There’s been all sorts of scholarly theories about the purpose of Stonehenge over the years, but it turns out that the one characteristic rarely looked at is its acoustics. A research team from the University of Salford in England reproduced the historic site in 1/12th size and placed it inside an anechoic chamber to discover that its acoustic properties were profound and unexpected.
Similar experiments had actually been done before but never reproduced the same results because of the shape of the stones, which as it turns out, is critical. In this study, the exact shapes were reproduced via 3D printing and laser measurement. Not only that, all 157 of the original stones were included, instead of the 100 that are currently left standing.
Considering that the structure was built 4,000 years ago, it’s pretty amazing that the acoustics were given any thought. The researchers discovered that speech intelligibility inside the circle was excellent, as was the natural sounding reverb that was achieved. Since most people back then wouldn’t have been familiar with reverb in any manner (unless they visited a large cave) this would have been the perfect setting for a political or religious ceremony.
If you want to hear what it sounds like, check out the sound file below. You’ll hear the dry anechoic chamber versus the Stonehenge model.
And yes, the size is about the same as used in the Spinal Tap movie!