The Sound of Silence: Suggesting an Evolutionary Perspective in Archaeoacoustics

Abstract: Humans have a common practice of altering auditory perception, with the ability to extend their sound experience through creating instruments, building acoustic amphitheater spaces, and producing rhythm and music with the body as with clapping, chanting, and singing. The field of archaeoacoustics offers insight into the use of sound in ancient societies. Previous research in this field has fixated on the auditory properties surrounding architectural spaces, for example, echo and amplification. These properties are often studied in relation to sound producing artifacts. Archaeoacoustic scholars consider altering sound experience a product of human intention–as a deliberate investment of meaning rather than an epiphenomenal environmental coincidence. This has left a void of literature for the auditory architecture of religious, political and social spaces. This research will describe the issues and implications surrounding the interpretation of acoustic data in archaeology, focusing on the relation to spiritual and symbolic social practices. Theoretical perspectives will be drawn from previous archaeoacoustic research, as well as human evolutionary biology, as the evolution of auditory perception is likely to correlate with the development of art, language, and other symbolic social systems. This combination of ideas proposes a deeper understanding of the role of sound that has been essential to the human experience.