Can Archaeoacoustics be used to study Ancient Recordings?


Archaeoacoustics is a field of archaeology which involves the study of the acoustics of ancient artifacts, which is argued to help understand the significance and history of prehistoric music and sounds. The entire field of study is based on the historical trend of oral history for thousands of years. Archaeologists say that sounds from these artifacts can be used to produce sounds that may have been used to tell stories or produce music. There is a massive amount of information that can be learned if recordings of oral history and sounds of oral history can be passed on through thousands of years. On archaeoacoustics, American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce said in 1902,

“Give science only a hundred more centuries of increase in geometrical progression, and she may be expected to find that the sound waves of Aristotle’s voice have somehow recorded themselves.”

The ISGMA (International Study Group on Music Archaeology) is a group of researchers who use anthropological and musicological methods to study archaeoacoustics. A United States based group called the OTS Foundation also specializes in archaeoacoustic study. They have done fieldwork in in Turkey and Malta.

Experts apply the sounds of artifacts such as pots or bowls to produce echo sounds and then be “read” similar to the style of gramophone records. Another claim made by researches in the field is the idea that flat artifacts will vibrate when certain sounds are read, again, similar to the style of gramophone records. In a 1982 article on archaeoacoustics, expert David E.H. Jones wrote,

“[A] trowel, like any flat plate, must vibrate in response to sound: thus, drawn over the wet surface by the singing plasterer, it must emboss a gramophone-type recording of his song in the plaster. Once the surface is dry, it may be played back.”

Archaeoacoustics is still just a small subdivision in the music archaeology field of study, still yet to make any breakthrough discoveries. Artifacts have been shown to produce certain generic acoustic sounds, but never have produced voice recordings or full musical compositions. If claims made by certain experts are proven true, more funding and more research into the subject would produce incredible discoveries.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: