Science can be totally amazing sometimes. It seems that scientists have resurrected the voice of a 3,000 year old, mummified priest, by passing his remains through a CT scan and a 3D printer printed out a replica of his vocal tract. So now what? Well, before the process is revealed, let’s know more about this “mummy.”
The Egyptian priest was called Nesyamun and was a priest and scribe during the reign of pharaoh Ramses XI (c.1099 – 1069 BC). Inscribed in his coffin was the phrase translated as “true of voice.” His voice is said to have been an important tool to carry out his duties at the state temple of Karnak, and he had expressed a desire to still be heard once in the afterlife. Well now we know why scientists bothered with such a task.
A team of scientists managed to make this desire a reality. The team was composed of members from the University of London, Royal Holloway, Leeds Museum, and University of York. They recreated the priest’s vocal tract by putting his mummified remains through a CT scan to take precise measurements of his vocal organs. Then they 3D printed the Vocal Tract Organ. Using the Vocal Tract Organ together with an artificial larynx sound that is commonly used in today’s speech synthesis systems, they synthesized the vowel sound. It can currently produce a single vowel sound and is not believed to be an exact replica of his voice due to much of his tongue being lost through the thousands of years. But this is still being worked on, explained the co-author of the project, David M. Howard of London’s Royal Holloway college. “ It will be possible one day,” he added.
Surely there were skeptics, and one of them was German surgeon, Rudolp Hagen, who specializes in throat reconstruction. He explained that no current cutting-edge tools could give people living without a thorax a “normal” voice. But Professor Joann Fletcher of the department of archeology of the University of York, maintained the research could have great implications for not only medicine, but history as well. “Ultimately, this innovative interdisciplinary collaboration has given us the unique opportunity to hear the sound of someone long dead by virtue of their soft tissue preservation combined with new developments in technology,” she stated. “And while this has wide implications for both healthcare and museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians’ fundamental belief that ‘to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.’”
Well there you go, now the dead can talk.