Stonehenge’s purpose finally cracked with breathtaking 3D ‘acoustic’ model

Stonehenge: 'Mind-blowing' new discoveries discussed by experts

Built by ancient Britons thousands of years ago, Stonehenge’s true purpose has eluded researchers for centuries.

Was it used as a burial ground? As a way to observe the night sky? Perhaps it was used as a place of worship or even sacrifice.

The way in which the stones are set up — in a circle-like formation — and the way in which they line up with certain things, like the sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices, have long left scientists scratching their heads.

Many attempts have been made to better understand Stonehenge, with plenty of fieldwork turning up an array of relics and items.

One more recent effort saw researchers recreate the famous megalith through a 3D printer in a bid to put to bed the burning question — and what they found was quite astonishing.

READ MORE Stonehenge history rewritten after key part of relic ‘not from Wales’

A team from the University of Salford engineered the model in order to explore the effects Stonehenge’s unique structure would have had on sounds — things like conversations, rituals and even music.

Because of the way in which the stones were placed, speech and music wouldn’t have projected beyond the structure itself, nor would people standing nearby have heard what was going on inside.

To replicate this ingenious feature, acoustical engineer Trevor Cox and his team, used laser scans of the site to print a 3D model of the monument, building something that was about one-twelfth the size of the real thing.

The replica — dubbed Stonehenge Lego by Cox — was assembled in a way that assumed the original structure had initially consisted of 30 Larsen stones.

Today, Stonehenge consists of 63 complete stones, including 17 standing sarsen stones in the outer circle.

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Based on an estimated total of 157 stones erected at the site some 5,000 years ago, the researchers printed 27 stones of various shapes and sizes.

They then used silicone moulds of those stones and mixed plaster and other materials to recreate the 130 items left over.

Each stone was created in a way to minimise sound absorption, similar to the stones found at Stonehenge.

The team, working in 2020, then placed speakers and microphones at various points around the construction and beamed sounds into that, from low to high frequencies.

Despite the many gaps that make up Stonehenge, the sounds sent into the scale model stayed inside it for a short while.

Reverberation time, a measure of the time it takes sound to decay by 60 decibels, averaged about 0.6 seconds inside the model for mid-frequency sounds.

The effect would have boosted the ability to hear voices and tremendously enhanced the sounds of instruments like drums.

Sounds didn’t echo inside the replica, and inner groups of the simulated stones actually obscured and scattered the sounds reflected off the outer sarsen circle.

It showed that Stonehenge could have been used for something similar to an acoustic chamber, a way to enhance sounds and music in some sort of dramatic setting — perhaps a burial or ritual.

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