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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acoustic archaeology
Stone Age Soundtracks discusses an exciting new field in the investigation of ancient sites: acoustic archaeology. The discipline brings to light a vanished aspect of the past with the aid of computer modeling and sophisticated equipment to calculate frequencies and resonances. These investigations indicate that stone chambers, temples, dolmens, menhirs and even...
Published on 21 Aug. 2002 by Peter Uys

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but vaguely unsatisfactory
This book is revolutionary in its view of archaeology; it could easily be mistaken for a "crank" book (the cover is a bit silly and melodramatic) but it is a serious, only mildly controversial book by a proper archaeologist. The author's starting point is so obvious that it says a lot about the prejudices of archaeology that we have taken so long to see it. Our ancestors...
Published on 12 Dec. 2011 by Peasant


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acoustic archaeology, 21 Aug. 2002
By 
Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Stone Age Soundtracks (Paperback)
Stone Age Soundtracks discusses an exciting new field in the investigation of ancient sites: acoustic archaeology. The discipline brings to light a vanished aspect of the past with the aid of computer modeling and sophisticated equipment to calculate frequencies and resonances. These investigations indicate that stone chambers, temples, dolmens, menhirs and even Paleolithic caves were deliberately constructed or used in ways that would enhance the ritual sounds produced within them. There is evidence that hallucinogenic substances and music were used together. Devereaux speculates about the origins of music and a lost world where echoes were regarded as the voices of the spirits. This knowledge assists in our understanding of the biochemical and physiological reasons that lie behind the reasons why dance, rhythm and percussion are such powerful human experiences.

In his book The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art, David Lewis-Williams theorizes that the people of the Upper Paleolithic harnessed altered states of consciousness to fashion their society and used imagery as a means of establishing and defining social relationships. Cro-Magnon man had a more advanced neurological system and order of consciousness than the Neanderthals, and experienced shamanic trances and vivid mental imagery. It was important for them to paint images on cave walls which served as a membrane between the everyday world and the realm of the spirit. Graham Hancock supports Lewis-Williams' theory and personally used mind-altering substances to prove it in a series of experiments which he so lucidly describes in his absorbing book Supernatural.

Part 1 overviews the mysticism, history & anthropology of sound in order to imagine how our ancestors experienced it. It deals with matters like the magic of sound, acoustical effects on the mind & body, oracle sites, spirits and sound with reference to the Greek goddess Echo, sound in initiatory, spiritual and ceremonial rituals, words of power, whistling, brain rhythms, vibrational frequencies for various parts of the body, poetry, song, Gothic cathedrals and altered states of consciousness. The plates in this part includes full-color images of the Colossi of Memnon, rock carvings , shamans, Greek temples, Neolithic tombs, dolmens, and Newgrange site in Ireland. Particularly interesting sections include the one on Infrasound (below 20Hz, the hearing ability of the human ear, but one can feel it), on brainwave states, the resonation of body parts, and music and mysticism. Locations tested and reported on include Stonehenge and other spots on the British Isles, French and Spanish Paleolithic caves, Grecian and Mayan temples.

The second part focuses on acoustical probing and research in megalithic tombs, the methods employed and the instruments used. It contains information on frequencies, extensive discoveries at Newgrange, the design of oracle chambers and the Hemholz Resonance. The results of research on Orkney Island and Stonehenge are provided. In the Paleolithic caves of France, it emerged that rock paintings are situated in key resonant locations; the same is true even in open-air rock shelters. Color plates include photos of sites in Orkney, Australia, Brittany in France, and Spain and Mexico. The Cave of Altamira by Antonio Beltran is a most impressive showcase of these prehistoric painted caves. Amongst the musical instruments discovered in Paleolithic caves are bone flutes, whistles and drums. Richard Rudgley explores objects possibly used for creating sound that date back to 50 000 BP in chapter 15 of his book The Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age. Finally, Devereux examines sites of interest in California and Bolivia.

The text is enhanced by black & white illustrations, musical notations, the aforementioned striking color plates and separate blocks of copy dealing with particular aspects of the research. There are also bibliographic references & notes and an index. Being a pioneering work in this exciting new discipline, Stone Age Soundtracks is a very valuable resource and I highly recommend it to those who are interested in mankind's unknown past, and to musicologists, ethnologists and archaeologists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but vaguely unsatisfactory, 12 Dec. 2011
By 
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Stone Age Soundtracks (Paperback)
This book is revolutionary in its view of archaeology; it could easily be mistaken for a "crank" book (the cover is a bit silly and melodramatic) but it is a serious, only mildly controversial book by a proper archaeologist. The author's starting point is so obvious that it says a lot about the prejudices of archaeology that we have taken so long to see it. Our ancestors weren't deaf; we know they made music, they also spoke, sang and chanted. Modern people in traditional cultures all have "non-scientific" attitudes to phenomona like echoes, resonance and reverberation. Modern shamans use and interpret them. Lacking a modern understanding of the science of acoustics, our ancestors would also regard places with impressive and unusual acoustics - especially echoes - as spiritually or supernaturally significant.

Any rocky surface reflects sound. If you've watched BBC's "Coast" you'll have seen a concrete wall in Kent, constructed in the 1930s to magnify the sound of approaching planes, concentrating the sound on one focal point. A rock shelter of the type common all over the world will have similar properties; some better than others. Also high up the list of places with spooky, impressive acoustics are caves, in which the effects are still powerful enough to unnerve modern archaeologists.

Devereux links these phenomena with cave and rock paintings. He looks at the acoustics of artificial structures such as Newgrange, Stonehenge, Waylands Smithy and Maes Howe. He compares these with acoustic phenomena in pre-Columbian American sites, and with the planned acoustics of Greek theatres. He speculates, sensibly rather than in a sensationalist way, about the extent to which these structures were designed to manipulate sound, and about how the early shamans used the acoustics for divination, during trance states, and to impress the uninititated part of the tribe. At every opportunity he draws parallels between his ideas about the past and established knowledge about modern shamanistic practice.

All the places Devereux examines resonate in the pitch of a deep male voice (about 110Hz). Baritone chanting results in a number of extraordinary phenomena, including transmission of sound for long distances through the earth, resonances that magnify the volume and prolong the sound after the human voice has stopped, acoustic patterns which result in localised peaks and troughs of sound, and the generation of "infrasound" at the wavelengths where disturbing and unexpected effects on the human body are felt. Higher-pitched voices (or indeed high-pitched musical instruments), for scientific reasons, cannot produce the same effects. Devereux refers in passing to the fact that this means the shamanistic use of acoustics is restricted to men, but sadly he does not develop this provocative and intriguing line of inquiry.

It took me a while to track this book down and I approached it with relish. The author, while a serious archaeologist whose idea are founded in years of scientific research, is keen to make his book as accessible as possible. He writes without jargon, and notes are at the back, numbered in the text rather than appearing as footnotes. There are photographs and a few sketches, the occasional reproduction of an earlier drawing. It should have been a five star book, but is let down by avoidable flaws.

There are many places where the descriptions of acoustic effects in the text would have been much easier to understand if they had been accompanied by simple diagrams. There are long descriptions of the interiors of cave sytems which cried out for a ground plan. Very few of the many cave paintings referred to are illustrated. What illustrations there are often would benefit from more explanation. There are confusing descriptions of shamnistic harmonies and tunes which would have been lucid with a short passage of musical notation. Moreover, Devereux's writing, though carefully avoiding technical language, lacks ordinary clarity; one has to re-read sections to get what he is driving at, not because the ideas are difficult but because his meaning is obscured by clumsy English.

In addition to these drawbacks, several parts of the text are skated through far too briskly. Where he is citing other people's studies, he gives insufficient detail; just a curt summing up rather than the fuller description this fascinating research deserves. When first published this was a mid-priced book. It would have been worth a few quid more to have a longer, better-written text and more graphics. As it was I was left feeling like someone who has bought a ticket to an exciting event and found themselves seated behind a pillar; able to get most of what is going on, but having to struggle too hard and use my imagination rather too much for proper enjoyment. I will read the book again immediately in the hope of picking up more depth of understanding.

POSTSCRIPT: I have now re-read it, and some of the bits which were hard to fathom the first time round are clearer, but my criticisms remain sadly valid.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sound Revelations, 7 July 2006
By 
J. R. Parker "Herne The Book Hunter" (Peterborough, Cambs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stone Age Soundtracks (Paperback)
Yet again Paul Devereux has tacked an esoteric subject matter and breathed new life into it. This book blows the accumulated dust of a myriad theories off the once silent stones over which they'd settled. Now when you visit these ancient places you can experience the wonders of sound and how this sense may have been key to their siting, placements and experience to our long gone forefathers. Revelatory.

The image of the contemplative shaman entranced by a dancing wave of smoke partices, caught in the beam of the rising sun, is a suitable metaphor for this books ideas.
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Stone Age Soundtracks
Stone Age Soundtracks by Paul Devereux (Paperback - 15 Oct. 2001)
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