A 3-D look at Latin American liberator Bolivar

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows a picture with the possible face of Liberator Simon Bolivar, a digital rendering from genetic data.

Story highlights

  • Researchers use computer programs to reconstruct Simon Bolivar's face
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez unveils new, 3-D portraits of Bolivar
  • Researchers use data from skeletal remains exhumed two years ago
  • An investigation into Bolivar's 1830 death has been inconclusive, the government says
It's been more than 180 years since Venezuelans saw Simon Bolivar's face. But the revolutionary leader's thick sideburns, bushy eyebrows and steely gaze popped out from behind picture frames Tuesday in new 3-D images unveiled by President Hugo Chavez.
Researchers used several software programs to reconstruct the face of the man who liberated Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela from the Spanish crown.
Scans of Bolivar's skeletal remains, which investigators exhumed two years ago, factored into their calculations.
So did historical paintings, photos of restored uniforms Bolivar wore and images of middle-aged Venezuelans, officials said.
"Bolivar is and will be one of the greatest giants of humanity, of the cause and the human struggle, one of the best of the human species," Chavez said as he unveiled the portraits, according to state-run VTV.
While computer modeling software played a key role in the reconstruction, Barcelona's VisualForensic laboratory also manually added in details -- like estimations of the former leader's skin color, tissue thickness and bone density, according to a Venezuelan government statement.
An investigation into what caused Bolivar's death continues, the Venezuelan government said.
Most historical accounts say tuberculosis killed Simon Bolivar, who died in 1830 at the age of 47. But Chavez, who often mentions Bolivar in speeches and describes him as a personal hero, ordered investigators to exhume the body of the former military leader and determine whether he was murdered.
A report released this month said the investigation had been inconclusive.
The new portraits come two years after state television showed Bolivar's skeletal remains in a dramatic ceremony.
With the national anthem playing in the background, a group of scientists wearing white coats rolled up a black cloth, revealing a skeleton on the table below. The broadcast then faded to black, showing Chavez singing along to the national anthem.
"Bolivar is alive. Let us not see him as a dead man and let us not see him as a skeleton. He is like lightning, like a sacred fire," Chavez said after the exhumation in 2010.
Tuesday was the 229th anniversary of Bolivar's birth.
Chavez has credited Bolivar with inspiring him as "the father of the revolution."
In 1819, Bolivar founded Gran Colombia, a federation of what is now Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. He is credited with spreading democratic principles in Latin America.
A new $116 million mausoleum to house Bolivar's remains is under construction in Caracas, Venezuela's government said in a statement Tuesday.
The 3-D representation can be seen on the Venezuelan government website http://www.simonbolivar.gob.ve/