After sitting on ice for around 5,300 years, Ötzi the Iceman finally has something to say.
At a major conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the iceman’s discovery, scientists have debuted the “best possible approximation” of Ötzi the Iceman’s voice.
The audio model is based on anatomical measurements and scientists used this data to bring back the likely timbre and tone of Ötzi’s voice, having him say vowels in Italian.
“We can’t say we have reconstructed Ötzi’s original voice because we miss some crucial information from the mummy,” Rolando Füstös, chief of the otolaryngologist department at Bolzano’s General Hospital in Italy, told Discovery News.
“But with two measurements, the length of both the vocal tract and the vocal cords, we have been able to recreate a fairly reliable approximation of the mummy’s voice,” he added. “This is a starting point for further research.”
The Mummy that Keeps on Giving
Ötzi’s mummy was discovered by two German hikers in 1991, frozen in the Ötzal Alps in Italy. It is Europe’s oldest known naturally-made mummy, supplying scientists with an unparalleled peek into what daily life was like around 3,300 BC, during the copper age.
Researchers have since found that Ötzi was murdered, likely killed by an arrow to the shoulder. He was also dressed in a blend of sheep, goat, and cow skin when he was murdered. The iceman also had a deerskin quiver and a bearskin cap.
Ötzi’s also had 61 tattoos that have been examined at length, and by modeling his tone of voice, scientists are trying to gain ever more insight into what humans could possibly have sounded like 5,000 years ago.
To create the model, researchers had to image Ötzi’s throat with CT scans; MRI scans would have damaged the mummy. The researchers also had to cope with the fact that the iceman’s arm is covering his throat.
“For our project, this is the worst position you can imagine,” said team member Francesco Avanzini. “Moreover, the hyoid bone – or tongue-bone – was partly absorbed and dislocated.”
Using computer software, the team was capable of digitally moving Ötzi’s arm and repositioning his skull, permitting a better recreation of the vocal tract.
The team wasn’t able to determine the tension and density of the vocal cords, and makeup of the throat tissue. To compensate, they modeled the throat using algorithms and its function using complex software. With all that detail, the team found Ötzi’s voice had a frequency between 100 and 150 Hz, which is very similar to that of typical males today.
Image credit: Iceman.it
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