Music & Ritual: Bridging Material & Living Cultures

Publications of the ICTM Study Group on Music Archaeology, Vol. 1

Acoustics, Architecture, and Instruments in Ancient Chavín de Huántar, Perú: An Integrative, Anthropological Approach to Archaeoacoustics and Music Archaeology

Miriam A. Kolar

Integrative archaeoacoustics advances a methodology in which the physical dynamics of anthropogenic spaces and musical/sound-producing instruments are comparatively studied and anthropologically considered with respect to an archaeological context. Applied in ongoing research about the Andean Formative ceremonial center at Chavín de Huántar, Perú, this case study examines relationships among diverse forms of evidence from an ancient ritual setting while seeking relevant ethnographic data from present-day sources. Chavín’s well-preserved architecture and site-excavated instruments (Strombus galeatus conch shell horns) allow direct acoustic testing and measurement, and provide material bases for perceptual evaluation by human participants in systematic studies. Site-contextualized psychoacoustic research, implemented via on-site auditory localization experiments and in progress for testing of virtual reconstructions, constitutes a methodical approach to the study of human experiential dynamics, a problematic and frequently neglected area in archaeological inquiry. Using this approach, we pose a framework for probing the interconnections among material culture, physical dynamic processes, sensory phenomena, and human experience, here applied in the investigation of sonified ritual in ancient Chavín.

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