I submitted an interim report of my research on Archaeoacoustics: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Impact of Frequency Dependent Sound on Human Thoughts and Feelings in a Bronze Age Cave in Morayshire, North-East Scotland to the Old Temples Study Foundation (OTSF) which is based in Florida and Malta. I received an email explaining that my interim report would go before the Scientific Review Committee for a decision to be made on wether or not I would be a speaker at the conference. I was delighted when I received an email from Nancy at OTSF saying that my paper had been accepted. I am extremely looking forward to and currently preparing myself for the forthcoming Archaeoacoustics III Conference. There is an extremely interesting line up of speakers and topics representing 23 different countries from around the world arranged for the four day conference. Please click on the button below to take you there. Hope you enjoy it.
ARCHAEOACOUSTICS I I I: The third international multi-disciplinary conference on The Archaeology of Sound 05 - 08 October 2017 - TOMAR, PORTUGAL
Archaeoacoustics: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the impact of frequency dependant sound on human thought and feeling in a Bronze Age Cave in Morayshire, North-East Scotland, UK
The proposed research project aims to collect primary qualitative data from voluntary participants after listening to drumming between frequencies of 90 and 120Hz for two minutes in a late Bronze Age cave in Morayshire. Each frequency of 90, 100, 110, and 120Hz will be drummed at two beats per second for two minutes. After each frequency has been played the participant will be asked to complete a questionnaire with 10 questions pertaining to their thoughts and feelings during the two minute drumming period. See fig.1 below for position of drummer (D) and participants (P).
Fig 1. Map of the cave showing position of drummer and participants.
Source: Armit et al 2011.
The drummer is positioned in that area as in the 1928 and 1979 excavations mandibles and skull fragments of were recovered from this 10ft square area of the cave. If the human remains were deposited here then it may be postulated that ceremonial or ritualistic behaviours occurred in this area of the cave that involved sound.
Aims and Objectives
The aim of the research project is to investigate the impact of drumming for two minutes on the thoughts and feelings of human participants at frequencies of 90, 100, 110 and 120Hz in a Late Bronze Age cave in Moray. The qualitative data collected by means of questionnaires from participants, will be analysed for any commonality and recurring thoughts and/or feelings amongst participants whilst listening to drumming at the afore mentioned frequencies.
To identify the impact of drumming on thoughts and feelings of human participants at 90, 100, 110 and 120Hz for two minutes in a Late Bronze Age cave in Moray.
To analyse human thoughts and feelings whilst listening to the drumming at 90, 100, 110 and 120Hz qualitatively.
To analyse the qualitative data for any commonality or recurring thoughts and feelings amongst the participants whilst listening to the drumming at frequencies of 90, 100, 110, 120Hz.
To identify acoustic resonance properties within Sculptors Cave.
Wider significance of project
Archaeoacoustics is a relatively new and emerging multidisciplinary that studies the behaviour of sound within ancient sites and structures. Previous research undertaken by (SBRG, 2007; PEAR, 1996) found that Neolithic temples and hypogea in Europe had interesting and significant resonance properties and within six different Neolithic temples in England and Ireland, an acoustic resonance around 110Hz was discovered. PEAR concluded “These ancient structures possessed resonant acoustical properties that may have contributed to their functional purpose” (Jahn et al, 1996). Furthermore, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, 2008) undertook research that looked at the effect and correlation at the frequencies found by PEAR at the English and Irish temples on brain activity using electroencephalogram (EEG). In particular they found that the pattern of asymmetric activity over the prefrontal cortex shifted from one of higher activation on the left side at most frequencies to right-sided dominance at 110 Hz. These findings are compatible with relative deactivation of language centres along with a shift in prefrontal activity that may be related to emotional processing. These results demonstrate that the acoustic properties of ancient structures may influence human brain function and a wider study of these interactions should be undertaken. In addition, from the findings of these studies Cook hypothesised: “The resonances of the chamber cavities might have been intended to support human ritual chanting. There is the possibility that tones at these frequencies might specifically affect regional brain activity (Cook et al, 2008).
The rationale for this research project lies within the lack of phenomenological and qualitative data in the field of archaeoacoustics. Furthermore, Neuroscience research ( Debertolis et al, 2014) shows that sounds played at frequencies of 90, 100, 110 and 120Hz effects the neurobiological processes of the human brain which alters the emotional state of the recipient listening to those sounds at those frequencies. The response to the frequencies in each individual varied in a participant sample of 30 adults, i.e. there was no constant frequency that participants’ responded too, there is individual preference which can be significantly different but always between 90 and 120Hz.
One may postulate from the above research findings that the acoustic resonance properties within prehistoric sites in Scotland may have had an impact on the emotional state of human beings during ceremonies and rituals. It may be plausible to suggest that resonant acoustic properties exist within prehistoric sites in Scotland and this may be the reasoning behind the structural similarities of sites as to assist with the ceremony, ritual and deposition of human remains of both adults and children in prehistoric times.
The aims and objectives of this piece of research will acquire knowledge by means of qualitative questionnaires and analyse wether resonant acoustic properties are prevalent within Sculptors Cave at Cove Sea in Moray, a Scottish prehistoric site and affect the thoughts and feelings of the participants. The results/findings from the research will provide support for other studies in the future to either continue research at this site in archaeoacoustics or suggest that no resonant acoustic properties were found using this methodology.
Archaeoacoustics is an important multidisciplinary approach to archaeological structures as predominantly, archaeological structures have been viewed visually and spatially within the landscape, undeniably making a significant contribution to the interpretation of archaeological structures, but nonetheless, a silent one. The resonant acoustic properties of some prehistoric sites in a Scotland and globally that contain chambers and corbelled interiors may significantly point archaeological research one step further towards the reasoning behind the design of the prehistoric structures that remain in our landscape today.
Permission(s): Permission to utilise Sculptors Cave at Cove Sea, Moray for the outlined research project has been sought and granted. The owners of Sculptors Cave, Gordonstoun Independent day and boarding school granted permission on 28th July 2015 and Historic Scotland on 25th July 2015.
Participants: Participants will be sourced from The University of Aberdeen Archaeology department, UHI Moray College and Elgin Museum. An A4 poster will be displayed in those areas of these academic and non academic establishments. There is no age limit to become a participant in the research, however each participant will complete and sign a health consent form. Participants have to be reasonably fit to walk to the site of intended research and participate. A minimum of five and a maximum of 10 participants will be sourced using this methodology. The small number of participants sought is due to the logistics of getting to and from the research site. Participants will be asked to bring their own refreshments and waterproofs. All mobile phones will be turned off during the research to prevent electromagnetic interference within the recording of the drumming.
Materials: A 40cm hand drum made from sheep skin will be utilised for the drumming for two beats per second. This has been sourced and purchased. The reasoning behind using a sheep skin drum is that in the 1928 excavation report, specifically the animal bone report of Sculptors Cave, various animal bones were discovered; Ox (Celtic ox), red-deer, roe, sheep, pig, dog, and fox, for ethical reasons a sheep skin drum was chosen. In addition, the rationale for drumming at two beats per second for two minutes is that researchers have found that if a drum beat frequency of around three to four beats per second is sustained for a five minute period, it will induce significant trance states in most people, even on their first attempt.
Lighting: Bees wax candles were chosen for lighting within the cave, this is due to the harmful chemicals that are contained within standard candles i.e. toluene and benzene. A dozen beeswax pillar candles have been sourced and purchased.
Recording of Sound: A programme called “Realtime Spectrogram and Spectrum Analysis” by Oxford Wave Research will record the drumming frequencies at each two minute interval. The format this programme uses is .wav.
Data Collection: Data will be collected by means of a ten question semi-structured qualitative questionnaire given to participants after each two minute period of drumming at each frequency. The Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of the qualitative information collected from the semi-structured questionnaires will be conducted within the methodology of Inductive Analysis. The purposes of using this approach is to i). Condense extensive and varied raw text data into a brief, summary format; ii). To establish clear links between the research objectives and the summary findings derived from the raw data; iii). To develop a model or theory based on the underlying structure of experiences or processes which are evident in the raw data.
Please clink the button below to see an article the BBC have published on my current research.
Background Literature of Archaeoacoustics
Interpreting and analysing the past calls for a multidisciplinary approach, one may study documents which is classified as History and Literature, others’ study oral traditions and folklore which may be classified as Ethnography. The study of material culture which lands in the realms of archaeology. In addition, others’ utilise a biological methodology which includes a wide variety of areas, for example, DNA, Palynology and Dendrochronology. The analysis of linguistics, including ancient languages is also another method by which the past can be interpreted (Zubrow, 2014). How do we listen to the past? Archaeoacoustics is an interesting, relatively new method involved in the analysis of sound from, and within ancient sites (Watson and Keating, 1998). The method has been employed to analyse varied sound frequencies many of which may alter human physiological and emotional states (Cook et al, 2008). It is suggested by Hill and Saroka (2010) that the documented effects of these acoustic properties may have been realised by the inhabitants of some ancient sites and used their knowledge of the process to enhance their rituals (Debertolis, 2013). Long forgotten civilisations who once lived, loved, sang, cried, played music and danced can possibly be analysed by the contemporary methodology of archaeoacoustics (Eneix, 2014).
Ancient sites such as Hal Saflieni on the Meditarraen Island of Malta is an underground cemetery was used for burial throughout the Zebbug, Ggantija and Tarxien phases of Maltese prehistory spanning 4000 to 2500BC (Stroud, 2014). The site was exacted between 1904 and 1906 by Emmanuel Magri, however the acoustic properties of the site were discovered in 1920 when William Arthur Griffiths states “Here it is noticed only a few months ago that any spoken word into this place was magnified a hundred-fold and audible throughout the entire underground structure. A curved projection is specially carved out of the back of the cave near this hole and acts as a sounding-board, showing that the designers had a good practical knowledge of sound-wave motion (Griffiths, 1920). In addition, Zammit released a guidebook for the site in 1925, he dedicated a whole section to the chamber where the niche is located and calls it the ‘Oracular Chamber’ describing the acoustics properties as ‘A deep low note uttered or hummed in or near the small cave, or the oval niche, resounds and vibrates in the chamber in a most remarkable manner. The oracular sentences were probably uttered, in the oval cave, in a deep voice which, breaking the silence of the place, must have greatly impressed the anxious devotee out in the dark passage” (Zammit, 1925). Ritual chanting into this niche became the highlight of countless visits so much so that the bottom of the niche has become worn and discoloured from having the chanters’ hands resting on it.
In addition, Debertolis et al (2014) carried out a study of acoustic resonance at ancient sites and related brain activity to assess the effects of resonance phenomena on the human body. Healthy volunteers underwent examination by EEG and where subjected to listening to tones between 90Hz and 120Hz which is similar to the resonant sounds found at some Neolithic structures in England, Ireland, Italy and Malta (Debertolis et al, 2013). They discovered that each volunteer has their own individual frequency of activation that can be significantly different from 110Hz, but always between a range of 90Hz to 120Hz. The previous research of Cook et al (2008) who influenced this study, researched the response of the range of resonance phenomena in ancient sites 90Hz to 130Hz on the human brain using EEG whilst their participants listened to tones in the same frequency range. Patterns of brain activity was studied during the tones, and they found that activity in the left temporal region was found to be significantly lower, closer to 110Hz than other frequencies. Additionally, the prefrontal cortex shifted from one side of higher activity on the left to most frequencies, to right sided dominance at 110Hz.
Moreover, Gaona et al (2014) investigated the archaeoacoustics of El Castillo in Northern Spain and found that the highest frequencies in the cave were again at 108Hz and 110Hz. The archaeological studies of this cave revealed the presence of prehistoric ritual activity associated with early shamanism (Metzner, 1987).