Stonehenge is like a sacred 'prehistoric glockenspiel', researchers claim

Metallic, gong-like noises made by the monument when struck may explain why the stones were chosen by its builders

The pillars that form Stonehenge may have been chosen because they were like sacred “prehistoric glockenspiels”, according to researchers.

The sonorous quality of some of the bluestones used for the monument built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC may explain why they were transported 200 miles from Pembrokeshire, Wales, when there were plenty of local rocks to use nearby.

‘Archeo-acoustic’ expert Paul Devereux, the principal investigator on the Landscape and Perception Project, explained the choice to the BBC.

“There had to be something special about these rocks,” he said.

“Why else would they take them from here [Wales] all the way to Stonehenge?”

“It hasn't been considered until now that sound might have been a factor,” he said.

 

The study by researchers from Royal College of Art in London tried to record what “Stone Age eyes and ears” would have heard and seen in a prehistoric landscape.

To make the findings published in the ‘Journal of Time & Mind’, the team was given unprecedented access by English Heritage to the Carn Menyn ridge on Mynydd Preseli, south-west Wales, where many of Stonehenge's bluestones were quarried.

When the thousands of stones were struck with small hammerstones, researchers found that they gave off metallic sounds like bells, gongs or tin drums.

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

To prove their theory, when researchers tested all the bluestones at Stonehenge, several were found to make distinctive sounds, despite their acoustic potential being dampened by being set deep in the ground.

A number of bluestones at Stonehenge show evidence of having been struck, confirming why so many Neolithic monuments exist in the region, and provides strong evidence that the sounds made the landscape sacred to Stone Age people, the study concluded.

Professor Tim Darvill, an archaeology professor at Bournemouth University who has undertaken hundreds of excavations at Stonehenge, explained to the BBC that “pre-historic attitudes to stone” are likely to have been different to those of today.

“We don't know of course that they moved them because they rang but ringing rocks are a prominent part of many cultures,” he said.

“You can almost see them as a pre-historic glockenspiel, if you like, and you could knock them and hear these tunes.

"And soundscapes of pre-history are something we're really just beginning to explore," he said.

Read more: Druids take up arms over display of bones at Stonehenge
Project to modernise facilities at Stonehenge finally opens

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee