Archaeoacoustics introduction

This project explores the role of sound in the experience of Neolithic sites and landscapes. It began in 1995 at the stone circle of Easter Aquorthies in north-eastern Scotland and, in collaboration with Dr. David Keating and Dr. John Was, has since investigated many contrasting monuments across Britain and Ireland.

Megalithic structures are capable of generating dynamic and extraordinary worlds of sound. These range from echoes at open monuments such as the Ring of Brodgar and Stonehenge, to resonances within chambered structures such as Maeshowe and Newgrange. There can also be interactions with the wider landscape, including echoes from cliffs or the sound of the sea.

Many acoustic effects can be heard and recorded today, but what interests me most is how they may have been experienced and understood by the original builders and users of these monuments.

For information about archaeoacoustic fieldwork sites, please click the links below:


Further reading

Crewdson, J. and Watson, A. 2009. New art-ancient craft: making music for the monuments. In S. Banfield (ed.) The sounds of Stonehenge. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

Watson, A. 2006. (Un)intentional sound: acoustics and Neolithic monuments. In G. Lawson and C. Scarre (eds) Acoustics, space and intentionality: identifying intentionality in the ancient use of acoustic spaces and structures. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Monograph.

Watson, A. and Keating. D. 2000. The architecture of sound in Neolithic Orkney. In A. Ritchie (ed.) Neolithic Orkney in its European context, 259-63. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs. 

Watson, A. and Keating, D. 1999. Architecture and sound: an acoustic analysis of megalithic monuments in prehistoric Britain. Antiquity 73, 325-36. Reprinted in Darvill, T. and Malone, C. (eds) 2003. Megaliths from Antiquity, 363-76. Cambridge: Antiquity Publications.

Links to outside resources

Landscape Perception
A sensory exploration of the Preseli hills in Wales, the source of the Stonehenge bluestones, by Paul Devereux and Jon Wozencroft: 

Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Research Network
An archaeoacoustics research network and resource set up by Rupert Till, University of Huddersfield

Songs of the Caves
The results of a project to explore the acoustics of several decorated caves in northern Spain: