The first-ever reconstructed facial depiction of an ancient Nabataean female is set to be unveiled in Saudi Arabia following collaborative efforts of British archaeologists, anthropologists and academic professionals who worked on the project.

The remains of the woman, known as Hinat, were discovered in a tomb on the outskirts of the ancient Saudi Arabian city of Hegra (also known as Al-Hijr and Mada’in Saleh), a pre-Islamic site mentioned in the Qur’an, believed to be the second city of the Nabataean kingdom, after the famed Petra in Jordan. The civilisation which is believed to have originated from central Arabia became wealthy due to trade in frankincense, spices and other luxury goods.

According to National Geographic, the tomb of Hinat – daughter of Wahbu – had her name carved onto a panel above the entrance of her tomb in 60 or 61 C.E. The tomb was “filled with unusually well preserved materials such as buried human remains—bones, skin and even hair—along with textiles, leather, vegetable matter, and other substances.”

The team involved in the reconstruction put together a 3D model, which was completed in July 2020 before working on making a physical silicon bust of her face. The reconstruction will be showcased at the Hegra Welcome Centre in Al-Ula from today.

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.”

Dr Helen McGauran, project lead for the reconstruction, was quoted as saying: “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.”