Friday, July 18, 2008

A good sounding room ....

National Geographic had an article a couple weeks ago on the acoustic properties of the cave sanctuaries so richly decorated by early modern ancestors of the peoples we think of as Europeans:

"In the cave of Niaux in Ariège, most of the remarkable paintings are situated in the resonant Salon Noir, which sounds like a Romanesque chapel," said Iegor Reznikoff, an acoustics expert at the University of Paris who conducted the research.

The sites would therefore have served as places of natural power, supporting the theory that decorated caves were backdrops for religious and magical rituals.


[Paul] Pettitt, [a] University of Sheffield archaeologist [who was not involved in the study], said Reznikoff's research is consistent with other work that suggests music and dance played an integral role in the lives of ancient people.

Instruments such as bone flutes and "roarers"—bone and ivory instruments that whir rhythmically when spun—have been found in decorated caves.

In rare instances, cave images include highly stylized females who appear to be dancing or enigmatic, part-animal "sorcerer" figures engaging in what seem to be transformational dances.

"This is therefore an artistic connection between dance and art. Perhaps in this case the art is recording specific ritual events," Pettitt said. "It is inconceivable that such rituals would have taken place in silence."

MSNBC also had a version of the story that has a little more from Reznikoff.

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