Even with the abundance of incredible technology available today, some mysteries of the ancient world remain just that. Whether it be the unexplainable questions surrounding who really built the pyramids in Egypt, or how tall the Tower of Babel actually was, some mysteries from the prehistoric era of mankind’s existence continue to be an engaging and perplexing area of interest for scholars and amateurs alike.
One of the great mysteries of the ancient world that recently returned to the news headlines is that of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, as researchers at the University of Salford in Manchester, U.K. are suggesting the famous stone structure may have been built and designed specifically to amplify sound.
The recent “Sounds of Stonehenge” study of the circular structure published in the Journal of Archaeological Science reveals a unique insight into how sounds from human speech (and maybe even music) were altered and enhanced by the designed acoustics of Stonehenge. The modern-day acoustics of current Stonehenge were measured in a 2006 study, but new research delivers updated findings as engineers at the University of Salford built their own 1:12 scale model named “Minihenge” to determine how sound may have been altered by all of the original 157 stones way back in 2200 B.C. Smaller physical scale models are used to test audio techniques when designing today’s concert halls, but this study marked the first time that a strategy like this has been applied to study the prehistoric stone circle.
Results from the study provided new data on how reflections from the stones enhanced the projection of sound waves from the human voice. Researcher and University Professor Trevor Cox and his team were able to replicate the exact dimensions and topography of the stones using computer models and a 3D printer as captured by laser scans from the exact location. The researchers placed small speakers and microphones in and around their model to test their theories. All sounds used during the experiments were played at 12 times their normal frequency to make up for the difference in scale.
According to the report, “The results suggest that any sounds created within the stone circle were intended for others within the same relatively intimate setting, rather than to be broadcast more widely to those outside, whose view into the stone circle would also have been obscured.” In other words, their findings suggest that the stones not only increased the volume coming from human speech inside of the circle, but the stones also kept exterior sounds out and made it difficult for anyone outside the structure to hear what was going on inside.
“Constructing and testing the model was very time consuming, a labour of love, but it has given the most accurate insight into the prehistoric acoustics to date,” Cox said in a statement to go with their findings. “With so many stones missing or displaced, the modern acoustic of Stonehenge is very different to that in prehistory.”
Read the publication of their entire study here.