- The scientists were able to reproduce a single vocal sound.
- Nesyamun lived during the politically volatile reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI.
- His voice was an essential part of his ritual duties, which included spoken and sung elements.
Scientists have recreated the voice of an ancient 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy using 3D printing, medical scanners and an electronic larynx, a new study suggests.
They were able to reproduce a single vocal sound, which sounds like something between the vowels in the words “bed” and “bad.”
The tone is unlikely to be an exact replica of the speech of the Egyptian priest Nesyamun, whose mummified body with which the researchers worked, because the language has lost much of its volume for 3,000 years.
“We have made a faithful sound for your tract in your current position, but we would not expect an exact speech match given your language status,” said co-author David M. Howard of the Royal Holloway University in London.
Nesyamun lived during the politically volatile reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI (c. 1010–1069 BC), working as a scribe and priest in the Karnak State Temple in Thebes, which is the modern Luxor.
His voice was an essential part of his ritual duties, which included spoken and sung elements.
The precise dimensions of an individual’s vocal tract make each of our voices unique, so for the research to work, the soft tissue of Nesyamun’s vocal tract had to be essentially intact, according to a statement from the University of York in the United Kingdom.
The researchers used a non-destructive computed tomography to confirm that a significant part of Nesyamun’s throat and throat structure remained intact as a result of the mummification process. This allowed the authors to measure the shape of the vocal tract from CT images.
Based on these measurements, the authors created a 3D printed vocal tract for Nesyamun and used it with an artificial larynx commonly used in speech synthesis.
Co-author John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said the technique could be used to help people interpret historical heritage.
“When visitors encounter the past, it is usually a visual encounter,” said Schofield. “With this voice we can change that and make the meeting more multidimensional.”
According to the study, the research “has produced the unique opportunity to hear the outflow of the vocal tract of someone dead long ago by virtue of its soft tissue preservation and new developments in technology, digital scanning and 3D printing.”
The research was published in the British journal Scientific Reports.
Contributing: The Associated Press