Friday, 15 January 2021

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Five years with Myrtis


12 May 2015 – Tomorrow, May 13th, the conference “5 years with Myrtis” will take place at the Acropolis Museum under the auspices of UNRIC. The conference will mark the five-year anniversary since the reconstruction of the 11-year-old 'Myrtis', the girl that put a face to distant antiquity.

The conference is held under the auspices of the University of Athens, the Ministry of Research and Innovation, the UN (UNRIC) and the Norwegian Embassy in Athens.

Myrtis died of typhoid fever during the plague that hit Athens in the middle of the 5th Century BC.

Her bones were discovered in 1994-1995, in a mass grave with another 150 bodies, during works to build a metro station. Her skull was in an unusually good condition, inspiring orthodontics professor Manolis Papagrigorakis to enlist the help of specialist scientists from Sweden to recreate her features, using the 'Manchester' facial reconstruction technique.

These scientists decided to give her brown eyes and brown hair, arranged in a Classical era style, like the majority of Athenians at that time but stressed that her true colours could only be discovered by expensive DNA analysis that has not yet been carried out. DNA analysis techniques have confirmed, however, that Myrtis and two other bodies in the mass grave had died of typhoid fever.

A Millenium Friend

Even 2500 years later, typhoid fever has not been overcome and is even today the cause of death for 500.000 to 700.000 people every year.

To raise awareness on this, Myrtis was made a UN "Millenium Friend" in September 2010, supporting the UN’s Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by sending a message to the world about disease prevention.

She said, “in the 5th century BC we had neither the knowledge nor the means to fight deadly illnesses. However, you, the people of the 21st century, have no excuse. You possess all the necessary means and resources to save the lives of millions of people. To save the lives of millions of children like me who are dying of preventable and curable diseases.”

With the MDGs soon to be superseded by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their own global health targets, UNRIC is looking forward to continuing our friendship with Myrtis.

More information

UN70, our organisation’s seventieth birthday, is an opportunity to reflect – to look back on the UN’s history and take stock of its enduring achievements.

It is within this context that tomorrow’s conference on 5 years with Myrtis is set, themed “Face to face with the past”. Amongst others, it will feature discussions on Myrtis herself, her role as a 'spokesperson' in Ancient Athens as well as a variety of scientific discussions linked to her recreation and the time in which she lived.

More information can be found on the dedicated Myrtis website.

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