The theatre at Aspendos, Turkey is famous for its magnificent acoustics. Even the slightest sound made at the center of the orchestra can be easily heard as far as the upper most galleries. It is the best preserved and most complete example of a Roman theatre.

Ancient Acoustic Artifacts and Communication with the Gods

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Sir Flinders Petrie in his book (8) “The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh” gives us some tantalizing information in his description of the Kings Chamber and the Great Pyramid.

“On the E. and W. are two immense limestone walls wholly outside of; and independent of; all the granite floors and supporting blocks. Between these great walls all the chambers stand, unbonded, and capable of yielding freely to settlement.”
“But the floor of the chamber is raised above the base of the walls; a peculiar arrangement for which some reason must have existed.”

Sir Flinders Petrie assumed the free movement design of the King’s Chamber was due to settlement. If we combine the free movement with the raised floor, a picture of a chamber designed to resonate freely starts to form. For the purposes of this article I must be brief. I could also talk at length about the acoustic properties of the Grand Gallery leading up to the Kings Chamber. Suffice to say, with dimensions of 8.6 metres (28 ft) high and 46.68 metres (153.1 ft) long, it acts as an amplifier leading into the Kings Chamber. A footstep on the metal ladder at the bottom of the Grand Gallery can be heard in the King’s Chamber. An astonishing feature!

The Crystal “Shrine” at Karnak

At Karnak Temple, which is often referred to as the world’s largest temple, although a “temple city” might be more fitting, is a little known outdoor museum. As you enter the main entrance at Karnak head left; once you walk outside the main temple head back on yourself. You will see a ticket booth and a line of Sekmet/Mut statues. The extra ticket is a reasonable price and allows you to enter an area normally devoid of other tourists. Once inside head towards the back, you will soon see a row of crystal “shrines” as pictured below.

Figure 5. Crystal ‘shrine’ at Karnak (Author provided)

Figure 5. Crystal ‘shrine’ at Karnak (Author provided)

The main “shrine” of interest for acoustical purposes is in the far back corner. These shrines have been re-constructed; originally they would have been solid crystal and must have had incredible acoustics. Even today they sound remarkable and respond very well to the human voice. For anyone with an interest in crystals, the opportunity to stand inside what we can call a “crystal room” albeit with open ends, is very enjoyable. Crystal bowls are used as part of sound therapy at yoga centers around the world. There is a good reason for this, the vibrations from crystal bowls can penetrate inside the body. I would argue, in a similar way to this crystal shrine.

The Effects of Sound Frequencies on the Body

For the purposes of this article, I won’t go into a long exposé. My main intention for writing about sound and archaeoacoustics is to encourage others to get involved. This is a subject I love, I love experiencing sound for its emotional uplift. Sharing something so meaningful is a true joy, to watch others experience the sites and frequencies as I do, is very touching. Part of the reason I love this whole area is, everyone is aware of how music can affect them emotionally. Certain music can make us feel irritated or angry, other music has the ability to make us cry, with a range of emotions evoked in between the two extremes.

Sound therapy builds on this. I would recommend reading this article based on research conducted at UCLA: “Ancient Architectural Acoustic Resonance Patterns and Regional Brain Activity”.

This article illustrates how certain sound frequencies in the 110hz range alter brainwaves and stimulate different areas of the brain. I could write at length concerning the interesting experiences I have had at ancient sites. This includes feedback from groups of people ranging from 20-80 years of age from around the world. Suffice to say, sound therapy is a personal experience and can help each of us in different ways. If I have piqued your interest, I suggest you check the website Meetup for local events, or contact local yoga studios. Sound therapy is a rapidly expanding area in the west, it has been used for thousands of years in the east. In my opinion, sound therapy is a wonderful tool for emotional healing, a subject we seem to have very little understanding of in the west. Give yourself a chance to try it, you might surprise yourself with the positive results.

Miriam Kolar of Stanford very kindly provided me with this quote.

“The necessity of visiting the site in person to understand its particular resonances (both acoustical and personal). Perhaps learning about an archaeological site can be part of a personal journey for understanding. Knowing takes different forms, and means different things depending on context. What we know from an archaeological standpoint is strongly based on describing material evidence (for something about which we can only speculate, albeit make informed interpretations).”

Comments

I currently have several unique examples of  whistling vessels which were suppossedly found on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, and that I am currently attempting to authenticate. To my knowlege, there are no records of similar objects in this region, thus I am very sceptical of their authenticity. When I have more information to share on these remarkable looking pieces, I will publish my tentative findings. Who knows, they may very well be beautifully done fakes, or possibly pieces which could challenge our ideas about the indigenous cultures in the “Isthmo-Columbian” area of the Americas.

R. Lee Bowers

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