Accepted paper:

Sound archaeology: the categorisation of sites according to their sonic characteristics

Authors:

Rupert Till (University of Huddersfield)

Paper short abstract:

It has become clear through the fields of music archaeology and archaeoacoustics, that in certain cases the sonic character of an archaeological site may be important. This paper provides a categorisation system that can be used to assess the importance of sound at a site, to illustrate the different kinds of sound evidence that may be present.

Paper long abstract:

Sound and music don't occur in isolation, but are always set in an acoustic context. Indeed in some cases archaeological sites act like music instruments, as objects that create sound when acted upon by human agency, or perhaps more simply as an object that can create musical sound. It has become clear through the fields of music archaeology and archaeoacoustics, that in certain cases the sonic character of an archaeological site may be of as much or greater importance than its visual or material construction. The level of evidence for such significance varies widely however, from sites that may possibly have some kind of sonic interest, through to sites that we have clear evidence were intentionally built with sound in mind. This paper will provide a stepped categorisation system that can be used to assess the importance of sound at a site. As well as providing a way of differentiating between different types of example, this paper aims to illustrate the different kinds of sound evidence that may be present in an archaeological site, and to show why it is important that archaeologists and heritage professionals bear in mind the sonic as well as the visual and material. Examples of archaeological sites with various levels of evidence of sound archaeology will be given, in order for illustrative purposes. The paper will go on to discuss how varying levels of evidence and certainty may impact upon our ability and methodology when trying to reconstruct such sonic architecture.

panel S37
Artefact to auditorium: aural agendas in the archaeology of prehistoric sound (partly supported by the AHRC ‘Beyond Text’ program)