A team of researchers in England have uncovered the ancient voice of an Egyptian mummy. The group managed to uncover the voice of the mummy -named Nesyamun- over 3000 years since mummification by using innovative technology.
Nesyamun resides in Leeds City Museum and was moved to Leeds General Infirmary for the work to take place. No wonder hospital waiting times are so bad. The scientists performed CT scans which allowed them to create a digital reconstruction of Nesyamun’s vocal tract. They then used a 3-D printer to produce this in reality. The relatively preserved state of the body aided them in this work. Using an electronic larynx (or voice box) coupled with their model and a loudspeaker they recorded this sound:
Tad creepy? That was enough to make Brendan Fraser squeal. Not forgetting the annoying resemblance to a fire alarm. This particular mummy has been studied for nearly two hundred years – he was first unwrapped in 1824. Nesyamun died in his 50s from what researchers believe to have been a severe allergic reaction triggered by an insect sting. Not the most fitting end for a senior priest.
As a priest Nesyamun’s voice would have been incredibly important for his work. However, for the Ancient Egyptian’s the voice was significant even after death. After passing on, they hoped that their soul would be able to speak to the Gods and convince the deities that they had led a good life. If they told a convincing tale they would be permitted to pass to the afterlife. Whilst it’s impossible to know if Nesyamun passed this particular mission, he has had some luck in his resting place in Leeds. In 1941 he was the only mummy at the museum to be left undamaged after a German bomb destroyed half of the building.
Co-author of the study, Professor John Schofield laid out why he thought the study was useful:
The idea of going to a museum and going away having heard a voice from 3000 years ago is the sort of things people might well remember for a long time
The team is committed to developing more sophisticated models to allow for more complex speech which could be really exciting. As Prof. Schofield says this completely revolutionise the way people engage with history. It might inspire people to learn more about the Ancient Egyptians rather than being bored rigid by the textbooks. The technology being developed also seems pretty ground-breaking.
At first glance this may seem a bit pointless, as the Australian newsreader pointed out, but it could really connect people with history, especially when we can hear more developed speech. And all learning is good right? I do feel sorry for the hospital patient who witnessed Nesyamun being wheeled out of the CT scanner though. Hardly a confidence booster.
For more Egyptian mysteries, check out this puzzler.
Featured Image Credit – leeds.gov.uk