Egyptian priest speaks after 3000 years

Elias Hubbard
January 24, 2020

Nesyamun, the Egyptian Priest who was mummified 3,000 years ago lived during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses XI, Rameses XI reigned at the beginning of 11th century BC.

Published yesterday in the Scientific Reports journal, the study describes how scientists accurately reproduced a vowel-like sound "based on measurements of the precise dimensions of his extant vocal tract".

Scientists have been able to replicate the voice of a 3,000 year old Egyptian priest.

By using the Vocal Tract Organ with an artificial larynx sound that is commonly used in today's speech synthesis systems, they synthesised the vowel sound.

Academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, University of York and Leeds Museum scanned the mummy of Nesyamun, 3D printed his vocal tract then played soundwaves through it to create an impression of how the priest might have sounded.

The next step is to develop a computer model to move the vocal tract and create actual words - but for now, the sound is more of a groan from the grave.

The priest lived between 1099 and 1069BC, during the politically volatile reign of Ramses XI, reports BBC.

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".

The team took the mummified body of Nesyamun, now on display in Leeds City Museum in the United Kingdom, to Leeds General Infirmary in 2016 for CT scans to gain measurements to reproduce the vocal tract. They believe that Nesyamun was aged 50 when he died and the reason at first was believed to be strangulation but later it was discovered that the death may have been caused by an allergic reaction to a possible insect sting to the tongue.

It's actually written on his coffin - it was what he wanted.

The scientists couldn't have achieved the same results with an individual whose remains were skeletal, as they required flawless preservation of the soft tissues resulting from Nesyamun's mummification.

In future, Professor Fletcher and the scientists hope to continue their research and "generate words and string those words together to make sentences".

"With this voice, we can change that, and make the encounter more multidimensional".

Nesyamun was a priest at the temple of Amun in the Karnak complex at Thebes.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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