Vocal Memnon

Vocal Memnon
Photo of the two statues of Amenhotep III (c.1410-1350BC), called by the Greeks the "singing Memnon", owing to the fact that from 27BC to 196AD, it made some kind of noise or sound, when heated in the morning and when cooled at night.
In thermodynamics, vocal Memnon, aka “singing Memnon”, refers to two 60-foot stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III (c.1410-1350BC), which, for many centuries, made a singing like noise when heated by the sun (hot body) in the morning and when cooled at night (cold body) following sunset; the reference to this purported heat-powered singing statue, semi-frequently appears in the history of heat engines or steam engines.

In 20BC, Strabo, after a visit to the statue, stated that the sound was “like a blow”.

Others to have reported hearing the sound include: Pliny (based on collected reports), Pausanias, Tacitus, Philostratus, and Juvenal. [2]

In 1648, John Wilkins, in his Mathematical Magic, classified the vocal Memnon as operating similar to the sun-powered water-filled musical instrument of Cornelius Drebbel. [1]

In 1999, Massimo Pettorino, in his “Memnon: the Vocal Statue”, was conjecturing that Hero was hired by someone to modify the Amenhotep III statue to speak, similar to one of his singing devices. [3]


The following are related quotes:

“The statue of Memnon, erected over his tomb near Thebes, is recorded by many authors [to make a melodious noise]. Memnon is said to have been the son of Aurora; the Goddess of the morning; and his statue is related to have had the peculiar faculty of uttering a melodious sound every morning when touched by the first beams of day, as if to salute his mother; and every night at sunset to have imparted another sound, low and mournful, as lamenting the departure of the day. This prodigy is spoken of by Tacitus, Strabo, Juvenal and Philostratus. The statue uttered these sounds, while perfect; and, when it was mutilated by human violence, or by a convulsion of nature, it still retained the property with which it had been originally endowed. Modern travelers, for the same phenomenon has still been observed, have asserted that it does not owe its existence to any prodigy, but to a property of the granite, of which the statue or its pedestal is formed, which, being hollow, is found in various parts of the world to exhibit this quality. It has therefore been suggested, that the priests, having ascertained its peculiarity, expressly formed the statue of that material, for the purpose of impressing on it a supernatural character, and thus being enabled to extend their influence with a credulous people.”
William Godwin (1934), Lives of Necromancers [2]

“At first, the two colossi were monoliths very much alike. It was about in the 27BC that the northern colossus, owing to an earthquake, broke into two pieces: as the pedestal leaned of 2°40’, the bust slid on it along an inclined line of fracture that is still now evident on the stone. The statue was restored by order of Settimius Severus in the year 196 AD. During these two centuries, as the 108 epigraphs carved on the legs of the colossus testify, the phenomenon of the vocal statue took place.”
— Massimo Pettorino (1999), “Memnon: the Vocal Statue” [3]

1. Wilkins, John. (1648). Mathematical Magic: the Wonders that May be Performed by Mechanical Geometry; in Two Books, Concerning Mechanical Powers and Motions (§:Book Two: Daedalus: Mechanical Motions, §§1:145-; esp. pg. 148-49). Baldwin, 1691.
2. Godwin, William. (1834). Lives of Necromancers (pg. 32). Mason, 1876.
3. Pettorino, Massimo. (1999). “Memnon: the Vocal Statue” (pdf), Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS), San Francisco. Publisher.

Further reading
● Gardiner, Alan. (1961). “The Egyptian Memnon” (abs), Journal of Egyptian Archeology, Dec 1.
● Pettorino, Massimo. (1999). “Memnon: the Vocal Statue” (pdf), Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS), San Francisco. Publisher.


● Anon. (2019). “Thousand Ton ‘Singing Statutes Found in Egypt?” (Ѻ), Mystery History, Jun 18.

External links
Colossi of Memnon (sounds) – Wikipedia.

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