Engineering: 3D-printed vocal tract reproduces sound of ancient mummy

The sound produced by the vocal tract of a 3,000 year-old Egyptian mummy has been synthesized using CT scans, 3D printing and an electronic larynx. The findings are presented in a study published in Scientific Reports. The acoustic output is a single sound; it does not provide the basis for synthesizing running speech.

The precise dimensions of an individual’s vocal tract produce a unique sound. If the dimensions of a vocal tract can be established, vocal sounds can be synthesized by using a 3D-printed vocal tract and an electronic larynx. For this to be feasible, the soft tissue of the vocal tract needs to be reasonably intact.

David Howard and colleagues used non-destructive CT to confirm that a significant part of the structure of the larynx and throat of the 3,000 year-old mummified body of the Egyptian priest Nesyamun remained intact as a result of the mummification process. This allowed the authors to measure the vocal tract shape from CT images. Based on these measurements, the authors created a 3D-printed vocal tract for Nesyamun and used it with an artificial larynx commonly used in speech synthesis. They were able to reproduce a single sound, falling between the vowels in the English words ‘bed’ and ‘bad’.

The authors suggest that their proof-of-concept recreation of a vocal tract preserved over three millennia has implications for the way in which the past is presented to the public in the present; it may provide an opportunity to hear the vocal tract output of an individual that lived in ancient times.

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Article and author details

1. Synthesis of a Vocal Sound from the 3,000 year old Mummy, Nesyamun ‘True of Voice’

Corresponding authors:

DOI

10.1038/s41598-019-56316-y

Online paper*

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y

* Please link to the article in online versions of your report (the URL will go live after the embargo ends)

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Sarah McClenaghan
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-56316-y

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