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Chanting Chamber

June 25, 2007

A scientist debunks claims about an ancient burial chamber.


Singing in the grave. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Just because something’s possible doesn’t make it so, especially in archaeology. In 1996, a pair of scientists visited Neolithic burial chambers in the British Isles. They found that the rooms resonated at frequencies corresponding to the male singing voice. They concluded that the burial chambers were also built for ritual chanting. But there was a problem:

MATTHEW WRIGHT (University of Southampton):
Really it would only have been surprising if there hadn’t been resonances in this frequency range.

Acoustician Matthew Wright of the University of Southampton revisited the research this year. He calculated that any smallish room would have similar resonances.

If those resonances are evidence that those chambers were designed for ritual chanting, well, exactly the same thing is true about my bathroom, because it has those resonances, too.

And while he admits to singing in the shower on occasion, he denies it was built to make him sound good. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.