Stonehenge May Have Been Attempt to Duplicate Sound Illusion

Monday, 20 Feb 2012 01:16 PM

By Greg McDonald

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Image: Stonehenge May Have Been Attempt to Duplicate Sound Illusion
The circular structure of Stoneheng could have been placed where sound waves cancel each other out, creating “a quiet spot,” U.S. archaeologist Steven Waller says.
The Stonehenge monument in Southern England might have been built in a quest to mimic an illusion based on sound, an American archaeologist suggests.

Theories about why the Stonehenge was built range from the spiritual to the celestial. But Steven Waller, a doctoral researcher at Rock Art Acoustics USA, told an audience in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Feb. 16 that the circular structure could have been placed where sound waves cancel each other out, creating “a quiet spot,” according to the LiveScience website.

To make his point, Waller spoke of two pipers playing in a field. If people were to walk around them, they would hear a strange effect — at certain points, the sounds that each piper produced would be quieter.

Waller presented his theory that the stones were placed to block out sounds from the center of the circle at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to the LiveScience report.


In Waller’s own experiments conducted in an open field, he said his blindfolded volunteers noted dead spots where the sounds two pipers made seemed to cancel each other out. When asked to draw what they thought were barriers placed to block the sounds, “They drew structures, archways, and openings that are very similar to Stonehenge,” Waller told his audience.


Waller, who studies sounds at ancient sites, also noted a number of myths linked to Stonehenge in support of his theory, including the fact that the 5,000-year-old monument is referred to in Great Britain as the place of “piper stones,” where legend has it that two pipers led maidens into a field and then turned them to stone.


He said he believes the builders of Stonehenge may have heard the same sound-canceling illusion that the volunteers in his research experienced. As a result, they created the stone circle that exists today.

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