View Full Version : Stonehenge was based on a 'magical' auditory illusion, says scientist

19th February 2012, 08:36
The layout of Stonehenge matches the spacing of loud and quiet sounds created by acoustic interference, new theory claims


Two flutes playing the same continuous note set up a pattern of interference that apparently echoes the layout of Stonehenge. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Getty
The Neolithic builders of Stonehenge were inspired by "auditory illusions" when they drew up blueprints for the ancient monument, a researcher claims.

The radical proposal follows a series of experiments by US scientist Steven Waller, who claims the positions of the standing stones match patterns in sound waves created by a pair of musical instruments.

Waller, an independent researcher in California, said the layout of the stones corresponded to the regular spacing of loud and quiet sounds created by acoustic interference when two instruments played the same note continuously Like this Audio.


In Neolithic times, the nature of sound waves – and their ability to reinforce and cancel each other out – would have been mysterious enough to verge on the magical, Waller said. Quiet patches created by acoustic interference could have led to the "auditory illusion" that invisible objects stood between a listener and the instruments being played, he added.

To investigate whether instruments could create such auditory illusions, Waller rigged two flutes to an air pump so they played the same note continuously. When he walked around them in a circle, the volume rose, fell and rose again as the sound waves interfered with each other. "What I found unexpected was how I experienced those regions of quiet. It felt like I was being sheltered from the sound. As if something was protecting me. It gave me a feeling of peace and quiet," he said.

Auditory interference pattern created when two instruments play the same note continuously Link to this audio
To follow up, Waller recruited volunteers, blindfolded them, and led them in a circle around the instruments. He then asked participants to sketch out the shape of any obstructions they thought lay between them and the flutes. Some drew circles of pillars, and one volunteer added lintels, a striking feature of the Stonehenge monument.

"If these people in the past were dancing in a circle around two pipers and were experiencing the loud and soft and loud and soft regions that happen when an interference pattern is set up, they would have felt there were these massive objects arranged in a ring. It would have been this completely baffling experience, and anything that was mysterious like that in the past was considered to be magic and supernatural.

"I think that was what motivated them to build the actual structure that matched this virtual impression. It was like a vision that they received from the other world. The design of Stonehenge matches this interference pattern auditory illusion," said Waller, who described his research at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.

"It's not a complete structure now but there is a portion of the ring that still has the big megaliths arranged in the circle. If you have a sound source in the middle of Stonehenge, and you walk around the outside of the big stones, what you experience is alternating loud and soft, loud and soft, loud and soft as you alternately pass by the gaps and the stone, the gaps and the stone," he added.

"So the stones of Stonehenge cast acoustic shadows that mimic an interference pattern."

Waller argues that his findings are not mere coincidence and says local legend offers some support for his thesis. Some megaliths are known as pipers' stones, while stories tell of walls of air forming an invisible tower, and two magical pipers that enticed maidens to dance in a circle before they turned to stone.

Stonehenge was built in several stages, with the lintelled stone circle constructed around 2,500 BC. The site was originally a burial ground, but may also have been a place for healing.

In 2009, Rupert Till, a music expert at Huddersfield University, used a full-scale replica of Stonehenge and computer analyses to show that repetitive drum beats and chanting would have resonated loudly between the standing stones.

Timothy Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University, said that while sound played an important role in events at Stonehenge, the monument was probably not designed with acoustics in mind.

"The main structure is a replica in stone of what was normally built in wood," he said. "They used the same techniques. The positioning of the main components is all about the construction of a framework, a building if you like, as the setting for ritual adventures that included the use of the bluestones brought over from Wales."


19th February 2012, 10:05
;) this resonates very much with.. resonation

19th February 2012, 11:05
Regardless of how one views this i will not believe that stone henge was an accident.
Maybe im being biased due to me being pagan and Celtic.
But if anyone has been to the structure and seen it, even now its still impressive, there is truly something magical about it.
And in the past it would have been even more outstanding.
This structure was there before the so called "civilised" Romans came and taught us to sleep with men and walk on roads rather than sleep with women and walk in nature.

Sean Timberwolf

20th February 2012, 01:05
The auditory theory resonates (sorry…) with an odd experience I had at Avebury circle some years ago. (Avebury is a standing stone circle considerably older than Stonehenge.)

I was making small talk with the Keeper of the Stones, a warden who lives on the site, about the potential actual number of megalithic stones that could comprise the entire monumental complex, since many are missing. As we were talking, I speculated apropos of nothing (since I am not an expert) that the main ring and processional might actually have been comprised of 106 stones – the so-called Names Of God, each of which is characterized by a different Sanskrit tone.

As soon as I said this, I was mentally struck by some kind of ‘information download’ and more words simply came tumbling heedlessly out of me: ‘each stone, in its original form, had a unique ‘tone’ or sound, so that when the whole complex was activated it made some kind of powerful harmonic… Each note, in turn…’. I barreled on.

The Keeper gaped at me in astonishment. What was I saying? I didn’t really know… I was clearly a babbling madwoman. After a moment, he backed quietly away from me, politely excusing himself with other business.

I stood there, stunned and embarrassed. Where had that crazy information come from? And what did it mean?

So, twenty+ plus years later, perhaps someone may have a theory.



20th February 2012, 02:07
Sounds like the ringing stones at Adam's Calendar, South Africa. See Kerry's video with Michael Tellinger.