Monday, January 12, 2009

STONEHENGE --Music/Voice Capabilities?

Having written a book for young people on Stonehenge with Cambridge Don Caroline Malone, I am always interested in the newest speculations. The following is intriguing:

Rupert Till, an expert in acoustics and music technology at Huddersfield University, West Yorkshire (England), believes the standing stones at Stonehenge had the ideal acoustics to amplify a 'repetitive trance rhythm'. The original Stonehenge probably had a 'very pleasant, almost concert-like acoustic' that our ancestors slowly perfected over many generations

Because Stonehenge itself is partially collapsed, Dr Till used a computer model to conduct experiments in sound. The most exciting discoveries came when he and colleague Dr Bruno Fazenda visited a full-size concrete replica of Stonehenge, with all the original stones intact, which was built as a war memorial by American road builder Sam Hill at Maryhill in Washington state (USA). Although the replica has
not previously gained any attention from archaeologists studying the original site, it was ideal for Dr Till's work.

"By comparing results from paper calculations, computer simulations based on digital models, and results from the concrete Stonehenge copy, we were able to come up with some of these theories about the uses of Stonehenge. We have also been able to reproduce the sound of someone speaking or clapping in Stonehenge 5,000 years ago. The most interesting thing is that we managed to get the whole space (at Maryhill) to resonate, almost like a wine glass will ring if you run a finger round it. While that was happening a simple drum beat sounded incredibly dramatic. The space had real
character; it felt that we had gone somewhere special."

Dr Till concluded: "Our research shows that there are particular spots in the site that produce unusual particular acoustic effects, intimating that perhaps a
priest or a shaman may have stood there, leading the ritual. This kind of ritual may also have been for healing, so this acoustic study may tie the two main competing theories about Stonehenge together."

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