Hear the Sound of a 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy After Scientists Recreate the Sound of His Voice

Nesyamun’s mummified body before a CT scan at Leeds General Infirmary in England. (Leeds Teaching Hospitals/Leeds Museums and Galleries)

Nesyamun was an ancient Egyptian priest who sang chants as part of his ritual duties at the temple of Karnak in Thebes during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses XI. Now, 3,000 years after his death, scientists have recreated the sound of his voice, with the help of a 3D-printed vocal tract. 

The mummy of Nesyamun, which can be found in the Leeds City Museum in England, was first unwrapped in 1824. Subsequent studies determined he had died in his mid-50s with no damage to the bones around his neck.

Nesyamun’s coffin inscriptions showed his dying wish was to be able to speak after his death, making him an ideal subject for this study, which was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to the study, the exact dimensions of an individual’s vocal tract produce a sound unique to them. Nesyamun’s voice could be synthesized using non-destructive CT scans, 3D printing and an electronic larynx.

An accurate replica can only be created if the soft tissues are well preserved, which scientists found was the case here. However, only a single vowel sound could be created through this technique — not running speech.

Listen to it here:

In 2016, the mummy was taken to the Leeds General Infirmary to undergo a CT scan. Researchers were able to gather the necessary measurements to reproduce the vocal tract, which runs from the larynx (also known as the voice box) to the lips.

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SOURCE: CBS News, Sophie Lewis