Scientists have 3D printed artificial larynx and synthesised a vowel sound to fulfill the mummified Egyptian priest's wish for life after death
A priest named Nesyamun who lived between 1099 and 1069BC can speak again!
Scientists have 3D printed artificial larynx and synthesised a vowel sound to fulfill the mummified Egyptian priest's wish for life after death.
It is considered to be the first such attempt to effectively recreate a dead person's voice by artificial means. The researchers hope to reconstruct full sentences in Nesyamun's voice using computer models in the future.
The research - carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum - was published in the Scientific Reports journal on Thursday.
The voice recreation technique "has given us the unique opportunity to hear the sound of someone long dead", said study co-author Joann Fletcher, a professor of archaeology at the University of York.
Archaeology professor John Schofield, also of the University of York, told the BBC it was Nesyamun's "express wish" to be heard in the afterlife, which was part of his religious belief system.
"It's actually written on his coffin - it was what he wanted," Prof Schofield said. "In a way, we've managed to make that wish come true."
How exactly did they recreate Nesyamun's voice?
In humans, the vocal tract is the passage where sound is filtered. That sound is produced at the larynx - the organ commonly known as the voice box - but we only hear it once it has passed through the vocal tract.
To copy the sound produced by Nesyamun's vocal tract, the exact dimensions of it were mirrored in 3D-printed form.
But this process is only possible when the soft tissue of an individual's vocal tract is reasonably intact.
In Nesyamun's case, the fact that his mummified body was well preserved made this more likely, and the team confirmed it using a CT scanner at Leeds General Infirmary.
His "voice" was then generated by an artificial larynx sound - a method commonly used in modern speech synthesis systems.
The next step for the researchers will be to use computer models "to generate words and string those words together to make sentences", said Prof Schofield.
"We're hoping we can create a version of what he would have said at the temple at Karnak."
Who was Nesyamun?
Nesyamun was a priest at the temple of Amun in the Karnak complex at Thebes (modern-day Luxor).
He was a waab priest, which meant he had reached a certain level of purification and was therefore permitted to approach the statue of Amun in the most sacred inner sanctum of the temple.
Studies revealed that Nesyamun suffered from gum disease and severely deteriorating teeth. He is thought to have died in his 50s, possibly following a severe allergic reaction.
As the only mummy to have been dated from the reign of Ramses XI, Nesyamun offers important insights. Scientific analysis of his remains has contributed to a greater understanding of ancient Egypt.
Nesyamun's mummified remains are on display at Leeds City Museum.