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Ancient Athenian girl brought back to ‘life’ to fight coronavirus pandemic

(L) Myrtis' reconstructed appearance, National Archaeological Museum of Athens - Video screenshot. Source: Flickr/Tilemahos Efthimiadis/CC BY-SA 2.0 - Youtube

The United Nations has released an animation video of 11-year old Myrtis who lived in ancient Greece 2,500 years ago and became a victim of the Athens plague. In the video, she is calling on every citizen of the world to fight the virus.

Back in 430 BC, a period known in ancient Greece as the golden age of Pericles - the renowned general of Athens - a little girl succumbed to the great plague that hit the city.

The bones of that 11-year-old Athenian child were discovered in a mass grave in today’s Greek capital in 1994-1995. Archaeologists gave her the name ‘Myrtis’.

Scientists were able to confidently pinpoint typhoid fever as the cause of her death, which also killed Pericles amongst an estimated one-third of the city’s population at the time.

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic 2,500 years later, Myrtis makes a ‘comeback’ as an ambassador of global efforts on the pandemic front.

In an animation video released by the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe, Myrtis speaks about today’s “threatening but not invincible pandemic” and urges every citizen of the world to protect the most precious gifts of life and health.

Myrtis’ video came to fruition as a joint initiative of the United Nations and Athens University Orthodontics professor Manolis J. Papagrigorakis.

Prof. Papagrigorakis with his team of scientists is credited for the visual ‘resurrection’.

A facial reconstruction of Myrtis was made possible in 2010 thanks to the unusually good condition her skull was found in when discovered in the mass grave.

Since then, the ancient Greek girl was assigned the ambassadorial role of “Friend of the Millennium Development Goals”, helping to spread the United Nations message against war and preventable disease.

She has been featured in exhibitions, postal stamps and artefacts as part of United Nations campaigns.

In Myrtis’ recent mission, the call to arms in the fight against coronavirus is summarised in three key points: listen to the experts, practice good hygiene and take special care of our loved ones, with the video animated protagonist quoting the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ in her final message that “our whole human family together will win the common enemy”.