The Dead Speak! 3,000 Year Old Mummy’s Voice Is Heard!

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Siraj Bajwa, Writer

For the first time ever, a mummy’s voice has been heard! 3000-year old Egyptian priest Nesyamun’s voice has been reproduced through the use of scans and 3D-printers thanks to academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum.

Nesyamun’s body was reasonably intact, which is necessary for something like this. Although, only vowel sounds of “ah” and “eh” could be recreated because the mummy’s tongue muscles are decayed. After all, the tongue is an integral part of speech. David Howard, one of the researchers who worked on this project, said,”It’s not, in fact, a sound he would ever likely have made in practice because the bulk of his tongue isn’t there.”

Nesyamun’s vocal tract recreated through 3-D printing.
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A CT scan was taken in 2016 to get the exact measurements for Nesyamun’s vocal tract. The airway was printed using Lego-like plastic and attached to a loudspeaker to produce the electronic vowel sounds. Howard said, “We could go to any other mummy that’s in the right state of preservation and if we had permission we could do exactly the same thing.”

As a scribe and priest during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI, Nesyamun’s voice was an important part of his job where he had to sing and chant during rituals. Howard explained that if the mummy’s tongue is recreated based of the vocal tract, Nesyamun’s singing voice could be recreated.

The mummy of Nesyamun on display at Leeds City Museum.
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Prof John Schofield, an archaeologist and co-author of the study also at the University of York, said that this recreation of an ancient voice could change museum experiences. “The idea of going to a museum and coming away having heard a voice from 3,000 years ago is the sort of thing people might well remember for a long time.”

It really is amazing what technology can do. The world has heard a voice from 3,000 years in the past! What new discoveries will researchers find? Well, we might just be able to hear a mummy sing pretty soon.