Experimental Sound Archaeology

These sound examples illustrate what it may have sounded like inside Stonehenge in prehistory, perhaps 5000 years ago.

Dry Clapping

This is the anechoic sound of someone clapping. This dry clapping sound has the acoustic of Stonehenge added in later examples to illustrate the sonic architecture of the stones. Clapping is used as it is a short impulse which finishes quickly and allows us to hear the echoes and reverberation that follow.

Either side of the Sarsen circle (IIIb)

This illustrates someone clapping while standing on the right hand side of the sarsen ring of Stonehenge IIIb (with a Sarsen stone ring but no bluestone ring), while the listener stands on the other side of the circle. Both are positioned at the inner edge of the circle. These soundfiles are generated using Odeon acoustic modeling software.

Either side of the Sarsen circle (IIIc)

This is the same as the last example but at Stonehenge IIIc, with a bluestone circle added to the Sarsen circle. Again someone claps on the right and listens on the left. Note that adding the bluestones diffuses the echoes, meaning there is more of a reverberant effect, rather than clear echoes. Adding the bluestone circle would have noticeably altered the acoustic in the space.

Centre to bluestone ring (IIIb)

In this example clapping position is the centre of the circle, listening position is just inside where the bluestone circle would be, although this is modelled on Stonehenge IIIb, with no bluestone circle.

Centre to bluestone ring (IIIc)

This example is from Stonehenge IIIc and again features clapping (source) at centre, listening (receiver) just inside the bluestone circle.

Centre to entrance (IIIb)

Stonehenge IIIb this time, source at centre, receiver just inside the entrance to the Sarsen stone circle.

Centre to entrance (IIIb)

Stonehenge IIIc, source at centre, receiver just inside the entrance to the Sarsen stone circle.

Sound at centre (IIIb)

Stonehenge IIIb source centre, listener centre. This file illustrates what it would sound like if you clapped at the centre of the circle. Note the clear single echo as the sound returns to you from all directions reflected from the Sarsen stone ring.

Impulse Response (IIIc)

This is the impulse response of the space, this is what the reverberation tail, (echoes and reflections) in the space, sounds like.

47Hz bass tone

This is what 47Hz sounds like. This is the bass frequency we found was generated, when we played percussive sounds in time to the echoes and resonant frequency at the Maryhill Monument Stonehenge replica. You will need good loudspeakers, a sub woofer or decent headphones to hear this properly.

Anechoic replica TRB drums

This an anechoic, dry recording of drums playing in time to the echoes and resonance in the space. The drum sounds are digital samples created by recording replicas of prehistoric drums. These replicas were made by archaeologist Dr. Simon Wyatt, based on TRB drums. The originals were found in Germany by archaeologists, but are of about the right period, and so could have been present.

Replica TRB drums with Stonehenge echoes/reverberation

This is the same recording of drums playing in time to the echoes in the space, but with the acoustic of Stonehenge added. It is how one may have heard sound if standing in front of the gap between two sarsen stones.

Replica TRB drums with Stonehenge echoes/reverberation and simulated bass resonance

This is sound example of drums playing in time to echoes in the space, with the modelled reverberation from Stonehenge added. You will hear a 47Hz low hum or ‘booming tone’ added, which fades in. Small computer speakers may not allow you to hear this. It is how one may have heard sound if standing in front of one of the sarsen stones while a group of people played drums in the space.

Drums speeding up, with Stonehenge echoes added

This example shows how when percussionists speed up they go in and out of time with the echoes that can be heard at Stonehenge. It is likely music in the space would entrain to these echoes.

Wilsford flute replica

This is the sound of a reconstruction of the Wilsford flute found near Stonehenge. The flute dates from about the same period as Stonehenge, and was reconstructed by archaeologist Dr. Simon Wyatt. It is played dry, in an open field a few hundred metres away from Stonehenge. It is then played ‘wet’, with the acoustic of Stonehenge added, illustrating what it would have sounded like of played in Stonehenge.

5 minutes of Stonehenge sound

This bit does not attempt to be particularly scientific. A number of people have asked for a longer example of drum rhythms ‘in time’ with the echo in the space, to try to meditate to it, or ‘trance out’. So here it is, 5 minutes worth. Try listening to this with headphones. If you want to, make yourself comfortable, blindfold your eyes so you are not tempted to open them, and concentrate or focus on the feeling of your breathing, on how it feels for the breath to come in and out of your body.


5 minutes of Stonehenge rhythms