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The Acoustic Capabilities of The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum

by admin on November 14, 2014

Located in modern day Malta, the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is considered to be both the world’s oldest underground temple, as well as the only known subterranean structure to have been erected during the Bronze Age. In fact, recent discoveries have led researchers to believe that the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum may have been built specifically as a sanctuary for an oracle, due to the structure being constructed around a central room of great importance; a room nicknamed the Oracle Chamber. Built around 4000 BC, this architectural marvel has special acoustic capabilities that have baffled scientists since its discovery in 1902.

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a massive underground temple split up into thirds; with upper, middle and lower levels. The entirety of the structure is made up of elliptical chambers cut into the solid bedrock with only flint and stone tools. The upper level is composed of burial chambers which house the remains of over 7,000 previous inhabitants, and is marked with what once was a massive and grand entryway. The middle level is made up of smooth, vaulted walls with red ochre paintings. In the last and lowest level, there is the extraordinarily unique Oracle Chamber, which has been the main source of scientific inquiry.

As quoted by William Arthur Griffiths, any word spoken in the Oracle Chamber is “magnified a hundredfold and is audible throughout the entire structure.  The effect upon the credulous can be imagined when the oracle spoke and the words came thundering forth through the dark and mysterious place with terrifying impressiveness.” Standing within the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum while someone is speaking in the Oracle Chamber is said to be comparable to standing in the inside of a bell; the world reverberates around you as you feel the words in your very flesh and bone, as reported by Richard Storm, an architect critic. This amazing quality created by this one room has led scientists to question how intentional the architecture of the ancient structure could be. Research done within the temple shows that the male voice carries throughout the Hypogeum at a pitch of about 110-114 Hz. This frequency is found in several other ancient structures with known acoustic properties, such as the Newgrange in Ireland, built just 500 years after the Ħal Saflieni. This particular frequency is very peculiar, however, as a recent study has revealed.

Building off of the theory that the chambers were constructed to affect the psyche of people, as put forth by Paolo Debertolis and Niccolo Bisconti of the Universities of Triests and Siena respectively, Dr. Ian Cook of UCLA conducted a study in 2008 to pinpoint exactly what a frequency of 110 Hz did to the human brain. What his team discovered was astounding. When various healthy volunteers were hooked up to an EEG ( Electroencephalogram) and exposed to the infamous 110 Hz frequency, something amazing happened to their brains; activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain abruptly shifted, deactivating the language center, and shifting left-sided dominance to right-sided dominance. These findings suggested that when these ancient peoples spent time exposed to this reverberating frequency, their brains were forced to undergo more emotional, creative, and empathetic behavior.

The ancient structure of Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum has existed longer than even Stonehenge, and is still perplexing the minds of scientists today with its mystical and other-worldly acoustic abilities. If anything, however, the Hypogeum shows that peoples of the ancient world were capable of listening to their surroundings and manipulating the physical world around them to be to their advantage.

by Shelby Putnam

Sources:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/130

http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology-mysterious-phenomena/experts-unravel-sound-effects-malta-s-hypogeum-hal

http://heritagemalta.org/museums-sites/hal-saflieni-hypogeum/

 

Thea Butler November 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

This is a really interesting topic. I had no idea that that temple even existed. I liked your presentation and the inclusion of the sounds inside the temple as well as tying it together with the “ringing rocks” which is also very bizarre. I didn’t know those rang like bells either. Super informative presentation with good history behind it. This article is a great read!

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