Scientists from the UK and Germany have successfully recreated the voice of a 3,000-year-old mummy. The team of researchers first scanned the shape of the mummy’s vocal tract and printed a replica of it using a 3D printer. The replica was hooked up to an electronic larynx to recreate the voice of the mummy.
Even though the scientists were successful only in recreating a single sound, it is still a step forward.
The size and shape of vocal tracts differ from person to person and no two voices are exactly the same. If the details of a vocal tract could be lodged accurately using artificial reproduction, theoretically someone’s voice could be reconstructed as well.
The researchers of the UK and Germany recreated the voice of Nesyamun, as he was known in life, an Egyptian priest. The mummy is 3,000-years-old, and since its discovery almost 200 years ago, the mummified priest has become one of the most well-studied mummies in the world.
The immaculate mummification process preserved the soft tissues of the vocal tract even after three millennia. A CT scan of the mummy’s larynx and throat allowed the researchers to measure the important dimensions. Using this, they created a 3D computer model of the mummy’s vocal tract and printed its 3D replica.
The team recreated a part of Nesyamun’s voice using an artificial larynx. It’s just one sound, which lies somewhere between the vowel sounds in the words “bed” and “bad.”
The team says that it is highly unlikely that they will be able to recreate more of Nesyamun’s voice, especially because other tissues like the tongue and soft palate have not been preserved well to survive the toll of 3,000 years. Also, in order for them to recreate more sounds, most parts of the vocal tract need to move fully, and this was not possible with the priest’s vocal tracts.
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