There have been more books written on Stonehenge than any other stone circle. It would seem anyone who has turned a trowel, and many who haven’t, has been inspired to put pen to paper on this most extraordinary prehistoric megalithic structure on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Such is the draw of Stonehenge that the number […]
The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni in Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is believed to be the oldest prehistoric underground temple in the world. The subterranean structure is shrouded in mystery, from the discovery of elongated skulls to stories of paranormal phenomena. But the characteristic that has been attracting experts from around the globe is the unique acoustic properties found within the underground chambers of the Hypogeum.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a cultural property of exceptional prehistoric value, dating back approximately 5,000 years and the only known example of a subterranean structure of the Bronze Age. The ‚labyrinth‘, as it is often called, consists of a series of elliptical chambers and alveoli of varying importance across three levels, to which access is gained by different corridors. The principal rooms distinguish themselves by their domed vaulting and by the elaborate structure of false bays inspired by the doorways and windows of contemporary terrestrial constructions.
Although not known for certain, it is believed that the hypogeum was originally used as a sanctuary, possibly for an oracle. It is for this reason that a unique chamber carved out of solid limestone and demonstrating incredible acoustic properties has been called ‘the Oracle Chamber’. According to William Arthur Griffiths, who wrote ‘Malta and its Recently Discovered Prehistoric Temples’, a word spoken in the Oracle room is “magnified a hundredfold and is audible throughout the entire structure. The effect upon the credulous can be imagined when the oracle spoke and the words came thundering forth through the dark and mysterious place with terrifying impressiveness.“
It is said that standing in the Hypogeum is like being inside a giant bell. At certain pitches, one feels the sound vibrating in bone and tissue as much as hearing it in the ear. Sarasota arts and architecture critic Richard Storm explained the sensation: „Because you sense something coming from somewhere else you can’t identify, you are transfixed.“
The acoustic properties within the Hypogeum have already been studied extensively. It was found by Maltese composer Ruben Zahra and a research team from Italy that sound resonates at 110 Hz within the Oracle chamber, and this matches the same or similar frequency that has been found in many other ancient chambers around the world, including Newgrange in Ireland. According to Dr Robert Jahn from Princeton University, it may be the dimensions of the room or the quality of the stone that determines the exact pitch of this echo behaviour.
Archaeologists from the universities of Leicester and Southampton have found evidence of a rare square monument beneath the world-famous Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire. Constructed in the Neolithic period during the third millennium BC the huge Avebury henge encloses three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe at 330m diameter originally comprised of […]
The Higher White Tor stone row on Dartmoor provides further evidence for precise and definable visual links with the landscape in which it was erected. As you walk along the row various landscape features are revealed. Furthermore, both ends are denoted by special limits of visibility to local tors. As the fieldwork continues it is […]
The Bancbryn stone row. From the 10th to the 21st July 2017 the Bancbryn stone alignment is to be partly excavated together with three nearby cairns. It is hoped that this work will considerably enhance our understanding of this important monument. The work is being carried out by Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Dr Sandy Gerrard. […]
In the latest issue of Current Archaeology magazine (324, February 2017) the feature article asks ‘How should we study ancient stone monuments?’ Previous categorisations have expended great ingenuity on cataloguing the monuments according to ever more intricate typologies. Now a survey of the Neolithic monuments of Pembrokeshire is applying simpler classifications and focusing on what these edifices meant to […]