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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Acoustic archaeology, 21 Aug. 2002
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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Mar 2011 13:03:22 GMT
Peasant says:
I had been looking for the book on this subject by these guys for ages, having heard only a radio programme some time ago. Without a title or the author's names, I had drawn a blank using searches, and careful targetting of the Amazon recommendations system hadn't thrown it up either. It was only your link that found it for me. Thank you; links to related books are often the most valuable part of a review to the Amazon customer (particularly computer-illiterate old farts like me), especially where books are only available through other sellers and thus don't come up on recommendations.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 May 2011 22:00:15 BDT
Peter Uys says:
Dear Mr Peasant, thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words and the fact that my obsessive reading & reviewing are of some use! Pieter

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Dec 2011 16:51:41 GMT
Peasant says:
I've read it now, and I only wish the author had taken more care with the book. It could have been stupendous.
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Peter Uys

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