The "Chirping" Pyramid

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Anonymous

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'Singing like a canary'

Was Maya Pyramid Designed to Chirp Like a Bird?

Bijal P. Trivedi
National Geographic Today
December 6, 2002

Clap your hands in front of the 1,100-year-old Temple of Kukulcan,
in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, and, to some
researchers' ears, the pyramid answers in the voice of the sacred
quetzal bird. "Now I have heard echoes in my life, but this was
really strange," says David Lubman, an acoustical engineer who
runs his own firm in Westminster, California. The Maya, he
believes, may have built their pyramids to create specific sound
effects.

A handclap at the base of Kukulcan's staircase generates what
Lubman calls a "chirped echo",a "chir-roop" sound that first
ascends and then falls, like the cry of the native quetzal. To
Lubman, the dimensions of Kukulcan's steps suggest that the
builders intended just such an acoustical mimicry. The lower
steps have a short tread length and high riser=97tough to climb
but perfect for producing a high-pitched "chir" sound. The steps
higher up make a lower-pitched "roop."

"If you have a structure with these dimensions, it will chirp,"
Lubman says. He has noted the same effect at the Pyramid of the
Magician in the Classic Mayan city of Uxmal, near Chichen Itza on
the Yucatan peninsula.

Lubman and Mexican researchers led by Sergio Beristain, president
of the Mexican Institute of Acoustics, have investigated
acoustical phenomena in Chichen Itza and the great ancient
metropolis, Teotihuacan. On Wednesday they presented their
research at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in
Cancun, Mexico.

Quetzals More Valuable Than Gold
The elusive quetzal, also known as the kuk, deserved homage. The
bird inhabits the cloud forests of Central America, and its
feathers, along with jade, were among the most precious
commodities in Mesoamerica. To the Maya and Aztecs, the quetzal's
emerald green iridescent tail feathers were more valuable than
gold.

At Kukulcan, Lubman made recordings of the echo and compared them
with recordings of the quetzal from Cornell University's
ornithology lab, in Ithaca, N.Y. "They matched perfectly. I was
stunned," Lubman says. "The Temple of Kukulcan chirps like a kuk."

Lubman envisions Mayan priests facing a crowd at Kukulcan and
clapping. The pyramid would then "answer" in the voice of the
quetzal, a messenger of the Gods.

A specialist on the acoustics of worship spaces, Lubman first
noticed the chirping echo in 1998 during a visit to Chichen Itza,
when tour guides demonstrated the effect. The echo reminded Lubman
of the work of Steven Waller, a biochemist and amateur acoustician
in La Mesa, Calif., who has observed that ancient cave or rock
paintings, as in the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah,
often show up in locations where echoes or other special
acoustical effects occur.

Any sanctuary that cultivates perfect acoustics is "a way of
stating God's favor," Lubman says. Concert halls, too, share in
the mystery.

Acoustics Important to the Maya
The quetzal echo remains open to scientific debate. "It's an
interesting phenomenon," says Karl Taube, an archaeologist at the
University of California, Riverside, and an authority on ancient
Mesoamerican writing and art. "The question is whether it was
intentional or not." However, Taube points out that "acoustics
were clearly important to the Maya." Many of the cities had open
plazas for ceremonial dances where, as Mayan art illustrates,
kings and rulers performed in jade and seashell belts. "These
(belts) would have made a tremendous sound as they performed
dances in the ceremonial plazas," Taube says.

Initially inspired by Lubman's work, Beristain and his researchers
discovered echo phenomena at the staircase of the main pyramid at
La Ciudadela at Teotihuacan. The city of Teotihuacan, near the
site of modern Mexico City, was founded in 100 B.C.

A handclap directly in front of the pyramid's main staircase
produces a chirped echo. Handclaps from different positions along
the base of the staircase likewise trigger the echo, but with
different musical tones spanning half an octave.

Local Indians, Beristain says, "told us about the other notes. It
is like getting the sound of the Quetzal, but in a range of
different notes. I'm sure we will observe these effects at other
pyramids, like Chichen Itza," he adds.

Lubman and Beristain plan to extend their studies to other
pyramids and ceremonial sites in Mexico to hear just where and
how the past still echoes.

2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Mike Ruggeri's Ancient America and Mesoamerica News and Links
http://community.webtv.net/Topiltzin-2091/AncientAmericaand


Copyright © AZTLAN <[email protected]> 2002.
All rights reserved.
 
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Anonymous

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Wow! Is that cute or what?! :cool:

But what sort of an echo would you get if you f*rted loudly instead of clapping? :D
 

rynner2

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Sebastian said:
But what sort of an echo would you get if you f*rted loudly instead of clapping? :D
Glad to see that the spirit of scientific enquiry lives on!

The question apparently not being asked is, were these echoes deliberately intended? If so, how were they originally discovered?

I suspect the echo was an accidental by-product of the pyramid design. Just possibly the builders may have attempted to 'tune' further pyramids by varying the dimensions, but it's a very expensive way to experiment to achieve a relatively minor effect.
 
A

Anonymous

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I'm not so sure it was accidental. they had had over 1000yrs experince of Pyramid Building, so must've learned something about design in that time :D

I've been to Chichen Itza, Climbed the Pyramid, but didn't notice this effect. however, i never tried it

There is an interesting acoustic effect in the ball court. its the biggest in mexico, must be 120 metres in length. if you stand at one end, and whisper, someone at the other end can hear it clearly. though it has to be quiet, away from the Cancun Day trippers!

Theres also an interesting visual effect on the Pyramid. At the equinox, at sunset, the steps are arranged in such a way that the shadow of a Serpent appears to crawl doen the side. :D

If its a verified effect at other sites, then i reckon its deliberate :)

Rynner, it may seem like a minor effect to us, however, this is the temple of Kukulcan (Kuk=Quetzal, Can=Serpent, Quetzalcoatl in Nahautl) so to the maya, who were a deeply 'Religious' people, it more than likely held a great meaning.

I often thought it would be a cool business idea to have a chicken Reataruant nearby and call it 'Itza Chicken' or 'Chicken Itza' :blah:
 
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Anonymous

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Paul Deveraux writes about this effect in the book "Stoneage Soundtracks" (that I mentioned earlier, on the prehistoric caves thread - sorry to harp on!)...

He concludes that it could have been an elaborate ritual involving sound and vision. The sound being timed with certain solar effects - like the stair climbing sun...

Summat like that...

"There is an interesting acoustic effect in the ball court. its the biggest in mexico, must be 120 metres in length. if you stand at one end, and whisper, someone at the other end can hear it clearly. though it has to be quiet, away from the Cancun Day trippers! "

A similar effect is also present in some 'fogou's' - megalithic burial/ritaul/shamanic/sound spaces. Noise from one may be heard in another, some considerable distance away.

A few more reasons to seek out the book 4mix!


Bye

Martin
 
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Anonymous

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MOHMU said:
Paul Deveraux writes about this effect in the book "Stoneage Soundtracks" (that I mentioned earlier, on the prehistoric caves thread - sorry to harp on!)...

He concludes that it could have been an elaborate ritual involving sound and vision. The sound being timed with certain solar effects - like the stair climbing sun...

Interesting idea, Especially as the sound mimics the Quetzal, The vision is the Serpent. together you get Quetzal Serpent - Kukulcan!

I think the site was still partially used at the time of conquest, and there are colonial descriptions of ritual at the temple. its a shame only 4 mayan codices survived the spanish bonfires, i'm sure there would have been many that could have explained it!
 
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Anonymous

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4imix said:
Interesting idea, Especially as the sound mimics the Quetzal, The vision is the Serpent. together you get Quetzal Serpent - Kukulcan!

Exactly!
 
A

Anonymous

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sounds

The resonance inside the Hypogeum on Malta (5000 years old or so) is phenomenal-
just by humming softly you can make the whole place vibrate

these amazing acoustics probably happened by accident, but you never know.
 
A

Anonymous

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"these amazing acoustics probably happened by accident, but you never know"

I tend to imagine that humans first stumbled upon these awsome effects by accident too, but at natural sites - caves, rock faces, hills and holes...

Then as humankinds sense of itself developed, these natural sonic temples were used as models and inspiration for human-made structures - first fogous and the like, and then greater temples.
 

Bilderberger

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There is a current theory (backed up by high graphic Channel 4 documentary) suggesting that Stonehenge has special acoustic properties - and that its design was based on creating acoustic effects.

The Ch 4 doc showed some crusty archeologists humming and whooping inside Stonehenge with sound equipment recording the resonance etc. Hilarious. No doubt that was what our ancestors were up to - creating a large sound effects machine where they could whoop and holler to their heart's content and marvel at the mystery of the world.

As an aside, the scholar who has proposed this theory in his PhD was a fellow graduate of mine - and was not one of the stronger students (to say the least). Perhaps this explains some of my total contempt for this theory;)
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Published online: 14 December 2004; | doi:10.1038/news041213-5

Mystery of 'chirping' pyramid decoded

Philip Ball

Acoustic analysis shows how temple transforms echoes into sounds of nature.

A theory that the ancient Mayans built their pyramids to act as giant resonators to produce strange and evocative echoes has been supported by a team of Belgian scientists.

Nico Declercq of Ghent University and his colleagues have shown how sound waves ricocheting around the tiered steps of the El Castillo pyramid, at the Mayan ruin of Chichén Itzá near Cancún in Mexico, create sounds that mimic the chirp of a bird and the patter of raindrops1.

The bird-call effect, which resembles the warble of the Mexican quetzal bird, a sacred animal in Mayan culture, was first recognized by California-based acoustic engineer David Lubman in 1998. The 'chirp' can be triggered by a handclap made at the base of the staircase.

Declercq was impressed when he heard the echo for himself at an acoustics conference in Cancún in 2002. After the conference, he, Lubman and other attendees took a trip to Chichén Itzá to experience the chirp of El Castillo at first hand. "It really sounds like a bird", says Declercq.

Sound structure

But did the pyramid's architects know exactly what they were doing? Declercq's calculations show that, although there is evidence that they engineered the pyramid to produce surprising sounds, they probably couldn't have predicted exactly what they would resemble.

Lubman was at first convinced that the pyramid-builders did create the bird-chirp effect intentionally. But that's not necessarily so, Declercq and his colleagues argue. Their analysis of the pyramid's acoustics show that the precise sound caused by the echoes depends on the sound that excites them. Drums, for example, might produce a different type of resonance.

The researchers hope that others will make more on-site measurements of El Castillo's acoustics to see what effects other sounds sources induce.

Indeed, Declercq heard one such variation during the 2002 trip. As other visitors tramped up the steps of the 24-metre high pyramid, he noticed a flurry of pulse-like echoes that seemed to sound just like rain falling into a bucket of water.

Declercq wonders whether this, rather than the quetzal call, could have been the aim of El Castillo's acoustic design. "It may not be a coincidence," he says - the rain god played an important part in Mayan culture.

International Human Genome enth International Human Genome
But perhaps such meaningful interpretations are fanciful. Declercq's team has shown that the height and spacing of the pyramid's steps creates like an acoustic filter that emphasizes some sound frequencies while suppressing others. But more detailed calculations of the acoustics shows that the echo is also influenced by other, more complex factors, such as the mix of frequencies of the sound source.

Ultimately, then, it will be virtually impossible to prove that any specific echo effect is intentional. "Either you believe it or you don't," says Declercq. He himself is now sceptical of the quetzal theory - not least because he has now heard similar effects produced by staircases at other religious sites. At Kataragama in Sri Lanka, for example, a handclap by a staircase leading down to the Menik Ganga river produces an echo in response that resembles the quacking of ducks.

-----------------
References

1. Declercq N. F., Degrieck J., Briers R. & Leroy O. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 116. 3328 - 3335 (2004). | Article |

Source
 
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Anonymous

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The bird-call effect, which resembles the warble of the Mexican quetzal bird, a sacred animal in Mayan culture, was first recognized by California-based acoustic engineer David Lubman in 1998.

Making the link with the quetzal - fair enough. Being the first person to observe the way pyramids at Chitchen Itza alter sound? Er, I don't think so. You only have to get near most Mayan pyramids to understand how they can change sounds into squeaks and 'boings'. The same effect can be observed at Tikal. I visited both sites myself in 1998 and lots of tourists clap their hands and jabber to produce the effect. Either 1998 was a great year for proof of morphic resonance, or Mr Lubman has simply written down what most people have readily observed ever since these sites were rediscovered.
 

naitaka

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Some ancient stones could reportedly make sounds on their own, most famously the Cry of Memnon:

On November 19-21 of the year 130, Hadrian's Imperial Party continued their journey up the Nile, and came to one of the most famous antiquities in Egypt of the time; Hadrian's visit actually galvanized tourism to the site in the following decades. There are two colossoi at the site, both about 65 feet tall, and they were originally erected in about 1400 BCE to honor the Pharaoh Amenophis /Amenhotep III. However, the Greeks of the area began to equate the statue with Memnon, the Ethiopian ally of the Trojans, who was son of the goddess of the dawn, Eos, by Tithonos, and was slain by Achilles. An earthquake in about 26 BCE caused the upper part of the so-called Memnon statue to topple, and soon after a high-pitched noise began to emanate from the statue-base, especially in the early morning, probably from moisture expansion amidst the cracks in the statue due to the heat of the desert; this is first reported by Strabo in about 24 BCE. Pausanias compares the sound to a cithara or lyre string which has been broken. Thus, the statue became famous for its "singing" and to hear it sing was considered a somewhat religious experience by the Greeks. Initially, after Antinous' death, the first day Hadrian did not hear the sound--an ill omen indeed--but on the following days he did.
 

ramonmercado

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Some fresh news on this, looks as if was meant to play the music of the Gods.

Mayans 'played' pyramids to make music for rain god
www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327266 ... n-god.html
22 September 2009 by Linda Geddes


El Castillo's musical steps (Image: Mark Harris/Stone/Getty)

SIT on the steps of Mexico's El Castillo pyramid in Chichen Itza and you may hear a confusing sound. As other visitors climb the colossal staircase their footsteps begin to sound like raindrops falling into a bucket of water as they near the top. Were the Mayan temple builders trying to communicate with their gods?

The discovery of the raindrop "music" in another pyramid suggests that at least some of Mexico's pyramids were deliberately built for this purpose. Some of the structures consist of a combination of steps and platforms, while others, like El Castillo, resemble the more even-stepped Egyptian pyramids.

Researchers were familiar with the raindrop sounds made by footsteps on El Castillo - a hollow pyramid on the Yucatán Peninsula. But why the steps should sound like this and whether the effect was intentional remained unclear.

To investigate further, Jorge Cruz of the Professional School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in Mexico City and Nico Declercq of the Georgia Institute of Technology compared the frequency of sounds made by people walking up El Castillo with those made at the solid, uneven-stepped Moon Pyramid at Teotihuacan in central Mexico.

At each pyramid, they measured the sounds they heard near the base of the pyramid when a student was climbing higher up. Remarkably similar raindrop noises, of similar frequency, were recorded at both pyramids, suggesting that rather than being caused by El Castillo being hollow, the noise is probably caused by sound waves travelling through the steps hitting a corrugated surface, and being diffracted, causing the particular raindrop sound waves to propagate down along the stairs (Acta Acustica united with Acustica, DOI: 10.3813/AAA.918216).

El Castillo is widely believed to have been devoted to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, but Cruz thinks it may also have been a temple to the rain god Chaac. Indeed, a mask of Chaac is found at the top of El Castillo and also in the Moon Pyramid. "The Mexican pyramids, with some imagination, can be considered musical instruments dating back to the Mayan civilisation," says Cruz, although he adds that there is no direct evidence that the Mayans actually played them.

Francisco Estrada-Belli, an archaeologist at Boston University, Massachusetts, says: "Most if not all Maya pyramids were conceived as sacred mountains, which were the places where the clouds gathered and created rain." However, while the acoustics may have emphasised the metaphor of water, "the fact that there were echoes around them does not mean that they were musical instruments", he says - adding that Mayan texts do not mention such a use.

Elizabeth Graham of University College London points out that the pyramids have been restored. "The authors need to provide a good reason for why they think the restored building surfaces are enough like ancient building surfaces," she says.
 

James_H

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In New College, Oxford, if you stand in a certain part of the gardens and clap a similar effect may be percieved. Interestingly, this is also a kind of mound with steps.
 

JamesWhitehead

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The Statue of Memnon had been a Fortean reverie for ages - since reading about him in one of R. T. Gould's volumes. I finally paid my respects to him earlier this year but Memnon's curious dawn-sound has not been heard for a long time, alas!

You would need to be up betimes to get a moment of repose with the statue these days. A burger-joint or drinks wagon is sited in the lay-by and the place is buzzing with indigent but forceful kiddies. The statues - Memnon is one of a pair - are the home to swarms of noisy sparrow-type birds. My companion did manage to get a good shot of the statues - without any of the birds - which is a bit mysterious. When my own web-status settles down, I will try to post the pic. :)
 

SimonBurchell

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I often thought it would be a cool business idea to have a chicken Reataruant nearby and call it 'Itza Chicken' or 'Chicken Itza' :blah:
Someone has done this in Rosarito, Baja California:

chicken itza.png
 
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