Studies spanning decades have revealed that Stonehenge and other ancient megalithic structures and tombs may have been used to create music and various mind altering sounds. These studies represent a relatively new theory to explain what megalithic structures like Stonehenge were used for, and how important they were to early humans. They have also created a new field of study called archaeoacoustics, the study of the acoustical properties of archaeological sites.
According to authors Steven Brown, Björn Merker, and Nils L. Wallin in their book The Origins of Music,
The language-centered view of humanity has to be expanded to include music, first, because the evolution of language is highly intertwined with the evolution of music, and, second, because music provides a specific and direct means of exploring the evolution of human social structure, group function, and cultural behavior. Music making is the quintessential human cultural activity, and music is an ubiquitous element in all cultures large and small.
Music plays a much larger role in the history and evolution of humanity than we normally give it credit for. So, maybe it isn’t so far fetched that early humans dragged 25 ton stones over 100 miles just to create Stonehenge and jam out. This is the conclusion that researchers from the Royal College of Art in London are beginning to entertain.
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In 2006 Paul Devereux and Jon Wozencroft began testing rocks with digital field sound recorders in hand. They focused most closely on rocks found at a site called Carn Menyn in South-West Wales, where archaeologists believe many of the blue stones used to create Stonehenge and other similar megalithic structures in the area came from. The researchers stated that,
Because it would be impractical to attempt to acoustically test all the thousands of individual rocks involved, our methodology was to conduct percussion tests using small hammerstones on many rocks (over a thousand in all) in organized transects at points along the Carn Menyn ridge. From this we could make an informed estimate of the incidence of ringing rocks.
While not all of the stones at Stonehenge they tested “rang,” or made various drum, gong, and bell-like sounds when struck, a surprising number did. The variation in the sounds that the rocks can make is incredible. After having a listen it is very easy to imagine our ancestors creating ritualistic music or just killing time by jamming on the gigantic monoliths.
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It was inevitable that the researchers would test the stones at Stonehenge. They expected all potential sound to be muted due to a lack of air space around each stone. The results, however, surprised them, as they were still able to play the monoliths like giant xylophones. Amazingly, archaeologists have reproduced the results of this study many times at various sites around the world, even in ancient crypts in Greece. Some researchers have even created reproductions of what ancient Lithoacoustic (music created from stones) songs may have sounded like.
Research into archaeoacoustics jumps down the rabbit hole via a further field of study called psychoacoustics, a branch of psychophysics which deals with physiological and psychological responses to sound. Studies performed at an ancient site called Chavín de Huántar in Peru have revealed that ancients intentionally constructed sites to enhance the psychoactive effects of the San Pedro cactus, and to intensify psychedelic and ritualistic experiences. Ancients constructed their sites with such precision that a single hand clap while standing on a central staircase sounds identical to a quetzal bird. Additionally, areas of the sites were specifically constructed so that shadows produced by sunlight outside of the structure would create incredibly psychedelic shadows and effects when perceived by an ancient. According to Miriam Kolar, a researcher at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research and Acoustics,
These structures, unlike those at Stonehenge, could be physically disorienting and the acoustic environment is very different than the natural world. The iconography shows people mixed with animal features in altered states of being. There is peyote and mucus trails out of the nose indicative of people using psychoactive plant substances. They were taking drugs and having a hallucinogenic experience.
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Mayans and other ancients were the original hippies, superior to hippies in that they appear to have empirically explored the psychological and physiological effects of sound and imagery on the observer. Right now we can only imagine what those at Stonehenge experienced during their jam sessions.
If you are interested in experiencing the effects that specific sound frequencies can have on your mind and body, check out binaural beats, which are tones that affect the way our brains function and process thoughts and information in various ways. Through the use of binaural beats, simply listening to a particular frequency can induce states of incredible calm, stimulation, or even heightened awareness. I recommend this playlist of different frequencies to experience the profound effects of these sound vibrations on the mind and body.