SIBERIA  - The remains of the Siberian princess have revealed sophisticated tattoos, evidence of ancient cannabis use and signs of breast cancer.

But the puzzle was missing one crucial piece - what did the 2,500-year-old woman look like? For the first time, a Swiss taxidermist has created a likeness of Princess Ukok using a 3D model of her mummified skull as a guide. Over two weeks, Marcel Nyffenegger painstakingly built layers of replica facial muscles, tissue and skin to reconstruct an accurate bust of the royal ice maiden.

The Siberian mummy was dug from her permafrost burial chamber on the high Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains in 1993. Previous analysis of her remains found sophisticated tattoos of ‘great artistry’ featuring images of fantastical creatures. And, in her tomb, experts found clothing and headdresses, a make-up bag, and a stash of cannabis, enabling experts to build a detailed picture of her life.

Her tattoos are said to be best-preserved, and most elaborate, ancient art ever found.

But, while her body was well preserved, her face and neck skin had been damaged, which prevented the archaeologists to determine what she once looked like. Mr Nyffenegger was commissioned to create the bust of the princess by the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer, Germany. He has previously reconstructed the faces of Neanderthals, aborigines, Native Americans and Homo heidelbergensis.

Scans of the mummified body were used to create a 3D model of the woman’s skull. From this, Mr Nyffenegger built facial muscles, added layers of tissue and reconstructed her skin and eye using taxidermy materials and plasticine. The model is covered in silicone and a rubber-resin, and eyebrows, eyelashes and hair were added afterwards.

More than 100,000 individual strands of hair were used on the bust.  ‘That two weeks took me to the brink of insanity’, the expert told The Siberian Times. ‘I didn’t spend more than two or three hours a day on that part because it was very boring and neck pain literally forced me to do something else’. In October, an MRI scan of the 2,500-year-old mummy revealed she died after suffering from acute breast cancer. Experts also said that she may have taken cannabis to dull her illnesses.