Sound-reflecting shelters inspired ancient rock artists | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Sound-reflecting shelters inspired ancient rock artists

Acoustic data suggest early European painters preferred echo chambers

8:00am, June 26, 2017
Baume Brune

ECHO ART  Ancient farmers in southeastern France created rock art in shelters where sounds echoed into the surrounding landscape, researchers say. Among this set of cliff cavities at a site called Baume Brune, only the middle one (with the smallest opening) contains ancient rock art. It also has special acoustic properties that produce loud echoes.

Ancient rock artists were drawn to echo chambers. Members of early farming communities in Europe painted images in rock-shelters where sounds bounced off walls and into the surrounding countryside, researchers say.

Rock-shelters lacking such sound effects were passed up, at least in the central Mediterranean, report archaeologist Margarita Díaz-Andreu of the University of Barcelona and colleagues in the July Journal of Archaeological Science. In landscapes with many potential rock art sites, “the few shelters chosen to be painted were those that have special acoustic properties,” Díaz-Andreu says.

Some hunter-gatherer and farming groups studied over the past couple centuries believed in spirits that dwell in rock and reveal their presence via echoes. But acoustic evidence of special echoing properties at rock art sites is rare. 

Díaz-Andreu’s team

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More Atom & Cosmos articles

From the Nature Index Paid Content