Archaeoacoustics: Did Ancient Civilizations Use Acoustic Design To Create Powerful Ritual Spaces?

Archaeologists are seeking to create a new experiential archaeology of the senses, including sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. The emerging field of archaeoacoustics is an instance of that trend. Archaeoacoustics combines archaeological and acoustical sciences to discover and possibly recreate the auditory experiences of listeners at ancient sites. Several sites discussed in this session exhibit unusual acoustics that have persisted to the present. It can also be argued that other sites that exhibit no special acoustical features today had impressive acoustics in ancient times. In either case, the common challenge is to provide credible evidence of design intentionality. Recent archaeoacoustic discoveries suggest that sound at ritual sites in particular may often have been deliberately engineered for emotional and cognitive manipulation. The design skills that would have been required are impressive, even by modern standards. If this is the case, ancients were more attentive to sound than archaeologists have realized. Perhaps the relatively high noise levels of modern times have biased archaeologists to underestimate the importance of sound to the ancients. This symposium includes example case studies of ritual sites at Chavín de Huántar, Peru, and Stonehenge in England; at famous Maya monuments at Chichen Itza, Mexico; and in European Paleolithic painted caves. A growing trend toward archaeoacoustic activities seems to be a rising fashion at universities around the world.

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Listen also: Ancient Musical Spaces

Haunting Sounds at an Ancient Peruvian Site

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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