in

Researchers Have Used Psychoacoustics, Or The Study Of How Humans Perceive Sounds, To Understand More About An Ancient Greek Sanctuary And Its Uses

Marco - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only

Typically, archaeologists rely on what they can see at the sites of ancient ruins in order to gain some insight into the past. But lately, with the help of new techniques, they have been able to use their other senses to explore historical locations.

By employing a method called “psychoacoustics,” which is the study of how humans perceive sounds, researchers have been able to learn more about an ancient Greek sanctuary and how it was utilized by visitors.

In a study published in the journal Open Archaeology, Pamela Jordan, a researcher from the University of Amsterdam, used psychoacoustics at the ancient sanctuary of Zeus on Mount Lykaion in Greece. The sanctuary is located roughly 100 miles from Athens.

According to ancient Greek mythology, the mountain on which the shrine sits was said to be one of the locations where Zeus, king of the gods, was born and raised. What’s left of the altar to Zeus is positioned at the southern peak of Mount Lykaion, which reaches an altitude of about 4,500 feet. The remains consisted of a large pile of ashes and a retaining wall. The ash is a result of centuries of animal sacrifices.

Right below the altar, there are the bases of two columns and an open space. Excavations have uncovered evidence of human activity from over 5,000 years ago, long before the early Greeks were thought to have started worshipping Zeus.

At the sanctuary, worship of Zeus began 3,000 years ago through rituals that involved food and drink. So, it is a possibility that a different, unknown deity was honored at the site prior to Zeus.

The remains of an ancient hippodrome, a stadium area, and other structures related to athletic events that were held to pay homage to Zeus were found a short distance away from the altar. The structures date back to the fourth century B.C.

It is believed that the sanctuary was used daily by the local people despite the fact that there was only proof of large, infrequent gatherings. This is where psychoacoustics can be of assistance in figuring out how exactly the sanctuary was used.

Over a series of four experiments conducted between 2015 and 2022, a team of researchers led by Jordan played pre-recorded sounds at various points across the site. The sounds ranged from white noise to whole speeches.

Marco – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

Sign up for Chip Chick’s newsletter and get stories like this delivered to your inbox.

1 of 2