Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On January 23rd 2020, it was announced that 3D printing had given a voice to the 3,000-year-old mummified remains of the ancient Egyptian Nesyamun. He worked as a scribe and a priest at the Karnak Temple Complex during the reign of the pharaoh Ramses XI, and the inscriptions on his coffin proclaimed that his dying wish was to be able to speak in the afterlife. The researchers’ work was published in the journal nature, marking the first time that the voice of a dead person had been recreated this way. In 2013, Royal Holloway, University of London electronic engineer David Howard created a device the uses 3D printed vocal tracts to create specific vowel sounds. Named the Vocal Tract Organ, it served as the inspiration for the project.

In September 2016, CT scans were done on Nesyamun’s remains that showed enough of his throat remained undamaged to enable the dimensions of his vocal tract to be measured. From this, a computer model of it was made, from which a physical replica was 3D printed. This was used to replace the horn in a loudspeaker similar to the sort used on ice cream vans. Next, the modified loudspeaker was connected to a computer that synthesized the sound of an artificial larynx. The resulting sound from the replica vocal tract represented a vowel that fell between the “e” in “bed” and the “a” in “bad,” making it reminiscent of the sound of a bleating sheep.

Unfortunately, Nesyamun’s tongue had atrophied and his soft palate was missing, making it unlikely that the researchers would be able to recreate running speech this way. Nonetheless, the researchers hope to have Nesyamun speak full sentences by modifying their computer model, for example by approximating the size and movement of his tongue and the position of his jaw. Previous efforts to recreate the voices of ancient humans include 5,300-year-old Ötzi the Iceman, whose mummified remains were discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991. However, in this case his voice was approximated via digitally recreated vowel sounds.

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Disclaimer: Featured image of “Tuts Tomb Opened” is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1925, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal.