Nesyamun - Press photo Nesyamun - Press photo

Sound of a 3,000 years old mummy heard through breakthrough technology

Fri, Jan. 24, 2020
CAIRO - 24 January 2020: Can you imagine hearing the sound of a 3,000 years old ancient Egyptian mummy? This became possible with a breakthrough study, where engineers 3D printed its vocal tract.

The sound made indicated how the mummified individual may have sounded like. However, the scientists were not fully able to produce an entire speech.

CT scans and a plethora of other technologies were used to take a picture of the vocal tract, which was later printed out and used to form a voice.

Perfect preservation conditions of the body’s soft tissues are a must for such a breakthrough to occur, meaning that it is quite impossible for most remains.

The mummified body of the ancient Egyptian Nesyamun was perfectly preserved, allowing the scientists to replicate the vocal tract.

The scientists conducting the research referred that Nesyamun lived during the hectic era of Ramses XI, working as a scribe and priest. His voice was an important part of his life, abundantly using it in singing rituals and speeches.

Furthermore, only a single sound was produced by the researchers, which sounded like a vowel-like English word. However, it did give a glimpse on how the mummy’s voice sounded during a full speech.

Since mummies were once living people, and not objects, researchers wondered if making it “speak” again is ethically appropriate.

Nesyamun’s coffin consisted of inscriptions that refer to the ancient Egyptian view that "to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again".

The researchers revealed that he (Nesyamun) wished to be able to speak and move in the afterlife, just as he did when he was alive. This is the reason that encouraged the researchers to resume their work as it only made Nesyamun’s wish come true.

"The team concluded that the potential benefits outweighed the concerns, particularly because Nesyamun’s own words express his desire to ‘speak again’ and that the scientific techniques used were non-destructive," wrote the researchers in a paper published in Scientific Reports.

Given Nesyamun’s stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfillment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique," they conclude.

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