3D Model of Stonehenge Proves the Actual Structure Had Excellent Acoustics

A team of scientists has accurately rebuilt a version one-twelfth the size of the megalith's original size.
Fabienne Lang
Trevor Cox and 3D StonehengeTrevor Cox/Twitter

A mini version of Stonehenge could assist in discovering the English megalith's acoustic capacities, according to scientists who have recreated the historic site at one-twelfth of its original size. 


The 'mini' model spans 2.6 meters from one end of the circle to the other, and beats all other replicas of Stonehenge, such as the full-sized one near Maryhill in Washington because it was created by using laser scan data. 

Acoustics from an ancient site revealed

Trevor Cox, professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford in England, who was part of the research team, said: "The problem with the other models we have is that the stones aren't quite the right shape and size, and how the sound interacts with the stones depends critically on the shapes." 

3D Model of Stonehenge Proves the Actual Structure Had Excellent Acoustics
The 3D Stonehenge at 1:12 the size of the actual one, at winter solstice. Source: Trevor Cox/Twitter

The team made use of archaeological work in order to rebuild the pre-historic monument and how it would have looked 4,000 years ago. 

Originally, Stonehenge had 157 stones, today only 100 remain. In this replica, the team built the model using the original alignment of 157 stones

How did the team build a version more closely in line with the actual Stonehenge?

As per Cox, "You 3D print them and then you make silicon moulds out of them, and then you cast them in a plaster-polymer mix, and then you paint them in car paint". He added, "I ruined my dining room floor."

Low-frequency sounds

"If you were to talk in a cinema, that is probably roughly the acoustic we are getting," said Cox. 

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The team's tests were carried out inside an acoustic chamber and they were looking for such effects as speech intelligibility and air resonance. 

As well as being visually impressive, Stonehenge's auditory environment would have been different for prehistoric people not used to reverberant spaces - unless they were familiar with caves. 

3D Model of Stonehenge Proves the Actual Structure Had Excellent Acoustics
The original Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England (2010). Source: Julie Anne Workman/Wikimedia Commons

Stonehenge's purpose still remains a contentious debate amongst scholars and laymen alike. Cox is of the belief that the site's acoustic virtues were a byproduct of the structure. 

"If you were going to hold a ceremony, and you had a lot of people to talk to, doing it outside the stones would be a lot harder than if you did it inside the stones [circle]," said Cox.

3D Model of Stonehenge Proves the Actual Structure Had Excellent Acoustics
The 3D version of Stonehenge in the acoustic chamber. Source: Trevor Cox/Twitter

Some believe Stonehenge may have been used for religious or political reasons, while others think it was a prehistoric astronomical observatory. If what Cox believes is true though, then the site would have been ideal for mysterious rites or ceremonies, as its extraordinary auditory qualities would have been useful for large gatherings.

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