Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures
by Marguerite Humeau

| 3 comments

Designer Marguerite Humeau has reconstructed the vocal tracts of prehistoric creatures to capture the shrieks and grunts they might have made (+ slideshow + movie).

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

Vocal tracts are made from soft tissue so they do not fossilise, meaning that Humeau had to speculate on what the surrounding tissue would have been like by analysing bones from the head, neck and chest areas of fossilised animals.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

Scans of elephants, wild boars, dolphins and porpoises – the closest living relatives to the three extinct species Humeau chose to recreate – also helped to map the probable shape of the vocal tracts.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

Humeau contacted dozens of experts, including palaeontologists, zoologists, veterinarians, engineers, explorers, surgeons, ear and throat specialists and radiologists, to help her work out the designs.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

She produced models of each extinct animal's likely resonance cavities, larynx, vocal cords and windpipe, and recorded the sounds that each animal might have made.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

The first version of the project was presented for her graduation from London's Royal College of Art last year.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

The initial project recreated the sounds of the extinct Imperial Mammoth, and was then expanded to include Ambulocetus, known as the prehistoric 'walking whale', and Entelodont, known as the 'terminator pig'.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

The models have now been presented as part of an installation and performance at the Politique Fiction exhibition at Cité du Design in Saint-Étienne, France.

Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures by Marguerite Humeau

The movie is by Ben Penna and sound is by Association Phonotonic. Photographs are by Felipe Ribon.

Here's some more information from the designer:


Proposal for Resuscitating Prehistoric Creatures sets up the rebirth of cloned creatures, their wandering and their sound epic. They are seeking to evolve in our contemporary era.

The designer, who became the heroine of a quasi-mystic epic journey, aims to resuscitate the sound of prehistoric creatures by reconstructing their vocal tracts. This is problematic from the scientific point of view: since the vocal tract is made of soft tissue, it does not fossilise. The only things that have been preserved through time are the surrounding bones. The inner parts have to be redesigned.

Humeau had to overcome the difficulty of telling history and prehistory, and also to create a work from non-existent, inaccessible or lost data. Design, fiction, science, speculations and phantasms serve the project ambition. Advice from experts as well as predictions were used to craft the roars of the new creatures. The epic, as real as fantasised, gives birth to three semi-real roaring creatures: a Mammoth Imperator, an Entelodont aka Terminator Pig, and an Ambulocetus "walking whale".

From the exhibition curator Alexandra Midal:

Marguerite Humeau graduated from the interactive design department of the Royal College of Art in London in 2011. She resurrects the sounds made by prehistoric animals by reconstructing their vocal chords. This task is not easy when you realise that no fossils of these non-bone parts exist. For months, she conducted a dialogue with palaeontologists, zoologists, veterinary experts, engineers, explorers, surgeons, doctors and radiologists. Far from being a backward looking and romantic work, on the contrary she is carried along by the desire to feel the physical presence of these animals from another time.

  • Andy

    How exciting!! I can’t wait for the second part of the project to hear a prehistoric mammoth farting.

  • C. tooth

    But why, oh why, sample it and turn it into crap “jazz composition?”

  • did