Simanaitis Says

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MY MUMMY’S CURSE—BY VOICE MAIL YET

WHAT WITH my recent tidbits here on Akhnaten and his kin, you’d think the spirits of ancient Egypt would look kindly on SimanaitisSays.

Then why have I just encountered a mummy’s curse—by voice mail yet? Or at least voice mail of sorts. And, in truth, probably only a fleeting one.

Let me explain.

Nesyamun, Priest of Thebes. “The Mummy Speaks! Hear Sounds From the Voice of an Ancient Egyptian Priest,” is reported by Nicholas St. Fleur in The New York Times,” January 23, 2020. A fascinating article: “Scientists used a 3-D printer, a loudspeaker, and computer software,” St. Fleur writes, “to recreate a part of the voice of a 3,000-year old mummy.”

Of course I was compelled to read the article, though this reminds me of the one and only time, years ago, when I bought a National Enquirer from the supermarket check-out stack: Its cover blurb read, “Machine Lets You Talk to the Dead! Build Your Own! Instructions Inside!”

Nesyamun’s name in hieroglyphs, as shown in his coffin inscriptions. Image from “Synthesis of a Vocal Sound from the 3,000 year old Mummy, Nesyamun ‘True of Voice,’ ” D.M. Howard et al.

St. Fleur describes, “In life, Nesyamun was an Egyptian priest who sang and chanted words of worship at the Karnak temple in Thebes. In death, he was ritually mummified and sealed in a coffin with the inscription ‘Nesyamun, true of voice.” Now, some 3,000 years into the afterlife and with the aid of a 3-D-printed vocal tract, Nesyamun can once again be heard.”

Nesyamun Health Checkups. Nesyamun has most recently resided in the Leeds City Museum, purloined from his Theban tomb 200 years ago no doubt by Brit egyptologists. His mummified body, unwrapped in 1824, has undergone scientific scrutiny now and again: An 1828 paper was the first of its kind in studying mummified remains; another in 1931 used radiology to examine Nesyamun; in 1964 specialists looked at his teeth; in 1990 endoscopists, histologists, and technicians of X-ray and early CT scanning had a go.

Their conclusions? Nesyamun’s remains were in excellent mummified shape. He died in his mid-50s, had suffered from gum disease and worn teeth, but had a strong well-developed jaw. And, reported J. Prag and R. Neave in 1997, “… clearly Nubian blood has once coursed through his veins.”

Nesyamun in his coffin. Image from the Leeds Museums and Galleries in The New York Times, January 23, 2020.

How was His Voice? Most recently, Dr. David Howard, a speech scientist at Royal Holloway, University of London, and his team created a simulation of Nesyamun’s voice. Full details are given in this nature.com article.

Nesyamun is ready for his Computed Tomography scan at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. This and the following image from The New York Times, January 23, 2020.

A high-resolution Computed Tomography scan digitized Nesyamun’s throat and mouth from larynx to lips. This digitization allowed his vocal tract to be modeled through 3-D printing using a Stratysys Connect 260.

St. Fleur writes, “Dr. Howard then took a loudspeaker, similar to one used on an ice cream truck, removed the horn portion and replaced it with the 3-D-printed vocal tract.”

The 3-D-printed trachea and mouth of Nesyamun. Image by David Howard/Royal Holloway, University of London in The New York Times, January 23, 2020.

Last, Howard connected the loudspeaker to a computer creating an electronic waveform similar to that used in common speech synthesizers. The result recreates the mummy uttering a vowel sound.

Nesyamun Not Amused?? Hearing this single “eh” from 3000 years ago gave me a shiver. And more than that: For reasons I cannot fathom, its little rectangle with actuating arrow remained locked in the lower right-hand portion of my iPhone’s The New York Times online presence—even after navigating to other articles at the website.

I tried going elsewhere on the Internet, then returning to The New York Times. There was the rectangle beckoning me to listen to Nesyamun yet again.

I even tried rebooting my iPhone. Nope. Nesyamun still wanted me to initiate his “eh.”

The only way I could find to return my iPhone to its pre-Nesyamun state was to delete The New York Times icon from the phone’s home page.

But beware Nesyamun’s “eh.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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