The Sound Paradox. How to assess the acoustic significance of archaeological evidence?

Abstract : Like archaeoastronomy the archaeology of acoustic environments reveals a paradox: the phenomena which it seeks to interpret are often susceptible of the most detailed scientific scrutiny yet their purposive nature remains largely unverified and their meanings inscrutable. The paper takes an epistemological approach to ancient acoustics, with special reference to portable objects as well as to large-scale structures and spaces. It proposes a set of criteria which may be applied to help evaluate the degree of intentionality represented in such objects and places. Medieval musical finds from recent excavations are reviewed in relation to two more ancient and contrasting interpretive case-studies: the celebrated Middle Palaeolithic perforated cave-bear bone from Divje babe II, Slovenia and the 22 fragments of bone pipes with finger-holes from Upper Palaeolithic levels of the Grotte d'Isturitz, France. These are of such antiquity (c. 45 thousand and up to c. 35 thousand years ago respectively) that their apparent similarity to modern analogies cannot be relied upon to justify claims of intention and purpose. We review the evidence for their manufacture, use and contexts. From this emerge some principles, some of which, we suggest, may be applicable to architectural problems.
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Francesco d'Errico, G. Lawson. The Sound Paradox. How to assess the acoustic significance of archaeological evidence?. In C. Scarre and G. Lawson (eds.),. Archaeoacustics., McDonald Institute Monographs, Cambridge, pp.41-57, 2006. ⟨halshs-00451903⟩

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