7133 A Multidisciplinary Methodology for Studying Ancient Auditory Environments

Friday, February 17, 2012: 10:00 AM
Room 202-204 (VCC West Building)
Miriam Kolar , Stanford University, Stanford , CA
A group of 20 spectacularly decorated, playable Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets or "pututus" were excavated in 2001 at the 3,000 year-old Formative Period ceremonial center at Chavín de Huántar, Perú, whose intact architecture gives these instruments plausible acoustic venues that can be studied today. We advance a methodology based on comparative acoustic measurements of site instruments and architecture, further informed by on-site psychoacoustic experimentation, to provide information about the auditory sensory environment experienced by ritual participants in ancient Chavín. Material evidence from this Andean site indicates foundational interest in sensory experience: iconography portrays transformed humans morphed with powerful animal forms; artifacts illustrate psychoactive plants, and include the tools used to process and ingest them; profoundly enclosed interior architecture is characterized by confined spaces connected by long corridors and staircases, which direct occupant movement through multi-level, maze-like constructions; numerous horizontal ducts interlace the complex and allow light manipulation; architectural features produce areas of strong acoustic resonance and modify sound level and quality. From this archaeological context, we present a comparative study of the acoustics of the Chavín pututus and architecture, showing how specific locations in the Chavín complex favor the frequency range and selected articulations of the pututus, which supports hypotheses regarding ritual use of site construction, as well as founds the difficult case for intention in acoustic design. This novel multidisciplinary research approach is extensible to other archaeological contexts.
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