At last week’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Steven Waller, an expert in archaeoacoustics, said that music could have been an inspiration for the design of Stonehenge.
Scholars in archaeoacoustics examine the role sound played in ancient cultures.
Steven Waller’s idea is that ancient Britons could have based the layout of the great monument, in part, on the way they perceived sound. He has been able to show how two flutes played in a field can produce an auditory illusion that mimics in space the position of the henge’s pillars.
He told the BBC: “My theory is that the ancient Britons, when they were hearing two pipers in a field, were experiencing sound wave interference patterns, where in certain locations as you walked around the pair of pipers, you would hear loud or quiet zones.
“If you could look at it from an overhead view, it would look like the spokes of a wheel. And, as you walk around the circle, every time you come to one of these sound-wave cancellation points, it feels like there is this massive invisible object in front of you.
“Put all this ‘vision in your mind’ together and it forms a Stonehenge-like structure…. People didn’t know that sound was propagated by pressure waves until a few centuries ago,”
But let no one think that the civilization of ancient Britain was inferior to ours, even though the French Minister of the Interior, Claude Guéant, stated publicly a week ago that “not all civilizations are equal.” This triggered a wave of protest above all from the opposition Socialists.
But Europeans have every right to judge other cultures, writes the philosopher Jean-François Mattéi in Le Figaro (February 13):
“Reactions to the statement by Claude Guéant on the inequality of civilizations vary from the ridiculous to the grotesque and the plain silly. There is but one civilization, just as there is but one humanity and one reason. And it so happens that it was European culture that came up with this idea of civilization. It developed the idea of the universal so as to share it with those who as yet had no access to it.
“As a result, one can very well make the distinction between civilized and savage or barbarian, because the progress of civilization implies leaving primitive, degenerate forms of life behind one. It goes without saying that this distinction has always been made by the civilized, that is to say, historically by Western civilization. And it can’t be blamed for doing so, because it was this culture that discovered and theorized the idea of the universal before applying it to other peoples.”