Cave acoustics in prehistory: Exploring the association of Palaeolithic visual motifs and acoustic response

Bruno Fazenda, Chris Scarre, Rupert Till, Raquel Jimenez Pasalodos, Manuel Rojo Guerra, Cristina Tejedor, Roberto Ontanon Peredo, Aaron Watson, Simon Wyatt, Carlos García Benito, Helen Drinkall, Frederik Foulds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


During the 1980s, acoustic studies of Upper Palaeolithic imagery in French caves—using the technology then available—suggested a relationship between acoustic response and the location of visual motifs. This paper presents an investigation, using modern acoustic measurement techniques, into such relationships within the caves of La Garma, Las Chimeneas, La Pasiega, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo in Northern Spain. It addresses methodological issues concerning acoustic measurement at enclosed archaeological sites and outlines a general framework for extraction of acoustic features that may be used to support archaeological hypotheses. The analysis explores possible associations between the position of visual motifs (which may be up to 40 000 yrs old) and localized acoustic responses. Results suggest that motifs, in general, and lines and dots, in particular, are statistically more likely to be found in places where reverberation is moderate and where the low frequency acoustic response has evidence of resonant behavior. The work presented suggests that an association of the location of Palaeolithic motifs with acoustic features is a statistically weak but tenable hypothesis, and that an appreciation of sound could have influenced behavior among Palaeolithic societies of this region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1332-1349
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
Early online date11 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2017


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