Mayan sound engineers
December 9, 2002 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Were the Mayans expert sound engineers? Perhaps we could learn something from them to aid our pursuit of technological solutions to modern noise pollution problems.
posted by rushmc (16 comments total)
Maybe a bit OT, but it just so happens I'm in the middle of Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World ... a rockin' good SciFi book that prominantly features "sound removal" technology in the plot.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:06 AM on December 9, 2002

Hah! I am "like a champion in science"! (third link)

I love this idea (first two links). I first read about it here, and I'm kind of bummed because my husband really is a sound engineer, and I wanted him to do some tests on this, but, of course, we're in Greece, and - Yo - we don't have prehistoric cave paintings here...

posted by taz at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2002

The Mayan Calendar is also more accurate than the the Gregorian calendar

MidasMuligan...haven't read HBW but Murakami's the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of my all time favorite books
posted by batboy at 11:32 AM on December 9, 2002

How can one calendar be more accurate than another?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:48 AM on December 9, 2002

Excellent link(s) - thanks!
posted by thunder at 11:52 AM on December 9, 2002

I visited the ruins of Teotihuacan in high school. I recall a large area where many thousands of people could convene. According to our tour guide, the area was designed such that a person standing in the center of the stage area could be heard by everyone in attendance. My group of friends ran a rather unscientific test, but the results seemed to be pretty astounding, as I remember. Or maybe that was the Tequila talkin'.
posted by samuelad at 11:52 AM on December 9, 2002

Perhaps we could learn something from them to aid our pursuit of technological solutions to modern noise pollution problems.

That would be good news to this guy's neighbors.
posted by homunculus at 12:00 PM on December 9, 2002


The earth takes 365.2422 'days' to revolve around the sun.

The Mayan Calendar, using a completely different system, accounts for 365.242036 days, which is slightly more accurate than the 365.2425 days of the Gregorian calendar.
posted by batboy at 12:00 PM on December 9, 2002

I have visited Chichen Itza several times as I own a timeshare in Cancun. The phenomena they are describing is both amazing and mystical to experience. I highly recommend a trip there to experience it for yourself.
posted by SweetIceT at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2002

Noise-a-holics. Quiet-o-phobics.
posted by iamck at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2002

Fascinating links, rushmc. I have a friend who's an acoustic engineer and he himself says there's something mystical about it. He also says it takes time. Figure that out. Perhaps materials and space do gain sonority as the molecules settle in or whatever.

This guy is currently the rage in the Iberian pensula, btw.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:48 PM on December 9, 2002

posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2002

I'm skeptical. Both of the main links strike me as little better than hearsay (no pun intended)

From the 2nd link:

In 1931 Leopold Stokowski spent 4 days at the site to determine the acoustic principals that could be applied to an open-air concert theater he was designing.

Stokowski failed to learn the secret.

Ok, well that was a long time ago. Surely someone else can go back and perhaps spend more than 4 days there.

The principles of modern acoustics can certainly be gleaned in a manner that is intuitive rather than strictly quantitative. I have no doubt the Mayans had a firm grasp of acoustics and mathematics and astronomy and perhaps several other unknown sciences.

The study of Mayan glyphs is a hobby of mine and sometimes I believe that we are surprised at new revelations of Mayan achievements only because we have not fully accepted that they were in many ways a fully-formed civilization, a parallel development to the goings on in Europe. They were impressive in their own right and there is enough there to awe us as it is without invoking some sort of Native American type mysticism.

Of course they understood sound. I would expect no less of them. Do they have secrets that can help us here now in the 21st century? Probably not.
posted by Winterfell at 11:33 PM on December 9, 2002

This is a link to some evidence of acoustic engineering by the ancient britons.

Not the link I was looking for -- there was on the BBC a while ago about a burial chamber where there were 'zones of calm' and zones of almost white noise - but I cant find that one... (maybe I imagined it).
posted by couch at 2:51 AM on December 10, 2002

Salon article.
posted by pekar wood at 6:15 AM on December 10, 2002

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