built more than 4,000 years ago, stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in wiltshire, england which could have been a burial ground and a place for ceremonies. and although we may never know its true function, acoustic engineers at the university of salford in manchester may have debunked some clues by building a 1:12 acoustic scale model of the monument to determine how sound was affected by the original 157 stones built in 2200BC.

a new study assess the prehistoric acoustics of stonehenge
images courtesy of the acoustics research centre/university of salford, manchester



the results from the study made at the university of salford in manchester lead to the understanding of how the stones present at the site enhanced musical sound and speech, making sound clear for attendees by projecting their voices. the study suggests that the sounds created inside the stone circle where intended for those actually present at the same intimate setting, rather than to be broadcasted more widely to those outside. this evidences a contradiction regarding the large number of people required to transport and build the site with the small number of people allowed inside.


‘constructing and testing the model was very time consuming, a labour of love, but it has given the most accurate insight into the prehistoric acoustics to date,’ comments professor trevor cox, leader of the project at the university of salford. ‘with so many stones missing or displaced, the modern acoustic of stonehenge is very different to that in prehistory.’

a new study assess the prehistoric acoustics of stonehenge



the 1:12 model was constructed using a mixture of 3D-printing and specialized molding. because stonehenge was reconfigured a number of times in history, the engineers created different arrangements to be tested which showed that these changes didn’t affect sound drastically. this allowed the engineers to conclude that sound was not a primary driver in the construction but astronomical alignments probably  were.


‘testing the acoustics of a scale model of stonehenge has given some new insights into how the monument might have been used in prehistory,’ said susan greaney, senior properties historian for english heritage. ‘the results show that music, voices or percussion sounds made at the monument could only really be heard by those standing within the stone circle, suggesting that any rituals that took place there were intimate events. It’s exciting to see how modern techniques of laser scanning, 3D printing and acoustic modeling can tell us about the distant past.’


you can find the paper here