There are many mysteries surrounding Stonehenge, one of which, according to a new British study, is whether or not the perplexing monument was built as a giant percussive instrument.
A Royal College of Art study published in The Journal of Time and Mind has a new explanation for why giant bluestones were transported 200 miles to build the neolithic monument: bluestone rocks have acoustic qualities that allow them to ring like bells. Researcher Paul Deveraux recently told the BBC,
The percentage of the rocks on the Carn Menyn ridge are ringing rocks, they ring just like a bell. And there’s lots of different tones, you could play a tune. In fact, we have had percussionists who have played proper percussion pieces off the rocks.
While hitting a rock may not seem like the most scientific study, the “bell” theory definitely provides an interesting new angle with which to look at one of the world’s wonders–especially considering that the ringing properties of Stonehenge are so pronounced, the monument was used in place of church bells during the 1700s.
The team explains that due to the historical precedent of using the stones as a bell, they expected that the rocks would have some ringing capabilities–but not as many stones, and not as pronounced. Says archeologist Jim Darvill,
We don’t know of course that they moved them because they rang, but ringing rocks are a prominent part of many cultures. You can almost see them as a pre-historic glockenspiel, if you like, and you could knock them and hear these tunes. Soundscapes of pre-history are something we’re really just beginning to explore.
While the idea of a “Glockenspiel” doesn’t carry the mystique I usually associate with Stonehenge–it just makes me picture the Von Trapp family–any insight into the enigmatic monument’s history is fascinating.
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