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No. 86: Mar-Apr 1993

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The Acoustics Of Rock Art

S. Waller has visited rock art sites in Europe, North America, and Australia. Standing well back from the painted walls, he claps or creates percussion sounds, and records the echos bouncing back. A casual observer might be tempted to call 911. It turns out, though, that rock art seems to be placed intentionally where echos are not only unusually loud but are also related to the pictured subject matter. Where hooved animals are depicted, one easily evokes echos of a running herd. If a person is drawn, the echos of voices seem to emanate from the picture itself!

"At open air sites with paintings, Waller found that echos reverberate on average at a level 8 decibels above the level of the background. At sites without art the average was 3 decibels. In deep caves such as Lascaux and Font-de-Gaume in France, echos in painted chambers produce sound levels of between 23 and 31 decibels. Deep cave walls painted with cats produce sounds from about 1 to 7 decibels. In contrast, surfaces without paint are 'totally flat'."

What did the ancient artists have against cats?

(Dayton, Leigh; "Rock Art Evokes Beastly Echos of the Past," New Scientist, p. 14, November 28, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #86, MAR-APR 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987