Ancient Soundscapes

The visual domain tends to be given priority over the sonic domain when it comes to historical reconstructions of people, structures and places. The question of what things looked like eclipses less tangible questions of what the surrounding spaces might have sounded like.

Yet there is a wealth of famous ancient architecture that once served fascinating acoustical purposes before one even considers its appearance. Today the BBC reported on the growing use of VR within archaeology, which helps historians answer the most pertinent questions about forgotten sensory experiences. Stonehenge is the latest structure to have been rendered in a virtual reality app, using audio plugins to remove the extraneous sounds of the motorway and to recreate the spatial and acoustic properties of the once-intact stone circle.

There are a number of other ancient buildings that deserve to be explored through similar reconstructive digital technologies. By re-engineering acoustical properties we can potentially be brought closer to past ways of hearing and experiencing an environment. There is no shortage of lively sounds and spaces to inhabit, from inexplicable modes of acoustic amplification and seemingly endless echoes, to uncanny emulations of nature such as the Mayan El Castillo pyramid's famous avian echo that resembles the Mexican quetzal bird: