What Did the 3K-Year-Old Mummy Say? 'Eeuuughhh'

Sound emerges from reconstructed vocal tract of ancient Egyptian priest Nesyamun
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2020 10:32 AM CST

"Every Egyptian hoped that after death their soul would be able to speak," says University of York Egyptologist Joann Fletcher—who just sort of made that happen, at least for one 3,000-year-old Egyptian. But the priest who served under Rameses XI didn't confess of a good life so that his soul could "pass through into eternity" as he surely would have hoped. Instead, his mummy uttered something like "eeuuughhh," per the Guardian. (Listen for yourself here.) Researchers created the sound using a 3D-printed reproduction of the vocal tract of the priest Nesyamun, who died in his mid-50s. They attached the model to an electronic larynx to reproduce the "sound that would come out of his vocal tract if he was in his coffin and his larynx came to life again,” says researcher David Howard of the University of London, per the New York Times.

Scientific American (which has much detail on the process) explains that as sound passed through the artificial vocal tract, what was heard was a vowel sound that falls between the vowels in "bed" and "bad." Howard suggests Nesyamun spoke in a slightly higher pitch than that of an average modern man. However, the sound produced isn't exactly how Nesyamun would have sounded, thanks to a mix of factors ranging from the absence of real vocal folds to the fact that his throat was at rest. But the researchers think their work could help make museum exhibits more "multidimensional." (Last year, Egypt unearthed mummified animals, including lion cubs.)

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