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The mummified body of Nesyamun laid on the couch to be CT scanned at Leeds General Infirmary. © Leeds Teaching Hospitals/Leeds Museums and Galleries.

Egyptian mummy's 'voice' heard after 3000 years

A vocal sound from a 3,000 year old mummy called Nesyamun has been recreated.

Scientists have recreated a sound that could have been made by an ancient Egyptian priest called Nesyamun who was mummified 3,000 years ago, by 3D-printing his vocal tract.

The sound produced by the vocal tract was synthesized using CT scans, 3D printing and an electronic larynx.

Listen:

The precise dimensions of an individual’s vocal tract produce a sound unique to them and UK and German scientists were able to carry out CT scans and then 3D print the vocal tract of the mummy, which is housed at Leeds City Museum.

The dimensions of Nesyamun’s larynx and vocal tract suggest his voice would be slightly higher pitched than the average man today.

Nesyamun's inner coffin lid

His larynx and throat remained intact thanks to the mummification process, allowing the scientists to recreate the single sound, which they reckon falls between the vowels in the English words ‘bed’ and ‘bad’.

The findings were presented in a study published in Scientific Reports.

Nesyamun lived during the politically volatile reign of pharaoh Ramses XI (c.1099–1069 BC), working as a scribe and priest at the state temple of Karnak in Thebes (modern Luxor). His voice was an essential part of his ritual duties which involved spoken as well as sung elements. 

His mummified remains are displayed at Leeds City Museum, his body was first unwrapped in 1824, and has been used for various mummy studies since. 

Other studies revealed that Nesyamun died in his mid-50s, possibly from an allergic reaction and suffered from gum disease and severely worn teeth. He had no hair because priests shaved their heads every day. His name was inscribed on the coffin along with other information.

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