like today
Carpenter started out as the Carpenter’s drummer, but her voice was so good and her presence on the stage was so commanding, that she became the band’s frontwoman. Audiences couldn’t get enough of her, and eventually, she embarked on a successful solo career. But something was amiss, underneath it all, Carpenter had major issues with her own appearance.
Carpenter’s main legacy was her smile (which still beams in this photo) and, unfortunately, her battle with an eating disorder. While her death was sudden and tragic, it did have the unintended consequence of bringing awareness to eating disorders. The lack of eating and high-energy performances were just too much for the rock stars’ heart.
Bobby Darin, 18 months before his death
Bobby Darin was what you would call a “jack-of-all-trades” musician, as he played several different instruments on top of singing, spanning many different genres. Darin was born on May 14, 1936, so if he were alive today, he would be 82 years old.
Darin had health complications his entire life; when he was a child he contracted rheumatic fever. The illness immediately put an “expiration date” on his life, so he always knew he wouldn’t have much time on this earth. He used that knowledge to push himself to the top of the music world, before he was taken on Dec. 20, 1973.
What Bobby Darin would look like today
Many people share a fear of the dentist, but in Darin’s case, his visit with the dentist turned deadly. He was already having heart complications when he failed to take antibiotics that would’ve protected his heart during the dental procedure. Instead, he developed sepsis, and attempts by surgeons to repair the valves in his heart ultimately led to his death.
Bobby Darin was a classy guy and good looking, too. His good looks would’ve followed him into old age as the CGI version at the right reveals a man dressed in dapper fashion. His hairline has receded and wrinkles abound, but his subtle smile and twinkle in his eyes still prevail.
Cass Elliot, two weeks before her death
Cass Elliot, or “Mama Cass” as she was also referred to, was a lead singer in the band Mamas and the Papas. Born on Sept. 19, 1941, her voice was beautiful, her attitude was sunny and optimistic, and she was always good for a laugh.
Elliot went on from the Mama’s and the Papa’s to launch a solo career. Following a disastrous opening night in Las Vegas brought on by complications from extreme weight loss, the singer dove headlong into substance abuse. Her health and career eventually recovered, however, and though she was a bit overweight when she died of heart failure, there were no drugs in her system.
What Cass Elliot would look like now
No, Cass Elliot did not choke on a ham sandwich when she died, as the urban legend purported. But if you’re looking for an interesting tid-bit about her death, consider that her and Keith Moon both died in the same room — four years apart.
Prior to the onset of her solo career, Elliot dropped from 300 pounds to 200 pounds, then gained another 50. The fluctuation must’ve been hard on her heart, and as you can see, odds are that she would’ve kept a bit of her weight on in later years. Her smile still shows through, and you can almost hear her laugh reach through the photo.
Randy Rhoads, about eight months before he died
Randy Rhoads died so young that he didn’t even make the 27 clubs, as he passed away at the young age of 25 years old. Though his time on planet earth was brief, Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist was still considered one of the best, most influential musicians with a six-string of all time.
Rhoads had difficulties with bandleader and rock legend Ozzy Osbourne, and prior to his death on March 19, 1982, he had already decided to leave the band. While on tour, Rhoads would constantly seek out lessons from classical guitarists and planned to pursue a degree in that field at UCLA.
What Randy Rhoads would look like now
Ozzy Osbourne was touring Florida on a bus when a problem with the air conditioning caused them to stop at a small airfield. The previous evening Rhoads had commented on Osbourne’s drinking and said, “You’ll kill yourself, you know? One of these days.”
As Osbourne slept in the bus, the driver of the bus decided to go for a joy ride in a “borrowed” airplane. After two successful attempts at buzzing the bus (to try and wake up Osbourne), the third pass saw the wing clip the bus, and Osbourne woke up to the plane, with Rhoads as a passenger, burst into flames as it crashed into a nearby mansion.
Tupac Shakur, six months before his death
Tupac is another musician who fell short of the necessary requirement to a part of the 27 club, as he died at the young age of 25 years old. However, Tupac accomplished more in 25 years than most of us will in a lifetime. He starred in nearly 10 movies and has eleven albums that have reached platinum status.
Tupac was a complicated individual to say the least, and to say he was outspoken is like saying the sun is hot. The gang sign flashing and self-proclaimed THUG was a champion for civil and women’s rights, while he also advocated violence and was convicted of sexual assault.
What Tupac would look like now
Tupac was born on June 16, 1971, which would make him 48 years old today. We can only hope that he would’ve kept his unique style with a bandanna, as his face looks a bit thinner, and chiseled. It’s hard to say whether Tupac would’ve kept his good looks in his old age, and that has to do with how his life would’ve played out.
Perhaps Tupac would’ve come back to the poetic, peace-loving activist that he was when he was young, but perhaps he would’ve kept with his energy fueled, militant stance toward civil rights. That might’ve put more years on his life, making him appear older than he actually was.
Buddy Holly, three months before his death
Buddy Holly was born on Sept. 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. Holly eclipses even Tupac and Randy Rhoads as the youngest musician to have passed early, which was at the tender age of 22 years old. Even still, bands and musicians such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton were influenced by his style.
You can thank the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing Holly for the rock ‘n’ roll band set up as we know it, as he was the first to implement two guitars, a bass, and a drummer. If it weren’t for a tragic plane crash that claimed his life, as well as the Big Bopper and young sensation Richie Valence, Holly would’ve changed the landscape of the music industry.
What Buddy Holly would look like now
Holly began his music career performing songs in the style of country, gospel, and blues, before experimenting with rock ‘n’ roll, but when he opened for an Elvis Presley concert in 1955 he never turned back. Holly looks so young in his photos that it’s difficult to imagine him in old age, but a closet smoking habit has stained his teeth, and his hairline is receding.
Holly was in a hurry trying to make the next venue during a Mid-west tour in 1959, and chartered a plane during a snow storm. It would be a fateful decision, as the plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Feb. 3, 1959, killing the pilot and three musicians aboard.
Biggie Smalls, two days before his death
It’s hard to believe that Biggie Smalls has been dead for over 22 years, but there would be a noticeable difference between a 24-year-old Smalls, and the 47-year-old he’d be today. Christopher Wallace (his actual name) stood at six-foot-three-inches tall and weighed in somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. He was a formidable presence as much as he was a talented rapper.
Another performer whose day in the sun was all too short, Wallace has managed to sell 17 million records across the United States. But due to an unsolved murder that took place in Los Angeles California on March 9, 1997, we won’t be hearing any new music from the rap legend.
What Biggie Smalls would look like now
Biggie was still growing up when he died, and if he were alive now some of his extra weight would’ve settled in his face. Wrinkles have set in, but we can see that his face would’ve been made even more expressive over time. Of course, that time was cut short, despite the fact that he hired a security detail just prior to his assassination.
The night he was killed he was rolling deep, with two Suburbans, one of full of bodyguards, and the head of his security at his record company in another car. Despite all that, a man in a blue suit and a bow tie rolled a black Impala up next to Biggie’s Suburban, shot him four times, and fled the scene without ever being caught.
Ronnie van Zant, six months before his death
Lynyrd Skynyrd was at the height of their popularity when their rising star fell from the sky. Eddie Van Zant was the frontman who sang hits such “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “That Smell,” and according to bandmates was something of a clairvoyant.
Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948, which put him at 29 years old before he died. He often repeated to family and his band that he was never going to make to his 30s. Despite protests and pleas to not talk that way, his self-fulfilling prophecy came true on the night of October 20, 1977, in the skies above Mississippi.
What Ronnie van Zant would look like now
The night before Lynyrd Skynyrd took their fateful airplane ride the plane had shot a ten-foot flame out one of its engines. Despite the fact that barely any maintenance was done to correct this, Van Zant insisted on flying that night so as to not disappoint fans at the next venue.
The plane ran out of gas and after gliding for several minutes, it crashed into the bayou in Gillsberg, Mississippi — Van Zant was killed instantly, along with five others. He lived hard, and if he was alive today he’d be 81 years old, and still rocking fans through the ages.
Bradley Nowell (middle), one year before his death
Bradley Nowell, who rocked us for a brief period as the frontman for Sublime, just missed out on the 27 club by about two months. However, Nowell at least missed on the long end, as he was 28 years old when he died on May 25, 1996, of a heroin overdose.
Of course, that was before he delivered such classic albums as 40 oz. to Freedom, and Sublime. Nowell and his Southern California bandmates managed to create a perfect fusion of alternative rock, reggae, and hip hop in their music, and only left us wanting more when Nowell passed prematurely.
What Bradley Nowell would look like now
Nowell was a voracious reader and came just one semester shy of receiving a degree in finance. He decided not to go back to school because he had “all the hard classes left… I doubt I’ll ever go back.” It’s too bad he didn’t because he developed a drug problem shortly after leaving.
The Southern California sun would’ve certainly taken its toll on Nowell, causing a bit of sunburn. But that’s not the only thing that could account for flushed red skin, as we can see Nowell, even though he would be 51 years old today, would still be double fisting Heineken’s.
Sid Vicious, one year before his death
Sid Vicious might be one of the worst musicians on this list, but even though he died young he’s extremely well known. Vicious was the poster child for punk rockers back in the late 1970s – with nappy hair, hastily painted purple fingernails, and “gimme a fix” carved into his chest.
But that’s what landed him his gig as the bass guitarist of the Sex Pistols. His image was right, but he didn’t even know how to play the instrument. Then, he stayed up for two days learning a Ramone’s album back to front, and all of a sudden he could play.
What Sid Vicious would look like now
Vicious was a good looking guy, but punk rock is certainly not about looking good, and his sort of crooked, half-smile, half frown, and totally distorted expression, was common for him in photos. Ever the punk rocker, making that face too many times has resulted in grooves on Vicious’ face.
Vicious was introduced to heroin by his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and it quickly led to a downward spiral. Spungen was found stabbed to death in a New York hotel room that she and Vicious shared. He posted bail on May 25, 1977, and after almost two months clean, he relapsed and overdosed at the age of 21. If he were alive, he’d be 62 years old.
Bon Scott, 15 months before his death
Bon Scott was working as the chauffeur of AC/DC before he became their lead singer and frontman. Evidently, AC/DC had just fired their lead singer and was playing an instrumentals only show. Bon was literally pulled from the audience and thereafter became the band’s new frontman.
Even though Scott was in his 30s, he only recently got a handle on how to write music and structure songs. While shoveling manure to make some money, he would think of the lyrics and later work on writing them with fellow musicians. This experience gave him the necessary skills to rock it with AC/DC starting in 1974.
What Bon Scott would look like now
Details of how Scott died on Feb. 19, 1980, are a bit fuzzy, but they have to do with complications with heroin (i.e. it was likely an overdose). Prior to that Scott and the band were working on their Back in Black album, which would become one of the most successful albums of all time.
AC/DC considered disbanding after Scott’s death, but after encouragement from Scott’s family, and finding new lead singer Brian Johnson (the band’s third lead singer), five months later they had an album. If Scott were alive today he’d be 72 years old, and likely would’ve shared in the decades-long success of AC/DC.
Duane Allman, one year before his death
If you know southern rock the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then you’ll certainly remember the riffs from Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. As the story goes, his brother Gregg got him a bottle of illicit pills for Duane’s birthday, and instead of ingesting them he peeled the label off and used it as a slide for his guitar.
The slide became an essential part of the bands’ sound, and it was so widely appreciated that it was replicated by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. Allman is best known for songs such as Midnight Rider and Ramblin’ Man, and he’d have a lot more if he didn’t die in his mid-20s.
What Duane Allman would look like now
Allman was born on Nov. 20, 1946, so if he were alive today he’d be 73 years old. If he decided to keep his unique goatee style, it would certainly thin and grey, while his long-rockers hair would grey as well. As for his music, it was cut short when he died on October 29, 1971.
Allman was enjoying some time off between recording and touring in Macon, Georgia. He cruised through the streets on his Harley Davidson, when suddenly a truck with a crane stopped inexplicably stopped in the middle of an intersection. Allman died hours later after colliding with the truck.
Frankie Lymon, one year before his death
Frankie Lymon from the band The Teenagers (or Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers as most people called it) was the most talented singer in his group. Born in Harlem, New York on Sept. 30, 1942, the boy soprano recorded a chart-topping smash by the time he was 14 years old.
Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” is probably the most popular version through the ages, but it was Lymon and The Teenagers that first wrote the song in 1955. According to sources, the band got the idea from a series of love notes they collected from fans.
What Frankie Lymon would look like now
Lymon was a good looking kid, and his boyish looks may have followed him through time. When Lymon attempted to start a solo career, a downward spiral ensued that ultimately led to his untimely death, all stemming from a heroin addiction that started when he was 15 years old.
Lymon died at the age of 25, but if he were alive today he would be 77-years-old today. Does anyone recognize a pattern here? Musicians need to stay away from heroin-like Superman needed to avoid kryptonite. Nothing, not even alcohol, had the power to destroy these musical marvels than chasing the dragon into darkness.
King Tutankhamun was the pharaoh of Egypt from 1334-1324 B.C., and outside of Egyptologists, no one would know his name if it weren’t for the discovery of his tomb in 1922. Thanks to archaeologist Howard Carter, we now know a great deal about the boy pharaoh, and thanks to modern technology, we now know what he looked like.
Scientists and researchers spared no expense after analyzing King Tut’s genetics, conducting CT scans and over 2,000 digital scans. What was revealed was a boy with a heavy overbite who was extremely frail, and far more shocking were the revelations made about his body.
King Tut in all his glory
King Tut succeeded his father’s throne over ancient Egypt when he was just nine years old, and he only ruled for ten years. Modern CT scans showed that his death at age 19 was a result of malaria, a fractured lower leg, and congenital deformities from inbreeding. The Egyptian royal family had no idea that a “pure bloodline” could be so harmful to their own…
His clubbed left foot may have been the result of inbreeding in the royal family. His hips also formed improperly, and he was constantly hampered by malaria infections. He’s the only pharaoh to be depicted sitting down while performing tasks such as archery, leaving us able to believe this feeble version of the boy is actually what he looked like.
Nero Claudius Caesar ruled as emperor of Rome from 54-68 A.D. and is widely remembered as a psychopath that believed he was an incredible artist. Whether it was talent as an artist or simply a fashion statement, his terrible chinstrap beard is as unforgivable as the atrocities he committed during his reign.
Nero became so hated that it’s difficult to say what’s fact and what’s fiction about his deeds and misdeeds. What is known is that he was a singer and played the lyre, while he was also a trained Olympian, having competed in chariot races. Thanks to modern technology, we now know even more about the man, including what he looked like.
Bad boy Nero
This recreation of what Nero actually looked like is so spot-on, it’s haunting. His wry smile coupled with his steely gaze reveals a man hell-bent on doing whatever he wanted. In 64 A.D., a fire started at the Circus Maximus, and while Rome burned for three days, Nero is rumored to have sung a Greek epic while on the roof of his palace.
Many Romans believed he caused the fire himself, and though he embarked on a murderous campaign of vengeance, he largely took it out on his enemies—Christians. Nero also killed many of his inner circle but eventually, Roman provinces revolted. Before he could be executed, however, he took his own life, declaring, “What an artist dies in me!”
Queen Nefertiti reigned alongside her pharaoh husband from 1353-1336 B.C., and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest she reigned independently after her husband’s death. Unlike other queens, she was depicted in powerful positions in Egyptian artistry. Just like King Tut, Nefertiti became far more famous when archaeologists discovered a statue of her, except hers was buried upside down in the sand.
The above bust, discovered by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in 1913, depicts a beautiful woman with a slender neck and gorgeous facial features. However, a CT scan of the bust in 2009 discovered that underneath the beauty there was another version that showed an entirely different face.
Beneath the bust
Underneath the painted stucco surface of the Nefertiti sculpture, the artist hid a gem that perhaps was never meant to be revealed. The sculptor Thutmose made a separate bust of Nefertiti underneath the stucco, and this one was made of limestone.
The CT scan revealed a face that was still very much beautiful but revealed wrinkles on her cheeks and a bump on her nose. Nefertiti mothered six children in her time, and one of them became the mother of King Tut. What’s far more unsettling is that King Tut’s father is Nefertiti’s husband, which would explain the deformities that plagued the boy king.
Robert the Bruce
By the photo below, you can imagine that Robert the Bruce’s best days are behind him. But there’s a cast—made from Robert’s skull that was unearthed 200 years ago when his burial site was being rebuilt—has formed the basis of what historians have used to determine what he looked like.
Robert the Bruce took the throne in 1306, at a time when King Edward I declared Scotland part of England proper rather than its own kingdom. In 1314 Bruce defeated an English army at Bannockburn, which preserved Scotland’s autonomy. Then, in late 2016, historians from the University of Glasgow teamed up with Face Lab specialists at the University of Liverpool to show us what he looked like.
The face of a king
Project leader Dr. Martin Macgregor from the University of Glasgow commented that: “I don’t think it’s going too far to say that unless Bruce had succeeded [at Bannockburn], we might not be sitting here today talking about a Scotland.” Now, he’s been the source of a project that took two years to complete.
The cast enabled researchers to figure out the location of the muscles on his face, but they had to guess at the color of the king’s eyes. There’s also some evidence that when Bruce died in 1329, he was suffering from leprosy. The version above does not show Bruce having the terrible skin disease, but a separate version does show what that would’ve looked like.
Cleopatra reigned as co-regent over the Kingdom of Egypt for 30 years. She was highly intelligent, speaking several languages, and has been described as a woman of great beauty. Having stolen the hearts of two of the ancient world’s most influential men, the fact that her beauty won them over is easy to believe.
The only problem is that this is very likely untrue. Some busts of Cleopatra portray a drop-dead gorgeous, knockout woman, but the one displayed in the Altes Museum in Berlin of a modestly beautiful young woman is thought to be the most realistic depiction of what she actually looked like.
The true face of beauty
The marble bust of Cleopatra that was created sometime between 40-30 B.C. is thought to be the most accurate depiction of her because artwork representing the Macedonian queen of Egypt show her with similar features and the same style of hair. Her “melon hairstyle” and the bun she sported were typical of Ptolemaic queens and depicted in many works of art and coins that included Cleopatra.
In this artist’s depiction, completed by M.A. Ludwig, we see a Cleopatra with a prominent nose and almost masculine features. It’s revealing because this means she was likely far more intelligent and cunning than previously believed, as it wasn’t her beauty that charmed Rome’s finest.
Julius Caesar rose to prominence in ancient Rome largely through his military exploits, as he successfully waged campaigns that won him battles all across Europe. In 60 B.C. he reached a deal with two other prominent Romans, which formed the First Triumvirate.
In 50 B.C. Crassus, one of the members of the Triumvirate, was killed in action, causing Caesar and the third member of the ruling group—Pompey the Great—to battle it out for control of Rome. In late 2018 an anthropologist named Maja d’Hollosy scanned the above bust, which was created around the time of this civil war, to create a realistic portrayal of what Caesar actually looked like.
Pompey was aligned with the Senate, but Caesar’s relentless pursuit and victory at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. gave him sole control of the empire. Of course, we all know how it ended: there was an affair with Cleopatra, a fight for control of the Mediterranean, and then death by stabbing on the Senate floor on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.
The bust in Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in the Netherlands was one of two scanned to create the above image, which shows an extremely prominent head and forehead, almost dwarfing his facial features. Today you can still see it if you visit the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I reigned over England from 1559-1603, and given her early life and state of affairs in England at the time, she’s lucky she became queen at all. Her father went through six wives in order to find a male heir, and Elizabeth only took the reins after her brother and sister died.
Elizabeth reigned for 45 years, and in all that time she never married, thus giving her the title, “The Virgin Queen.” Her appearance was largely masked, as the painting above shows, leaving historians asking, what did she actually look like? Thanks to artist Mat Collishaw, we now have a nearly living image of her.
Interact with Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth had a highly successful reign, as she settled rifts between the Catholic Church (though she was excommunicated in 1570), defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and presided over a period where art and writing flourished, which included the inspiring works of William Shakespeare (guess who’s next!).
Using 3-D printing and scans, Collishaw created an animatronic version of her face that blinks and gives the appearance that it’s thinking. The Armada portrait at the Queen’s House in Greenwich, London (see the previous section) was the inspiration for her face, and now we have an actual depiction of what she looked like.
William Shakespeare was an English playwright from 1564-1616 and is widely considered the most successful playwright in history. Thanks to him we have terms like, “night owl” and “full circle,” and memorable lines like, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once,” from none other than his classic play, “Julius Caesar.”
The above drawing is considered one of the most recognized images of Shakespeare and was the half engraving and half etching on paper. The Scottish artist James Faed created it in 1859, and it depicts Shakespeare surrounded by his works, which include at least 37 different plays.
Face to face with Shakespeare
Shakespeare also established the famous Globe Theatre and essentially transformed the English language, which was quite the feat for the son of an English farmer. While there are many, many drawings, paintings, and sculptures of Shakespeare, it was actually his death mask that was used to create an image of what he really looked like.
Dr. Caroline Wilkinson from Dundee University used a computer to scan the interior of the death mask to create a 3-D image of what Shakespeare looked like when he died on April 23, 1616. That’s why we see an older Shakespeare in the above image, which is so vivid and detailed that it even includes warts on his nose.
George Washington was the leader of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, then served as the United States’ first president from 1789-1797. The Virginia-born, former British soldier is heralded as the fearless leader who guided a fledgling nation from infancy into adolescence. The photo above shows the face of George Washington in one of the most famous paintings of him.
This particular one has a story, as it was saved by First Lady Dolley Madison in 1814 when the British burned down the President’s Palace (later renamed the White House). And it’s a good thing, because now researchers are using images like to this to reveal what Washington actually looked like.
The fearless face of the first president
Perhaps most lasting of all when it comes to his legacy is the fact that he stepped down from office at the height of his popularity. He could’ve easily won a third term in office, but set a precedent of a two-term limit that prevented the United States from becoming a monarchy or dictatorship.
Researchers from New Jersey Medical school in Newark came up with this computer-generated image of the first president of the United States, and it does quite an extraordinary job of bringing his facial features to life. His ivory teeth are not visible, but his fair skin, complete with a slight five o’clock shadow, and blazing blue eyes make him look real.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary Stuart—or more popularly known as Mary, Queen of Scots—was Queen of Scotland from 1542-1567. Her father died shortly after her birth, and she became the Queen when she was just six days old. Her mother sent her to France to grow up in the French court, and eventually, she returned to Scotland in 1559.
Professor Caroline Wilkinson of Dundee University (remember Shakespeare’s face?) is behind the effort to use paintings and drawings to create a 3-D image of her face. Not only that, but Wilkinson also drew upon biographical information to get past the highly stylized versions of her that are depicted in the artwork.
The queen in all her glory
The royal family in those days kept it close, as she was cousins with Queen Elizabeth I. At first, the two got along famously, and Elizabeth even accepted Mary into England when the Scottish nobility revolted against her. But she got caught up in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth and spent 19 years in prison and was stripped of her throne.
It got worse for her when she engaged in another plot against Elizabeth, and this time she lost her head over the incident—literally. What’s interesting about this depiction is that it portrays her as being 19-26 years old, even though no portrait of her exists during this period.
Richard III was King of England for two whole years from 1483-1485. History has not been kind to poor Richard, as he was portrayed as a tyrannical dictator in Shakespeare’s play which bears his name. He was the last king of the 330-year Plantagenet dynasty and was replaced by the Tudors.
Piecing together what Richard III looked like would’ve been impossible up until 2012, as his body was lost to history shortly after his death. In that year a team of researchers investigated a series of clues that led them to an underground parking lot. Underneath it, the body of Richard III was found and exhumed.
Richard III unearthed
At the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, Richard quite heroically, and quite stupidly, led a cavalry charge into the teeth of Henry Tudor’s army, and saw the annihilation of his army before he was cut down also. Shakespeare poked fun at him when he wrote him saying, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Much of the same team from Dundee University were assembled to bring Richard III to life. There aren’t actually any paintings of him from when he was alive, so researchers had to use historical record, paintings after his life, and the newly discovered skull of the king buried under a parking lot.
Meritamun means “beloved of the god Amun,” and the only reason we know anything about her is that researchers at the University of Melbourne discovered her skull in their archives. She was from ancient Egypt, and how the skull went halfway around the world is a mystery.
But they determined that Meritamun was a woman of nobility and could be as old as 3,000+ years, or maybe from around the 3rd century B.C. Researchers say that she was between the ages of 18-25 years old, but were unable to determine a cause of death because all they had was her skull.
Researchers were, however, able to determine that Meritamun had a sweet tooth. She was suffering from tooth decay apparently, which would make sense for the time they believe she was alive, as it was close to the time when Alexander the Great introduced sugar to Egypt during his conquest of the land.
Over 140 hours were required from researchers who performed CT scans on the skull and used a 3-D printer to produce the above figure. From this, researchers were also able to determine that the beautiful young woman suffered from anemia, which may have caused her to be weak and lethargic prior to her death.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born around 4 B.C. and died sometime between 30-33 A.D. Since you might know him by some of his other monikers (‘Son of God,’ ‘King of the Jews,’ etc…), we’ll spare you a full introduction. Christ has been depicted in Western art perhaps more than any other figure in history, so the face below, or variations of it, are well-known.
Historians will point to the fact that the painting above is from the Middle Ages, was created well after Christ’s death, and shows a white man with fair hair that would not likely have come from the Persian portion of the Roman Empire. So what Jesus looked like may surprise some folks, and it is not without controversy.
The man wrapped in the Shroud of Turin
In 1354, a 14-foot linen cloth with the image of the Crucifixion was discovered with a body depicted on it. The body was that of Jesus Christ, and there was blood on the Shroud where his wounds were according to scripture. Using the same scripture, and skulls from the region and era, researchers produced the below image.
Whether the Shroud actually belonged to Jesus Christ, and whether or not the man above is actually what Christ looked like, are issues that are still very much up for debate. But in 2001 the above image was created by forensic anthropologist Richard Neave, who was trying to demonstrate what a man of his age, time, and place would’ve looked like.
Maximilian Robespierre had a very short reign as head of state of France from 1792-1794, and gets the dubious distinction of having his time in the office called “The Reign of Terror.” He helped establish the Committee for Public Safety after King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed, and became its chief member.
“The Reign of Terror” was known for extreme brutality, as many people succumbed to the same fate as the king and queen—death by guillotine. It was also known as a time of extreme religious persecution, as Robespierre tried to make France’s national religion The Cult of the Supreme Being.
Robespierre’s head and nothing more
In 2013 forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier teamed up with facial reconstruction specialist Philippe Froesch to create an image of what Robespierre actually looked like. For research, they used his actual death mask, which was created a little earlier than Robespierre would’ve liked.
After countless executions during the French Revolution, Robespierre faced execution himself. On July 27, 1794, he was arrested after a struggle that saw him get shot in the jaw. The very next day he was marched to the guillotine and executed along with 21 of his closest supporters. His death mask was made shortly after using his decapitated head.
Lord of Sipan
The Lord of Sipan was the first in a string of discoveries that became known as the Moche mummies. Originally dug up in 1987, the discovery in Peru was considered one of the most significant of the 20th century. Like King Tut, the Lord of Sipan, as he became known, had a trove of treasure buried with his body.
The forensic team sure had their work cut out for them, as during the excavation pressure from the above sediment that had been there for 2,000 years broke the skull into 96 separate pieces. Luckily, they had help from modern technology to aid in the process of reconstruction.
The Lord of Sipan reborn
Using a process called photogrammetry—when a 3-D image is created using cameras set at different angles—the team was able to reconstruct the skull. This process was completed by the Brazilian Team of Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Odontology to produce the image of the man below.
The man, who was determined to have been 35-45 years old, was also determined to have been of extreme importance. The reasoning for this comes from the fact that he was wearing extremely ornate jewelry with precious stones and metals, and was buried with two warriors. The two warriors had amputated feet, presumably so they couldn’t leave the tomb, so as to always protect their lord.
Saint Anthony was born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, and although he only lived to be 36 years old, he made quite an impression in his days. He was known for his amazing oratory ability during sermons, and for his uncanny skills at healing the sick.
Saint Anthony is still much beloved by the Catholic Church, as he is believed to have been the second fastest person to be canonized as a saint. Just one year after his death, the church decreed that he was now the saint of lost things, so if you can’t find your keys right now, say a prayer to Saint Anthony, and while you do it imagine what his face would’ve really looked like.
The face of a Saint
Saint Anthony died in 1231 and it’s rumored that the bells rang on their own when it happened and children were crying in the street. What is known, is that his body was exhumed 30 years later and all that remained were his bottom jawbone and tongue, which are on display to this day.
In 2013, theologians and researchers at The University of St. Anthony of Padua’s Anthropology Museum teamed up with a 3-D Designer from the University of Sao Paolo to recreate the face of Saint Anthony. He is still revered to this day by the Catholic Church, and in 1946 Pope Pius XII proclaimed him “Doctor of the Church.”
King Henry IV
King Henry IV of France is often referred to as “Good King Henry,” or “Henry the Great,” which is incredible considering how his reign started. At the age of 19, he became King of Navarre, then got married two months later. Protestants flooded the city to celebrate, and were quickly met with what became the “St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.”
King Henry IV barely escaped death and was forced to serve in the French court. He escaped after five years and raised an army to fight in what become known as the Wars of Religion. In 1589 he marched on Paris, and when his counterpart Henry III was assassinated, he became King of France.
The Good King
King Henry IV was known as “Good King Henry” because after fighting a religious war, he did subject Catholics in France to persecution. While this is indeed a noble effort it landed him in hot water with both sides, and it is said that he survived 12 assassination attempts in his life.
For his religious tolerance, researchers chose him as a subject to recreate. The same team that recreated Robespierre — forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier, and facial reconstruction specialist Philippe Froesch — is responsible for bringing Henry IV to life. “Good King Henry” did not survive his 13th assassination attempt, as a fanatical Catholic François Ravaillac drove a dagger home in 1610.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in Germany and came from a musical pedigree. During his life, he was known as a fantastic musician, but history recognizes him as one of the world’s greatest composers. He was both the benefactor and result of the golden age of music.
Early on he was known as a prodigy with the organ, and mostly wrote his music for the church. In 1721 he completed writing his Brandenburg Concertos, which was a six-part concerto that defied the pace of music at the time, as it’s said that it would take most composers dozens of concertos to achieve what Bach did in six.
The face of music
To recreate the face of the famous composer, Dr. Caroline Wilkinson from Dundee University (also responsible for bringing Shakespeare back to life) used a cast of the what is believed to be Bach’s skull. When he died in 1750 he was buried in an unmarked grave, and nearly lost to history.
Fast forward 150 years and the church where he was buried was in need of repairs. Theologians seized the opportunity to find him and exhumed a grave they believed contained the composer. A cast was made of the skull and then loaned out to Dr. Wilkinson to recreate the face you see above.
Saint Nicholas lived sometime in the 4th century and it has been largely concluded that he was the Bishop of Myre. Despite the fact that nothing was written about him while he was alive, his deeds have become so widely known that he’s the patron saint of Russia, Greece, and Christmas.
Imprisoned by Emperor Diocletian during nasty persecution of the Christians, he was released when Rome converted to Christianity under the rule of Emperor Constantine. He made use of his freedom by providing it to others, as he rescued numerous orphaned children, and saved several young women from prostitution.
Santa Claus, before he climbs down the chimney
Because of his generosity, Saint Nicholas became the beloved and (spoiler alert!) mythical character Santa Claus. As for Saint Nicholas, he was buried in Myre until 1087, when a group of Italian’s stole his remains and brought them to Bari. In the 11th century, the San Nicola basilica was enshrined and his body remains there to this day.
Dr. Wilkinson is responsible for the image you see above, and because his body was well preserved Wilkinson was able to make a CT scan to create this CGI image. Noteworthy features include his tan skin, which is normal for a person born in Turkey. He also has an extremely pronounced deviated septum, the result of incorrect healing of a broken nose.
Nicolas Copernicus was born in the Polish town of Turin in 1473, and although he existed in a world without telescopes, he turned the universe on its head. After mapping the sky for a number of years he made a bold conclusion that subscribed to a Heliocentric solar system, which meant that the sun, not earth, was at the center of the solar system.
This theory put him at odds with the Bible, which claimed earth was at the center of the universe. Copernicus didn’t care very much for that interpretation, but he was largely spared any serious sparring with the church because his major work “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs” was published in 1543, which was the year he died.
Copernicus was well known as one of the top astronomers of his day, but he was nowhere near as famous during his life than afterward. His final resting place was largely unknown until 2005, when a team of researchers unearthed his skull and remains from, ironically, a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Frombork, Poland.
In the case of Copernicus, the team used facial reconstruction to see if the skull looked like popular depictions. They were largely successful, as his broken nose and scar above his left eye match descriptions of him. In 2008, a nearly 600-year-old hair was used from his books to compare to the skeleton, and a DNA match proved the skeleton was Copernicus.
Lady of Cao
Researchers in the El Brujo region of Peru had been digging in the area since 1990 before they unearthed a mummy in 2005 that they later called “Lady of Cao.” She was buried in a bundle of cloth, and researchers determined that her remains were from around the year 400.
Since her unearthing, scientists have determined that she came from the Moche culture, which flourished in Peru about a thousand years before the Inca. Because of how ornately she was wrapped, her surroundings, and the fact that women were rarely embalmed in this manner, researchers believe she was an aristocrat.
Seeing the Lady of Cao
The Lady of Cao’s residence has been the museum in El Brujo since she was unearthed, and although she’s on display, visitors can barely see her. She’s kept in a highly-climate-controlled room, and can only be seen using a strategically placed mirror.
Researchers used methods typically employed by forensic investigators to create the above full-size replica of the Lady of Cao. It’s still unknown what her role was in society, but the woman who died in her late 20s was wrapped in 20 layers of fabric, had all sorts of finery all around her, and even a possible human sacrifice.