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Leeds Museums & Galleries

The dead speak! Scientists re-create voice of 3000-year-old mummy

It may not sound like much, but the audio clip below is the first reconstruction of an ancient human voice—one belonging to a 3000-year-old Egyptian mummy named Nesyamun.

To recover this echo from the past, scientists placed the mummy in a computerized tomography scanner (pictured). This allowed them to create a 3D model of his vocal tract, the dimensions of which shape the unique sound of a person’s voice.

The researchers then synthesized Nesyamun’s voice by 3D printing a model of his airway and connecting it to an electronic larynx, an artificial voice box that provides a noise source. The resulting utterance is brief, but it gives a sense of what this ancient Egyptian may have sounded like, the team concludes today in Scientific Reports.

Based on writings on Nesyamun’s coffin and the objects he was buried with, researchers know that he was an Egyptian priest and scribe who likely sang and spoke to the gods as part of his ritual duties. His coffin inscriptions include a wish to “see and address the gods as he had in his working life.” Now, he’s able to address the rest of us.