British scientists have recreated the voice of an ancient Egyptian priest, known as Nesyamun, who died more than 3,000 years ago.
Nesyamun is believed to have lived during the reign of pharaoh Rameses XI, who ruled around the beginning of the 11th century BC, and worked at the temple in Karnak.
To create the sound, the team first carried out a series of CT scans on the mummy.
Everyone’s vocal tract produces a sound unique to them, so based on the measurements of the precise dimensions of Nesyamun’s vocal tract the team were able to create a 3-D printed vocal tract.
This 3D printed vocal tract, along with an electronic larynx, was then used to synthesise his voice to produce a vowel like sound.
“What we have done is to create the sound of Nesyamun as he is in his sarcophagus,” said the study co-author, Prof David Howard, head of the department of electronic engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London.
“It is not a sound from his speech as such, as he is not actually speaking.”
“Our larynx sound is electronic and if that sound were produced by Nesyamun, he would be passing lung air outwards via his larynx where his vocal folds would be vibrating to create the same effect.”
Due to the dimensions of Nesyamun’s larynx and vocal tract, Howard said it is like his voice would be slightly higher pitched than the average man of today.
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Prof John Schofield, an archaeologist and co-author of the study also at the University of York, believes this team’s approach could provide a new way for people to engage with history.
“It is just the sheer excitement and the extra dimension that this could bring to museum visits, for example, or site visits to Karnak,” he said.
“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. What we’d like to try to do next is develop a computer model that will allow us to move the vocal tract around and form different vowel sounds and hopefully, ultimately words.
“This current sound is never a sound he would have made in life, but from it we can create sounds that would have been made during his lifetime.”