Acoustic Properties of "megalithic" edifices
This from the Sunday Times, Irish Edition, 15th July 2001:

NEWGRANGE, [north of Dublin] Ireland's world-renowned neolithic burial
chamber, may
been used as a prehistoric "echo chamber" in religious ceremonies,
according to two scientists who have discovered that the
5,000-year-old grave has the ability to alter sound.

Stone Age Sound, the BBC documentary, will be broadcast on July 24 at

While the burial chamber was not designed for that purpose by our
neolithic ancestors, they would have inevitably discovered the amazing
acoustic effects in Newgrange and exploited them in religious
ceremonies, the scientists say.
Aaron Watson, an archeologist, and David Keating, an acoustic expert,
carried out up to 10 hours of sound tests at Newgrange last month in
conjunction with the BBC. The tests, including humming, bursting
balloons, banging drums and playing "standing waves" to the stones,
will be broadcast on a Radio 4 documentary next week.

The University of Reading scientists have conducted similar tests at
Stonehenge and other neolithic sites. "We had a loudspeaker making a
humming tone and as you moved towards the sound, it got quieter. It
was very unusual," said Keating.

"However, if you moved away towards the side chambers, the sound got
louder. Even with modern knowledge of acoustics, it is quite an eerie
and odd effect."

Keating believes neolithic priests or druids may have exploited this
phenomenon in ceremonies. "If they were humming in the main chamber,
and there was no visible evidence they were making that sound, someone
could believe that the noise was coming from the side chambers where
the bodies of the dead were buried," he said.

"It is inevitable that priests or druids would have found this effect
and exploited it, or it is possible they believed that when they made
this noise they were bringing the dead to life."

Keating believes the acoustic tricks may help explain how Newgrange
was constructed by such a primitive society. It was built 500 years
before the great pyramid of Giza and a millennium before Stonehenge.
It was aligned with the winter solstice; only at dawn on December 21
each year does the sun's light pass through a 25cm opening above the

Watson and Keating found a strange effect from beating drums in the
chamber. Inside, the noise is very loud but outside, a listener only
hears a distant drum.

On the same acoustic theme:
see also:

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