Archaeoacoustics interprets how structures were used and modified by our ancestors to create sound effects. Were red ochre spirals, dots and symbols used to highlight certain acoustic properties in caves, valleys and megalithic buildings such as Malta’s Hypogeum, Britain’s Stonehenge?
The now old Archaeoacoustics monolith (book review) investigates paleoacoustics around the world and the Stonehenge megaliths. Were henges including wooden and their earthworks designed and modified to create surprising harmonic interferences (constructive waves, destructive waves etc)?
The soundsheds of Chaco Canyon
We focused on culturally relevant sounds and how they would have spread throughout the Chacoan landscape. These could be the voices of people, the sound of domestic animals like dogs and turkeys, the creation of stone tools or the sound of musical instruments. Within the American Southwest, these instruments include bone flutes, whistles, foot drums, copper bells and conch shell trumpets.
Soundshed maps reveal that a person standing at either of two neighboring great houses, Pueblo Alto and New Alto, located approximately 500 feet from each other, can hear a person shouting or speaking to a group at the other site. The patterns differ between the two maps because the terrain differs slightly between the two locations, and because the structures themselves block sound.
A third map models someone blowing a conch shell trumpet from immediately north of Casa Rinconada, a large ceremonial structure, at dawn on the summer solstice. The sound spreads throughout the canyon, traveling to a number of mesa top shrines that often marked sacred locations and high points on the landscape. Perhaps audibility influenced the positioning of the shrines so ritual events occurring at Casa Rinconada could be heard?
Investigating how sound interacts with the built environment can reveal details about the importance of ritual. It can show us if sound was considered important by the ancestral Puebloan people, especially if shrines are consistently found in locations where people could hear rituals that were performed at a distance.
Soundscapes in the past: Adding a new dimension to our archaeological picture of ancient cultures | The Conversation
In the third image, if its a quiet dawn, could only acoustic areas 2, 3 and 5 be considered decent?
Malta’s underground music scene
The sonically modified and red ochre painted Malta Hypogeum is an ancient amazing below ground cave/cavern structure. In one chamber There is an ‘Oracle Hole’ or sound amplifier. This is a small niche in the wall which if men or instruments with a low tone are projected into it the sound is magnified around the room and what we today call a Maltese ‘Temple’.
Only a few musicians have been allowed to record music and albums in the Paola Hypogeum’s ancient sound studio. Jennifer Berezan discusses her musical odyssey and mentions the spiral symbol paintings in Malta megaliths and the Hypogeum.
Throughout the Hypogeum and on the ceiling of the oracle chamber were 6,000-year-old red-ochre paintings … A major motif in Maltese art is the spiral. There are so many different kinds of spirals that they form their own language.
This was one of the most remarkable sonic experiences of my life. The oracle is a room in the larger series of chambers that make up the Hypogeum. It is carved of solid stone.
The sound of singing there is not unlike that in the great cathedrals of the world. I have sung in St. James Cathedral in London, as well as in other cathedrals, and this experience was comparable. Yet it was also very different.
There were overtones and qualities of different and unusual sounds, and it also seemed that the Hypogeum itself was “tuned” to particular notes. In January 1999, when we made our recordings, there were a couple of metal railings, but the floors were still the original pure stone. This is one reason that our opportunity was such an historic occasion.
Jennifer Berezan interview about recording the ReTurning album
The ReTurning meditation album by Jennifer Berezan also has great reviews on Amazon.
The other album is Sleeping Goddess (At the Hypogeum) by Hiroki Okano. A sound technician who worked on its recording said the audible enhancements by the Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum were amazing.
Spanish Neanderthal music
Spain cave sites La Pasiega, Maltravieso and Ardales all three caves contain red ochre or black paintings of groups of animals, dots and geometric signs, as well as hand stencils, hand prints and engravings …
Creating the art must have involved such sophisticated behavior as the choosing of a location, planning of light source and mixing of pigments, according to the team … “Neanderthals created meaningful symbols in meaningful places. The art is not a one-off accident,” said co-author Dr. Paul Pettitt, from Durham University, UK.
Iberian Peninsula’s Earliest Cave Paintings Were Made by Neanderthals | Sci News
The origin of human symbolism is a central concern of modern paleoanthropology. For the European Middle Paleolithic and the African Middle Stone Age, symbolic behavior has been inferred from the use, presumably for body adornment, of mineral pigments, shell beads, eagle talons, and feathers. Cave and rock art constitutes particularly impressive and important evidence for symbolic behavior (8), but little is known about the chronology of its emergence, owing to difficulties in precise and accurate dating …
At La Pasiega, the rock art comprises mainly red and black paintings, including groups of animals, linear signs, claviform signs, dots, and possible anthropomorphs. Maltravieso was episodically used by hominin groups during the past 180 ka; it contains an important set of red hand stencils, which form part of a larger body of art that includes both geometric designs (e.g., dots and triangles) and painted and engraved figures.
U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art
You would give them a tap?
Paleoacoustics: Chavín sound galleries
Research over the last few decades is starting to shed light on the connection between ancient instruments and ancient sites. At Chavín de Huántar, Peru, Miriam Kolar of Stanford University reports in her article, The Code of the Conch – How the science of sound explained an ancient Peruvian oracle: Archaeoacoustic research-sonic science applied to archaeological evidence-has revealed secrets built into Chavín’s architecture, unlocked by the sound of conch shells that were buried for millennia.
“Performing a replica shell horn inside Chavín’s galleries, I can feel through my body the resonances between instrument and architecture, a physically and emotionally transformative experience that would have been similarly sensed-but interpreted differently-by humans in the past”.
Chavíne Huántar and the work carried out by Stanford University provide us with a window into the acoustic past. A solid case has been made for the use of certain sound frequencies affecting the human emotional sphere, possibly in conjunction with psychotropic plants. We are generally led to believe that our ancestors were superstitious people who gleaned no real material benefit from their “rituals”. The evidence appears to be slowly eroding this theory. For example, if we combine the work carried out by Stanford with the work carried out by UCLA, it becomes clear that certain sound frequencies are capable of changing regional brain activity. From my own research and experience, I can add, whilst inside certain Egyptian pyramids, being immersed in these sound frequencies has a more pronounced effect than simply listening to the sound frequency on headphones.
Certain notes produced by the conch shell are amplified by the chamber it’s played in. I can say from personal experience, once a stone structure’s resonant pitch has been matched, you can feel sound waves entering the body. On the tours I help organise, the first contact people have with this effect can often be very surprising. In this setting, the human voice can often sound like a didgeridoo, in the past, Australian guests have looked around for someone playing a didgeridoo! Even though the sound is simply my voice, creating vowel sounds, which are then amplified by the chamber.
Purpose and Use of Ancient Conch Musical Instruments | Ancient Origins
The Lanzón Gallery was created from an earlier freestanding structure that was then transformed into a stone-roofed internal space by constructing around it. The Lanzón was possibly present before the roofing, as it is likely that the Lanzón predates the construction of mounds and plazas. In general, galleries follow construction patterns, which indicates a massive effort in design and planning. Maintaining these galleries over time was important to architects. The galleries are known to be windowless, dead ends, sharp turns and changes in floor height, all of which were designed to disorient people walking in them
The temple’s design shows complex innovation to adapt to the highland environments of Peru. To avoid the temple’s being flooded and destroyed during the rainy season, the Chavín people created a successful drainage system. Several canals built under the temple acted as drainage. The Chavín people also showed advanced acoustic understanding. During the rainy season water rushes through the canals and creates a roaring sound and creates a noise like a jaguar, a sacred animal.
Within the Chavin site was a structure which revealed rooms and galleries, speculated by archaeologists to be used as “ritual chambers” for a variety of ceremonies, including what could have been a ceremony surrounding fire. Major use of underground space in the form of stone-lined galleries that are often like labyrinths and run through the monuments’ major platforms and mounds
Art suggests that processions were essential to disclosing that processions were an important part of Chavin ritual …
Music also played a role in Chavin ritual. Strombus shell trumpets were found at Chavin sites. Trumpets were stored underground and it is believed that they were used by ritual practitioners, who would use them and play in procession through the underground galleries.
Chavín culture | wikipedia
Archaeology for the senses: news, research and articles
Soundscapes in the past: Investigating sound at the landscape level | acoustic archaeology paper
Ancient Acoustic Artifacts and Communication with the Gods | Ancient Origins
Double-chambered whistling bottles: A unique Peruvian pottery form | Peruvian Whistles
Archaeoacoustics monolith by Christopher Scarre and Graeme Lawson | book review
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