Ancient voice: Scientists recreate sound of Egyptian mummy

Mummies are seen inside a tomb during the presentation of a new discovery at Tuna el-Gebel archaeological site in Minya Governorate, Egypt, February 2, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Ancient voice: Scientists recreate sound of Egyptian mummy

BERLIN: Researchers say they’ve mimicked the voice of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy by recreating much of its vocal tract using medical scanners, 3D printing and an electronic larynx.
In a paper published Thursday by the journal Scientific Reports, the authors say the technique allowed them to produce a single sound — somewhere between the vowels in ‘bed’ and ‘bad.’
The eerie tone is unlikely to be a precise reflection of the speech of Egyptian priest Nesyamun, whose mummified body the researchers worked with, because the tongue has lost much of its bulk over three millennia.
“We have made a faithful sound for his tract in its current position, but we would not expect an exact speech match given his tongue state,” said co-author David M. Howard of London’s Royal Holloway college.
The model alone also isn’t enough to synthesize whole words or sentences, the authors said, noting that this would require the ability to calculate the audio output from the vocal tract as its shape is being changed.
“But this is something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day,” said Howard.
Rudolf Hagen, an ear, nose and throat expert at the University Hospital in Wuerzburg, Germany, who specializes in thorax reconstruction and wasn’t involved in the study, expressed skepticism. Even cutting-edge medicine struggles to give living people without a thorax a “normal” voice, he said.
Co-author John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said the technique could be used to help people interpret historical heritage.
“When visitors encounter the past, it is usually a visual encounter,” said Schofield. “With this voice we can change that, and make the encounter more multidimensional.”
“There is nothing more personal than someone’s voice, so we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun’s temple, come alive,” he said.


Turkey, Russia discuss joint patrols option in Syria’s Idlib

Updated 12 min 53 sec ago

Turkey, Russia discuss joint patrols option in Syria’s Idlib

  • Ankara and Moscow have accused each other of flouting a 2018 de-escalation agreement
  • But there had been some rapprochement between Turkey and Russia in their talks on Idlib

ANKARA: Turkey and Russia are discussing possible joint patrols as one way to reach a deal to halt fighting and stem an exodus of civilians in Syria’s Idlib region, a Turkish official said on Thursday, a day after Ankara threatened military action to push back Syrian government forces.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the nine-year-old conflict, have failed to reach an agreement after two rounds of talks in the last two weeks.
A Syrian government offensive to eradicate the last rebel strongholds in northwest Syria has led to some of the most serious confrontations yet between NATO member Ankara and Damascus, and prompted Turkey to send thousands of troops and convoys of heavy weapons to the border area.
Turkey has taken in about 3.7 million Syrian refugees since the war started and says it cannot handle any more over its border, which is now closed. The United Nations says more than 900,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes in Idlib since early December.
The Turkish official said the talks with Russia had not been “completely without a result.” The discussions had moved forward but reached no final decision, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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“Russia has maintained its position that Turkey withdraws from Idlib and evacuates its observation posts since the beginning. Withdrawing from Idlib or evacuating the observation posts is not on the agenda.”
“Various exercises are being discussed. For example, ensuring security through Turkish and Russian security officials and holding joint patrols could be possible,” the official said, adding that both Ankara and Moscow expected their presidents to “end the issue.”
Turkey, which backs rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, has threatened to use military power to drive back Syrian forces advancing in Idlib unless they withdraw by the end of the month. On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish offensive into Idlib was a “matter of time.”
Ankara and Moscow have accused each other of flouting a 2018 de-escalation agreement that allowed Turkey and Russia to set up military observation posts in Idlib.
Turkey has said some of its posts in Idlib were surrounded by Syrian government forces, but that it would not evacuate the positions or move them. On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey had rejected alternative maps offered by Russia during talks.
Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there had been some rapprochement with Russia in their talks on Idlib but that they were still not at the desired levels.
“There is no such thing as the Russians imposing a map on us, we exchanged documents presenting our respective positions,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Russia, which backs Assad, has said a Turkish offensive into Idlib would be the “worst-case scenario” and that Russia would work to prevent the situation there from worsening. Iran, which also backs Assad, has said it was ready to mediate between Syria and Turkey if necessary.
The official said Turkey, Russia and Iran planned to meet in Tehran early next month to further discuss Syria, including the developments in Idlib. A Russian delegation may come to Ankara before that to evaluate progress made on Idlib, the person said.