Archaeology Research

What did Bronze Age people hear ?

Cave plan
Fig 1. Sculptors Cave in Moray North East Scotland

One of the questions that has intrigued archaeologists over the years is,” What did Bronze Age people hear ?”

Archaeoacoustics is a relatively new and emerging multidiscipline that studies the behaviour of sound within ancient sites and structures. Previous research undertaken by (SBRG, 2007; PEAR, 1996) found that Neolithic temples and hypogea in Europe had interesting and significant resonance properties and within six different Neolithic temples in England and Ireland, an acoustic resonance around 110Hz was discovered.

Michelle Walker, a graduate of the The Univeristy of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, is therefore proposing research that will attempt to identify the impact of drumming on thoughts and feelings of human participants in a Late Bronze Age cave in Moray.

One may postulate that the acoustic resonance properties within prehistoric sites in Scotland may have had an impact on the emotional state of human beings during ceremonies and rituals. It may be plausible to suggest that resonant acoustic properties exist within prehistoric sites in Scotland and this may be the reasoning behind the structural similarities of sites as to assist with the ceremony, ritual and deposition of human remains of both adults and children in prehistoric times.

The proposed research project aims to collect primary qualitative data from between 5 and 10 participants after listening to drumming between frequencies of 90 and 120Hz for two minutes in a late Bronze Age cave in Morayshire. Each frequency of 90, 100, 110, and 120Hz will be drummed at two beats per second for two minutes. After each frequency has been played the participant will be asked to complete a questionnaire with 10 questions pertaining to their thoughts and feelings during the two minute drumming period. See fig.1 for the position of drummer (D) and participants (P).

Sculptors Cave.jpg
Sculptors Cave

The drummer is positioned in that area as in the 1928 and 1979 excavations mandibles and skull fragments of were recovered from this 10ft square area of the cave. If the human remains were deposited here then it may be postulated that ceremonial or ritualistic behaviours occurred in this area of the cave that involved sound.


The aim of the research project is to investigate the impact of drumming for two minutes on the thoughts and feelings of human participants at frequencies of 90, 100, 110 and 120Hz in a Late Bronze Age cave in Moray. The qualitative data collected by means of questionnaires from participants, will be analysed for any commonality and recurring thoughts and/or feelings amongst participants whilst listening to drumming at the afore mentioned frequencies.

For more information go to Michelle Walker website