Using 3D printing to hear a 3,000 year old voice

A group of archeologist and scientist from the UK has used 3D printing to bring back the voice of a 3,000 year old mummy. They achieved this by 3D printing the vocal tract of an Egyptian priest known as Nesyamun.

His voice is more of a short vowel-like sound it is still a great milestone to be able to hear a noise from 3 millennia ago and can help explore a new part of history. “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,” the study states.

This investigation is part of the “Voices of the Past” project involving Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of YorkLeeds Museums and Galleries, and the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).

The group states that ancient Egyptians shared a belief that speaking the name of the dead would make them live again. “Vocalization would not only fulfil Nesyamun’s own wishes as he himself expressed but make them accessible to all.”

“It was a belief that ‘a man is revived when his name is pronounced’, both by living relatives and by the deceased themselves when appearing before the gods of judgement.” Thus, the ‘Voices from the Past’ Project was set up to investigate this possibility for those long dead in cases where their remains are sufficiently well preserved.

What we know of Nesyamun was that he was a priest, incense-bearer, and scribe at the time of pharaoh Ramses XI, who reigned from 1107–1075BC. The research continues, “Nesyamun’s duties included speaking as well as chanting or singing the daily liturgy,  so the vocal tract organ was used to provide a falling intonation in the male speech fundamental frequency range.”

“The transmission of sound resulting from his actual vocal tract after a three millennia silence would mean that those who come to see him would also be able to hear a sound from his vocal tract as an initial step, emphasizing his humanity with the potential to excite and inspire.”

Thanks to the Egyptian process of mummification his throat was well preserved and was an ideal subject for this investigation.

 

Essop, Anas, et al. “3000 Year-Old Mummy Speaks with 3D Printed Vocal Tracts.” 3D Printing Industry, 29 Jan. 2020, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/3000-year-old-mummy-speaks-with-3d-printed-vocal-tracts-167838/.