The mummy

During the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in the temple of Amun-RA, were part of the Karnak complex in Thebes, a man known as Nesyamun. He was a high priest and scribe.

After his death his body was mummified on was placed in an ornate sarcophagus. On it were depicted the scenes from the Book of the Dead and inscriptions of communicating with the gods. One of them translates as “truth voice” and suggests that the word priest were highly valued in society.

Today, mummy Nesyamun age of three thousand years – one of the most well-preserved in the world. Since 1823 it is stored in the Museum of the city of Leeds.

the study of the remains showed that Nesyamun suffered from diseases of the teeth and gums. He died at the age of 50 years, possibly due to a severe allergic reaction.

Professor, University of London David Howard (David Howard), studying human speech and modeling of the vocal tract, believes that Nesyamun needed a strong voice to fulfil his ritual duties, including singing.

the voice of the ancient Egyptian priest decided to recreate Howard together with the archaeologists.

the Team conducted a CT scan of the mummy for the visualization of voice (or speech) tract, the provisions of the respiratory tract, bone structures and soft tissues.

On the basis of the obtained data, the specialists have created a model of the vocal tract of a priest, printed on a 3D printer and then connected to an artificial larynx that generates sound, and speakers.

the mummy spoke recreated the voice of the priest who died 3000 years ago 1above is a CT scan of the vocal tract. Below – printed model.Photo D. M. Howard et al., 2020/Scientific Reports.

the resulting system is able to reproduce a single sound midway between the vowels in the English words bed (bed) and bad (bad). That sound you can hear in the video below.

“In this case the voice path has only one form. Therefore, [his modfir] makes only one sound,” explained co-author Professor John Scofield (John Schofield) from York University.

it May seem that this is a modest result. However, this is the first reconstruction of the ancient human voices, and it proves the consistency of the approach of researchers.

However, the voice of the ancient Egyptian priest cannot be called hundred percent accurate.

first, when CT scanning the mummy was reclining, with head thrown back.

“what we got is the sound of the vocal tract Nesyamun, [located] in the position in which he was buried. It is unlikely that articulatory position, which he used in a speech,” notes Howard.

second, over the millennia, the language of a mummy partially disintegrated, and the soft palate is absent. This probably influenced the accuracy of the reproduction.

“Why not enough of the soft palate, we don’t know. Perhaps [its destruction] was part of the burial process,” suggests Howard.

According to scientists, the experiments of this kind in the future will help to obtain more knowledge about the ancient people.

“We wanted to know whether we will be able to recreate the voice of the past. We did this in order to demonstrate that it is possible in principle. Part of our motivation was also to improve the ways people interact with the past, for example, in museums and cultural heritage,” says Professor Schofield.

it is possible that once Nesyamun and the other mummies stored in museums, will find their full voice.

“We will manipulate the shape of the vocal tract on the computer to make possible the reproduction of other speech sounds, and later sentences,” – said the scientist.

in addition, in the future such researches will help to understand how the changing shape of the vocal tract affects the reproduction of different sounds. It’s interesting for the engineers working on speech synthesis, for example, for robots with artificial intelligence.

Scientific article on the results of this work are presented in the journal Scientific Reports.

by the Way, before “News.Science” ( told about the reconstruction of the appearance of CRO-magnon, Denisovsky man and the Viking woman.

Text: To.Science