Details of "hearing" the voice of an Egyptian priest who died more than 3,000 years ago Details of "hearing" the voice of an Egyptian priest who died more than 3,000 years ago

Details of "hearing" the voice of an Egyptian priest who died more than 3,000 years ago

Details of "hearing" the voice of an Egyptian priest who died more than 3,000 years ago

In a first-of-its-kind experiment, a group of scientists were able in early 2020 to “hear the voice” of an Egyptian priest who had died more than 3,000 years ago.

The experiment was conducted on the mummified body of an ancient Egyptian man named Nesyamun, who worked as a priest at the temple of Amun-Ra at the Karnak complex in Thebes. The man, who lived during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses I (1099-1069 BC), was also a high-ranking scribe.

Studies conducted on the mummy of Nesyamun, preserved in Britain at the Leeds Museum, showed that he suffered from dental and gum diseases, and that he died at the age of 50, and may have died as a result of complications from that.

After the death of this priest, he was mummified according to prevailing traditions so that he could live in the afterlife. It is noteworthy that Nesyamun's mummy is one of the best preserved mummies in the world, which is what encouraged this unique experiment to be conducted.

On the coffin of this priest, there are inscribed phrases in which he asks the gods to restore his ability to speak so that he can speak for himself and defend himself in order to gain the right to eternal life.

In addition to Nesyamun's urgent desire to restore his voice, which was engraved on his coffin, British scientists found in the good condition of the mummy's ligaments and other speech organs a suitable opportunity to simulate his voice and make it heard again within the framework of a project called "A Voice from the Past."

David Howard, a professor at University College London who specializes in the study of human speech and vocal tract modeling, commented that Nesyamun needed a strong voice for ritual performance, including singing, which led the team to choose this priest for the experiment.

The team prepared for the experiment by conducting a CT scan of the mummy to visualize the vocal tract, the position of the respiratory system, the skeletal structures and soft tissues, and this data was used in the experiment.

In the experiment, scientists used medical scanners and 3D printing technology, as well as an electronic larynx and speakers. These technologies allowed them to reconstruct a single short sound clip.

"We have reconstructed the correct sound based on the current state of the mummy, but we do not expect a perfect match in speech, given the poor state of the language," explains David Howard, one of the experiment's leaders.

The team behind the experiment also points out that one model alone is not enough to collect complete words or sentences, but they nevertheless point out that the first step in this direction has been practically taken.

Although the experiment seems modest, it was the first time an ancient human voice had been reproduced. Scientists acknowledge that it would be difficult to accurately reproduce the voice of the pharaonic priest who lived 3,100 years ago.

Despite the technical difficulties the experimenters faced, they believe that Nesyamun and other mummies could one day have their voices restored with the development of appropriate technologies. Such experiments are also very useful in making artificially intelligent robots speak better.

John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York and one of the study's co-authors, explains the importance of such experiences: "There is nothing more personal than someone's voice. Hearing a voice after such a long time is an unforgettable experience. With the new method, historical figures such as Nesyamun are brought back to life. It could also be used to help better explore historical heritage."

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