Giving a voice to mummies

Anna Barney, Heritage Daily:

To know how Ötzi the Iceman sounded we need to know how long and how thick his vocal folds were – that tells us about the natural pitch of his voice. We also need to know how long his airway was and about the cross-sectional area to work out the resonance frequencies. His tongue and lips will have been preserved in one particular position which will only give us information about a single vowel sound. So if we are to work out how he sounded for other vowels we also need to know a bit about the size of his tongue and where it joined to his windpipe. Knowing this allows us to work out the other possible tube-shapes he could make and calculate their related resonances.

But how can you actually work all this out? It’s pretty simple, all you really need is a CT scan, which uses X-rays to create detailed images of the inside of the body. This allows us to measure all these anatomical dimensions. We can then use that information to make a computer model to synthesise what his voice might have sounded like.

It’s a shame that, as the system relies on soft, fleshy tissue of mummies, we’ll never hear Lucy’s (Previously) voice.

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