Research reveals ancient preference of acoustic qualities of rock shelters

Recent study by scientists suggests that acoustic qualities of a rock shelter may have been a key factor in its selection as a site for rock art and indicate a spiritual significance to the practice.

Rock shelter covered with ancient rock art (by Curt Harrell)

After two years of visiting rock art sites in France, Italy and Spain to compare acoustics and assess their relevance to the choice of location Margarita Díaz-Andreu and Tommaso Mattioli of University of Barcelona came to a conclusion that he rock art sites studied have distinct acoustic features. These take the form of either many echoes in the shelters where the art was found, or strong reverberations. At some sites, it was possible to hear sounds from great distances. Other undecorated shelters in the area lacked these special effects. The researchers found that in all the areas they tested with a specialised portable tool for measuring acoustics the ancient people who had chosen places to decorate had selected places with good acoustics. This suggests that the rock art sites were used for rituals, or religious ceremonies, and may or may not have involved music. The researchers also believe that prehistoric humans may have used echolocation techniques such as tongue clicks, cane tapping and handclapping to select the shelters.

(after Curt Harrell & PhysOrg)

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