Archaeoacoustics: Sound, Place and Space | McDonald Institute Monographs

Archaeoacoustics book by Christopher Scarre and Graeme Lawson investigates how sound properties were used and modified by our ancestors and what instructions they might have used and left behind. Painted signs for example red ochre spirals, dots and shapes as sonic markers for what will be experienced in that area.

Stonehenge megalithic sound structures ancient

Intentional design changes of natural areas, such as caves and canyons, to create sound effects. Man made structures such as megalithic stone circles like Stonehenge, burial chambers or barrows, cathedrals built to enhance the musical experiences of those inside.

It is packed full of information from site studies, also a lot of different related subjects and suggestions by various authors. As a monograph it is a special interest investigation and will not stray far from its path of acoustic archaeology. A list of the chapter titles can be seen here and written below.

Archaeoacoustics Monograph Christopher Scarre Graeme Lawson

Archaeoacoustics is printed by McDonald Institute Monographs and ss available as a hardback book on Amazon.

Worth the effort of ordering from the library if ancient human and artificial sound designs are of interest. Or you want to take one of those chances that something new may expand your mind and ears. You will certainly never visit and interpret ancient and prehistoric building projects in the same way after reading it.

Stonehenge’s ancient music festivals

The bit on the Stonehenge Heavy Stone music scene was surprising for its day, the megaliths creating interesting harmonic interference (constructive and destructive waves for example).

Stonehenge acoustics sonic design Archaeoacoustics

It is suggested that the internal structure and positioning of the standing stones also acted as damp proofing, reducing the quality and loudness when outside the stone circles.

Malta’s archaeoacoustic underground movement

Could this monograph be applied to the acoustically adapted and ochre painted Hypogeum in Malta? An ancient surprising underground building carved out of limestone. So good are the acoustics that there is a small niche in the wall to reverberate the sound of man (not woman). The authors ideas about red ochre spirals and markings as sweet amplifier spots, nodes, flat areas seems to be observable in the limited capacity a tour round the underground burial ‘Temple’ can allow.

Only a few singers and musicians have had the privilege of recording music down in the Hypogeum sound chambers, with the meditation album ReTurning by Jennifer Berezan being one. It has rather good reviews on Amazon. Jennifer Berezan discusses her musical odyssey and mentions the spiral symbol paintings in Malta megaliths and the Hypogeum .

Archaeoacoustics red ochre spirals Hypogeum MaltaThroughout 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 other album recorded their is Sleeping Goddess (At the Hypogeum) by Hiroki Okano. A chap who worked on that project said sound effects in the manmade sound rooms was stunning. A prehistoric auditory experience he will very likely never have again.

Archaeoacoustics monograph content

  • Sound, Place and Space: Towards an Archaeology of Acoustics
  • (Un)intentional Sound? Acoustics and Neolithic Monuments
  • Ears & Years: Aspects of Acoustics and Intentionality in Antiquity
  • Intentionality of Rock-art Placement Deduced from Acoustical Measurements and Echo Myths
  • The Sound Paradox: How to Assess the Acoustic Significance of Archaeological Evidence?
  • The Scandinavian Bronze Lurs: Accident or Intent?
  • Theatres and Theatre Design in the Graeco-Roman World: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches
  • The Evidence of the Use of Sound Resonance from Palaeolithic to Medieval Times
  • Large Scale–Small Scale: Medieval Stone Buildings, Early Medieval Timber Halls and the Problem of the Lyre
  • Hunter-gatherer Music and its Implications for Identifying Intentionality in the Use of Acoustic Space
  • Acoustics and the Human Experience of Socially-organized Sound
  • The Origin of Music and Rhythm

Archaeology for the senses: news, research and articles

paleoacoustics music soundsSpain 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, 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