Wonders of Science: Mummified Egyptian Priest Speaks After 3000 Years

The people who preserved him for the afterlife took special care of his vocal cord mainly because he was known for his melodious voice.

The speech experts and scientists have developed ways through which they can make the deceased talk again. ‘Nesyamun’ was an ancient Egyptian priest who died approximately 3000 years ago. Scientists of this day and age have reconstructed his voice using modern-day tools and methods.

The 3D printed trachea and mouth of Nesyamun. Source: Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Howard, one of the renowned speech experts at the University of London, used a CT scanner to create a 3D-printed version of Nesyamun’s vocal cord. He along with his team were able to generate a single note, which is believed to be the last sound Nesyamun made before embracing death. Nesyamum was the high priest of the temple of Karnak. His primary duties involved preaching and singing sacred songs to please the pharaoh of ancient Egypt.

The experts were able to replicate his vocal cord because it was intact even though the mummy was buried for over 3000 years. The people who preserved him for the afterlife took special care of his vocal cord mainly because he was known for his melodious voice. It is also said that he adored his work and wanted to continue it in the afterlife.

According to the archaeologists, the high priest of Karnak was alive and flourishing during the brutal reign of Ramses XI. Please know that Menmaatre Ramses XI reigned from 1107 BC to 1078 BC and was the tenth and last pharaoh of the twentieth dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Studies and experiments indicate that the priest died due to a severe and fatal allergic reaction when he was in his mid-50s. Furthermore, he was not healthy and had various ailments at the time of his death.

According to the experts, the process of regenerating the sound required the perfect condition of the soft tissues of the vocal cord. Hence, this experiment cannot be performed on individuals whose remains are only skeletal. Various inscriptions were found in the burial chamber of the high priest of Karnak. One of the inscriptions says: “Nesyamun, true of voice.” He even used to sing songs for the goddess Nut.

Even if the soft tissues of a certain individual do survive, the sounds cannot be regenerated if the vocal tract is not intact. It needs to be in perfect condition. The mummies usually have broken or distorted remains as they are thousands of years old. However, it is believed that Nesyamun’s vocal cord was purposely kept intact. This signifies that he held a strong position as the high priest of Egypt.

Science is advancing day by day. The speech experts aim to regenerate the sounds of an entire sentence with the help of Nesyamun’s vocal cord and trachea. It may take them years to get the job done, but this could be a massive discovery in the field of history. Moreover, the experts are now looking for other mummies that have perfectly preserved vocal cords and trachea so similar experiments could be performed on them.

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