The Power of Sound Rediscovered in Prehistoric Barrows and Coves

The Power of Sound Rediscovered in Prehistoric Barrows and Coves

The science of archaeoacoustics reveals that some prehistoric barrows were potentially used for frightening and mysterious rites. Surrounded by decomposing bodies, initiates may have been exposed to infrasound - inaudibly low frequencies known to affect brainwaves, producing hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. Some megalithic structures also have audible resonances that produce a musical interval known as the ‘perfect fourth’ – a ratio of 4:3 that is also found in the proportions of their stone chambers. Elsewhere, the huge stones of a cove were positioned to produce a mysterious echo, perhaps used as an oracle. What secret rituals did our Neolithic ancestors perform at these sacred ancient archaeological sites?

West Kennet Long Barrow (Image © Steve Marshall)

West Kennet Long Barrow (Image © Steve Marshall)

Acoustics of the West Kennet Long Barrow

Visible for miles around, the West Kennet long barrow (WKLB) is sited just below the crest of a hill, half a mile south-east of Silbury. Constructed in 3670 to 3635 BC, the West Kennet long barrow is probably Britain's best-known example of a Cotswold-Severn long barrow. Its imposing, but badly damaged mound, with parallel ditches on either side, is unusually long at 104 meters (341 feet).


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