Boris Karloff’s immersive acting technique ain’t got nothing on the determined researchers from Royal Holloway – the University of London, University of York, and Leeds Museum. They were able to scan the preserved vocal cords of a 3,000-year-old mummy, and 3D printed a version that was then paired with an established invention called the Vocal Tract Organ. Then, they “played” the scanned vocal cords — allowing us to hear a time-traveling vowel sound straight from the throat of an ancient Egyptian priest!
“Professor David Howard, from Royal Holloway, said: ‘I was demonstrating the Vocal Tract Organ in June 2013 to colleagues, with implications for providing authentic vocal sounds back to those who have lost the normal speech function of their vocal tract or larynx following an accident or surgery for laryngeal cancer.
‘I was then approached by Professor John Schofield who began to think about the archaeological and heritage opportunities of this new development. […]
Professor Joann Fletcher, of the department of archaeology at the University of York, added: ‘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.’”
(You can hear Nesyamun’s voice from the grave here.)
For me, the most satisfying aspect of this recreation is that it aligns with Nesyamun’s own beliefs: in his religious practice, to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again. Nesyamun has done one better — he is speaking for himself. And we’re hearing his story through our modern technology!