The Scarborough experts who are helping an Egyptian mummy speak again after 3,000 years

An ancient Egyptian mummy has 'spoken' for the first time in more than 3,000 years after amazing new scientific work from a team that includes two Scarborough experts.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 1:43 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 1:44 pm
The team, including, second right and third right, Prof Joann Fletcher and Dr Stephen Buckley, from Scarborough.

The voice belongs to Nesyamun, also known as The Leeds Mummy, a priest, incense-bearer and scribe at the time of Ramses XI, from the ancient state temple of Karnak in Thebes, or modern Luxor.

Nesyamun's remains - since 1823 held at Leeds City Museum - were well preserved, as a result of the mummification process, with his larynx and throat intact.

In a world first, experts from the Universities of York and London have created a 3D print of the mummy's voice box after CT scans at Leeds General Infirmary.

Male mental health group to launch in ScarboroughThe team includes BBC TV Egyptologist Prof Joann Fletcher, from Scarborough, and her partner, Joann Fletcher and her partner, archaeological chemist and mummification expert Dr Stephen Buckley, both of the University of York.

The team attached an electronic larynx and have produced a sound, like the vowels in the English words ‘bed’ and ‘bad’.

The next phase of the so-called Voices From The Past project, headed by York Professor John Schofield, is to produce complete words and sentences.

Nesyamun died in his mid-50s, around 1100 BC. The mummy had severely worn, protruding teeth which will also impact on the way he talked and, unusually for an Egyptian mummy, his tongue still protrudes.

'Talking' mummy Nesyamun.

Prof Fletcher and Dr Buckley helped win a BAFTA for the 2011 Channel 4 documentary Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret, which involved mummifying taxi driver Alan Billis, to replicate rediscovered secrets of the complex ancient process, at Sheffield’s Medico-Legal Centre.

Prof Fletcher said Nesyamun's wish to speak after his death was now coming true after more than 3,000 years.

Barnsley-born Prof Fletcher, now living in Scarborough, said: "A fundamental Egyptian belief was to speak the name of the dead to make them live again and Nesyamun’s coffin inscriptions include the frequent repetition of his name and the term ‘Nesyamun, true of voice’.

"So given his own wish to be able to speak after his death, combined with the excellent state of his mummified body, his prominent place in pioneering mummy studies and his proximity to York, Nesyamun was the ideal subject.

Scan on Nesyamun.

"It means people who come to see him will also be able to hear him, no longer viewing him as a museum ‘object’ or exotic curiosity but as a human individual with the potential to excite, inspire and elicit respect.

"We've still got a long way to go but this is a historic start."

Following CT scans at Leeds General Infirmary the 3D-print of his vocal tract was created by Prof David Howard, former head of the Electronics Department at the University of York, now Head of Electronic Engineering at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The process is already used medically to provide authentic vocal sounds for patients who have lost normal speech function following an accident or surgery for laryngeal cancer.

One of the most remarkable mummies in Britain, Nesyamun's coffins are amongst the best researched of their kind, already leading to a greater understanding of the nature of his role as a priest.

He also survived Hitler's Luftwaffe which destroyed other mummies and half of the museum but left him virtually unscathed in the Leeds blitz bombing of 1941.