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Archaeoacoustics

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Archaeoacoustics - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Archaeoacoustics is the use of acoustical study as a methodological approach within the field of archaeology. Archaeoacoustics examines the acoustics of archaeological sites and artifacts. It is an interdisciplinary field that includes archaeology, ethnomusicology, acoustics and digital modelling, and is part of the wider field of music archaeology, with a particular interest in prehistoric music. Since many cultures explored through archaeology were focused on the oral and therefore the aural, researchers believe that studying the sonic nature of archaeological sites and artifacts may reveal new information on the civilizations scrutinized.

Ancient sites :

In 1999, Aaron Watson undertook work on the acoustics of numerous archaeological sites, including that of Stonehenge, investigated numerous chamber tombs and other stone circles. Rupert Till (Huddersfield) and Bruno Fazenda (Salford) also explored Stonehenge’s acoustics. In the October 2011 edition of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Steven Waller argued that acoustics interference patterns were used to design the blue print of Stonehenge.

Scientific research led since 1998 suggests that the Kukulkan pyramid in Chichen Itza mimics the chirping sound of the quetzal bird when humans clap their hands around it. The researchers argue that this phenomenon is not accidental, that the builders of this pyramid felt divinely rewarded by the echoing effect of this structure. Technically, the clapping noise rings out and scatters against the temple’s high and narrow limestone steps, producing a chirp-like tone that declines in frequency.

Lithophony :

Archaeologist Paul Devereux’s work (2001) has looked at ringing rocks, Avebury and various other subjects, that he details in his book Stone Age Soundtracks.

Ian Cross of University of Cambridge has explored lithoacoustics, the use of stones as musical instruments.

Archaeologist Cornelia Kleinitz has studied the sound of a rock gongs in Sudan with Rupert Till and Brenda Baker.

Art and acoustics :

Iegor Reznikoff and Michel Dauvois studied the prehistoric painted caves of France, and found links between the artworks’ positioning and acoustic effects. An AHRC project headed by Rupert Till of Huddersfield University, Chris Scarre of Durham University and Bruno Fazenda of Salford University, studies similar relationships in the prehistoric painted caves in northern Spain.

Archaeologists Margarita Díaz-Andreu, Carlos García Benito and Tommaso Mattioli have undertaken work on rock art landscapes in Italy, France and Spain, paying particular attention to echolocation and augmented audibility of distant sounds that is experienced in some rock art sites.

Greek and Roman structures :

Steven Waller has also studied the links between rock art and sound. Panagiotis Karampatzakis and Vasilios Zafranas investigated the Acoustic Properties of the Necromanteion of Acheron, Aristoxenus acoustic vases,[24] and the evolution of acoustics in the ancient Greek and Roman odea.[

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