After nearly five and half millennia without a peep, Ötzi has finally broken his silence, thanks to a team of researchers who constructed a model of his vocal tract using CT scans.
Dubbed the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old mummy was discovered sticking out of a glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991, and while he may have already told us a huge amount about the lives of ancient Europeans, this is the first time that he has actually been given a voice.
Presenting their work at a congress to mark the 25th anniversary of Ötzi’s discovery, the team explained how they would have liked to have used MRI to get an idea of the mummified hunter-gatherer’s vocal cords and surrounding tissue, but the fragility of the specimen made this impossible. Instead, they used computer models to reconstruct his vocal tract and image the position of his hyoid bone, which supports the tongue.
You can hear the somewhat odd voice below, reciting a, e, i, o, and u in Italian.
Co-researcher Rolando Füstös told Discovery News that “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. This is a starting point for further research.”
However, he conceded that “we can’t say we have reconstructed Ötzi's original voice, because we miss some crucial information from the mummy,” such as the soft tissues in the throat and mouth that influence the way people talk.
In spite of these shortcomings, the team were still able to produce a recording that sounds a little bit like E.T., which they say roughly matches Ötzi’s voice. Falling between the frequencies of 100 and 150 Hertz, the Iceman’s dulcet tones were more or less the same as those of the average modern male.
Other projects concerning the mummy have yielded a number of fascinating revelations in recent years, with a biopsy indicating that he was probably murdered with an arrow fired from a bow.