By 3D printing an electronic larynx which is an exact replica of the mummified priest, experts have been able to recreate the voice of a person who has been dead for 3,000 years. A team from Royal Holloway, University of London, Leeds Museum and the University of York placed the mummified remains of Nesyamun inside a Computed Tomography (CT) scanning machine to analyse whether the structure of the larynx had remained intact.
To their delight, a large part of the larynx of mummy, who is stored at the Leeds Museum, was almost perfectly preserved, allowing them to 3D print the vocal tract.
The precise dimensions of the tract are what make our voices so unique and by creating a ‘vocal tract organ’, experts were able to hear his voice for the first time.
The sound created is exactly the noise you would expect to hear after someone had awoken after a 3,000-year sleep, producing an elongated groan, with Professor David Howard, from the Department of Engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London, saying the vowel sound made falls somewhere between “bed” and “bad”.
Prof Howard added: “I was demonstrating the Vocal Tract Organ in June 2013 to colleagues, with implications for providing authentic vocal sounds back to those who have lost the normal speech function of their vocal tract or larynx following an accident or surgery for laryngeal cancer.
“I was then approached by Professor John Schofield who began to think about the archaeological and heritage opportunities of this new development.
“Hence finding Nesyamun and discovering his vocal tract and soft tissues were in great order for us to be able to do this.
“It has been such an interesting project that has opened a novel window onto the past and we’re very excited to be able to share the sound with people for the first time in 3,000 years.”
Professor Joann Fletcher, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, added: “Ultimately, this innovative interdisciplinary collaboration has given us the unique opportunity to hear the sound of someone long dead by virtue of their soft tissue preservation combined with new developments in technology.