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Posts Tagged ‘Stonehenge’

Photo: Acoustics Research Centre /University of Salford, Manchester.
Acoustical engineer Trevor Cox works with a scale model of Stonehenge in a sound chamber.

One day last week, I was writing a letter to Brandeis admissions to help Shagufa get a bit more support for grad school, and I used a thumbnail description of this blog to explain how I met her. I said it was tied to my daughter’s jewelry company, which I always say, but then I added something I’d just thought of: “my goal is to share inspiring stories.”

Is that right, Dear Reader? These stories are not always inspiring, but I didn’t think the university would care that they were merely topics some stranger calling herself Suzanne’s Mom finds interesting. I’d be grateful for your own thumbnail description of SuzannesMomsBlog.

Today’s story is in the interesting department. (I wonder if everything interesting is by its nature also inspiring.)

Sarah Cascone writes at Artnet, “We may never fully solve all the mysteries of Stonehenge, the monumental prehistoric circle of stones built on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. But a new study suggests that it may have been designed to amplify sound in very specific ways.

“To recreate the acoustic properties of the stone circle as it was originally built around 2,500 BC, acoustics engineers at the University of Salford in Manchester constructed a 1:12 scale model they called ‘Minihenge.’ The results of their research have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“ ‘Constructing and testing the model was very time consuming, a labor of love, but it has given the most accurate insight into the prehistoric acoustics to date,’ Trevor Cox, the project’s lead researcher, said in a statement. ‘With so many stones missing or displaced, the modern acoustic of Stonehenge is very different to that in prehistory.’

“Thanks to laser scans of the site conducted by the governmental research group Historic England, Cox and his team were able to replicate the exact dimensions and precise topography of the monoliths using a computer-aided model and a 3-D printer. Missing stones were replaced where they were believed to have originally stood — 157 in all, based on the latest archaeological research.

The simulated stones were treated to replicate the acoustic properties of the site’s actual materials, allowing for more accurate results than in past models. … Researchers then tested the model, placing speakers and microphones in and around it while working at the university’s Acoustics Research Centre, which boasts a specialist acoustic chamber. (To account for the difference in scale, all sounds were 12 times their normal frequency, in the ultrasonic range.)

“The study found that people who spoke or played music inside the monument would have heard clear reverberations against the massive standing stones. Testing on the model also suggests that the stones increased the volume on interior sound, kept exterior sound out, and made it hard for anyone outside the structure to hear what was going on inside. …

“The placement of the stones was capable of amplifying the human voice by more than four decibels, but produced no echoes. Music and other sounds would have been enhanced such that someone standing within the outer circle of stones would have heard conversations from the center with perfect clarity, even as the sound was obscured to those outside. …

“While sound appears to have been an important consideration for the ancient builders, researchers still believe that astrological alignment was the primary factor in the placement of the stones. And mysteries about Stonehenge’s musical properties still abound.

“ ‘Stonehenge hums when the wind blows hard,’ musicologist Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield in England, who has previously conducted acoustic research on the site, told ScienceNews.

“There is also speculation that some of the smaller stones used in the ancient site’s construction may have been chosen for their musical qualities. Making a sound much like a metallic gong when struck, they could have been used as percussion instruments, Cox suggested in the Guardian in 2014.

“That theory was tested in a 2013 study conducted by researchers from the Royal College of Art in London, who were able to ‘play’ Stonehenge’s ringing stones like a giant xylophone in a unique form of ‘rock’ music. According to their findings, published in Time & Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, the stones’ musical properties were likely even more pronounced in antiquity, before they were set in reinforced concrete.”

More at Artnet, here.

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Photo: Ruben Ortega Martin, Raices de Peraleda
Drought has uncovered a Spanish version of Stonehenge, the 7,000-year-old Dolmen of Guadalperal.

As global warming brings changes to our planet, the permafrost is melting and releasing dangerous bacteria. But sometimes other, less harmful things come to light.

Caroline Goldstein writes at ArtNet, “If there’s even the slightest silver lining to the ravages of climate change, it’s that the warming conditions are revealing some previously unknown archaeological sites and artifacts.

“This past summer, an extreme drought in the Extremadura area of Spain that caused the Valdecañas Reservoir’s water levels to plummet has revealed a series of megalithic stones. Previously submerged underwater, the Dolmen de Guadalperal, often called the Spanish Stonehenge, are now in plain sight.

“Though the Dolmen are 7,000 years old, the last time they were seen in their entirety was around 1963, when the reservoir was built as part of Franco’s push toward modernization. …

“Angel Castaño, who lives near the reservoir and serves as the president of a Spanish cultural group, told the website the Local, ‘We grew up hearing about the legend of the treasure hidden beneath the lake and now we finally get to view them.’

“The approximately 100 menhirs are, like Stonehenge, hulking megalith stones — some standing up to six feet tall — that are arranged in an oval and appear oriented to filter sunlight. Evidence suggests that these stones could actually be 2,000 years older than Stonehenge.

“Castaño is working with the group Raices de Peraleda to move the dolmen before rains come and re-submerge them. ‘Whatever we do here needs to be done extremely carefully.’ he said.”

I guess so. I can’t help wondering if it would be better to move the reservoir and leave the stones, which obviously were placed where they are for a reason. But not being an engineer, I suppose moving the reservoir would be even more difficult. And already access to water is becoming a serious problem around the world. (For a heartbreaking story about the difficulty many Navajo people have getting clean water, read this.)

So hard to balance conflicting goods!

More here.

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110518-amazing-shade-of-red-on-Japanese-mapleDid you read The Hobbit? Do you remember the thrilling moment when an ancient prophecy comes true as a “thrush knocks” and the sun briefly beams at a tiny spot on the wall of the Iron Mountain, revealing the forgotten keyhole to the dragon’s backdoor? No? Well, check it out.

I mention this ability of the sun to shine at a certain place only at a certain time because the photo below represents one of my attempts to run outside in a mad rush and capture how a particular solar angle projects the squares of the gate on the stone wall. It only happens a couple times a year because the sun keeps moving. (That is, the Earth keeps moving in relation to the sun.) In a few minutes the projection would be on the grass, not the wall. The following week, it wouldn’t happen at all. I totally lost out last spring, but managed to get this much in the fall. Stonehenge.

The first sculpture was by a grateful patient of Mass General Hospital in Boston. Next come sculptures seen from the cafe balcony at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. And, typical of the City That Never Sleeps, Insomnia Cookies will deliver until 3 a.m. The port-a-potty confirms Asakiyume’s contention that these ubiquitous accommodations are as creatively named as hair salons.

Then, I give you Central Park the Beautiful. What city would ever build something this magnificent today?

Finally, another of my favorite topics: the wonder of lichen.

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Suzanne is in Denmark at the moment and sent me a website for something unusual she saw there: a modern Stonehenge.

“The idea of creating The DODECALITH arose in 2006 when the composer Gunner M. Pedersen saw sculptor Thomas Kadziola’s land art project Anemarken (Ancestors’ field) … on the island of Lolland.

“The composer suggested that he and the sculptor create a Stonehenge on Lolland, consisting of a circle of twelve huge menhirs with heads in the open countryside.”

The creators write, “On a hill overlooking the sea, we are creating a singing monument … that will give everyone from near and far an experience of greatness, closeness and beauty, of time’s migrations and settlements. It will express pride and humbleness, times gone by, the present, and, importantly, time coming. …

“The stone figures will stand on invisible foundations and they will sing!
Under a circle of natural sitting stones, a 12 channel sound system will be installed. This system will allow spatial electro acoustic song and music specially created for The DODECALITH to sound inside the circle at intervals every day, all year round. …

“The ancestors [came] from afar, from the land to the south where the waters rose 7,500 years ago and sent the Lolers on their long journey. … Along the coast from Ravnsholt to Ravnsby alone, over 70 burial mounds have survived, several of which are passage graves. … There are now only four mounds … It is here we are re-erecting the Ring of the Lolers, The DODECALITH, to let the new Lolers ancestors sing.” More.

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There is always something new to learn about Stonehenge, a site shrouded in mystery for centuries.

Rossella Lorenzi writes at Discovery News, “Using noninvasive technologies such as ground-penetrating radar and geophysical imaging, a team from the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, known as VISTA, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna, discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on a celestial alignment at Stonehenge. …

” ‘This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge,’ said project leader Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist from the University of Birmingham. ‘When viewed from the Heel Stone, a rather enigmatic stone which stands just outside the entrance to Stonehenge, the pits effectively mark the rising and setting of the sun at midsummer days.’ ”

Read more here.

On YouTube you can find both boring videos about Stonehenge and funny ones. A comedy routine by Eddie Izzard made me laugh, but it’s a bit too naughty for Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog. You can check out a few of Spinal Tap singing “Stonehenge” in the movie This is Spinal Tap. And here is a great scene about Druids from that movie.

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