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It Said "Beh"

3,000-Year-Old Mummy’s Voicebox 3D Printed

Picture of Matthew Mensley
by Matthew Mensley
Jan 29, 2020
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A team of UK researchers has recreated the vocal tract of a 3,000-year-old mummy, producing a vowel-like sound comparable to that of modern-day people.

With results that probably echo the sentiments of us all first thing on a Monday, a multidisciplinary research team in the UK has recreated the remarkably well-preserved voicebox of Nesyamun, a mummified individual thought to be both a scribe and priest some 3,000 years ago in Thebes, Egypt.

The several-years-long study involved scholars and technicians from the Royal Holloway University of London, the University of York, Leeds General Infirmary, and Leeds Museums and Galleries. Following the meticulous scanning of Nesyamun’s vocal tract using the infirmary’s CT scanner and rigorous post-processing of the data, a 3D  model was printed using a Stratasys Connex 260. With the 3D printed analog, the researchers were able to (for lack of a better word) play a sound comparable to one that might be found in modern speech.

Described as some kind of “beh” sound, the ‘voice’ is said to allow people to engage with the past in new and innovative ways.

Further details of the study have been published in an article over at Nature.

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