Rock the bells: Stonehenge pieces may have been chosen for acoustic properties


Stonehenge has been the source of endless speculation since the strange formation of rocks was first discovered.

But a new theory may be the most interesting of all, with some now saying the rocks at Stonehenge were chosen because of their acoustic properties.

“There had to be something special about these rocks,” archaeo-acoustic expert Paul Devereux told the BBC. “It hasn't been considered until now that sound might have been a factor.”

Devereux led a project by the Royal College of Art in London, which attempts to understand how ancient humans perceived their world. The study results, published in the journal Time and Mind found that a number of the bluestone rocks at Stonehenge emitted sounds similar to bells when they are struck.

If the stone’s sonic properties were a motivating factor for those who transported them approximately 200 miles to the Stonehenge site, it may help further explain why some historic artifacts have said the rocks had mystical properties. Earlier this month, researchers said they had pinpointed the exact location that a number of Stonehenge’s bluestones were originally transported from. However, the new research has ultimately raised even more questions as to how exactly ancient humans were able to transport them over such a great distance.

In addition, the study found that a number of the bluestones at Stonehenge show evidence of having been physically struck.

“When struck, some make a range of metallic sounds, from pure bell-like tones to tin drum noises to deeper gong-like resonances,” Devereux and his colleagues write in the study, noting that about 5 to 10 percent of the 1,000 plus rocks they tested emitted the unusual sounds.

In fact, the diverse set of sounds emitted from stones in the study suggest that rocks at Stonehenge may have been used to create a virtual symphony to the ears of the ancient world.

“There's lots of different tones, you could play a tune,” Devereux told the BBC. “In fact, we have had percussionists who have played proper percussion pieces off the rocks."

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