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 Figure 8. Acoustical survey on and around the central platform (“ushnu”) at Inca Huánuco Pampa, Perú. Photograph courtesy of Miriam A. Kolar.
R. Alan Covey, Andean experimentalist José Cruzado, and I designed and conducted an acoustical survey at the large Inca administrative city Huánuco Pampa. This imperial complex, active in the early 16th century, occupies a remote, high-Andean pampa (plain) 3,800 meters above sea level. Site architecture is organized around a plaza measuring 550 × 350 meters (19 hectares) with a raised central platform of 32.5 × 48 meters (see Figure 8; Kolar et al., 2018).
Conch shell horns figure prominently among sound-pro- ducing instruments mentioned in Spanish colonial accounts of the Inca empire, where they were known as long-distance communication devices carried by chasqui messengers. In the acoustical study at Huánuco Pampa, we used a Strombus pututu as one of a sequence of archaeologically appropriate instrument types to cross-compare the effects of frequency and production mechanism across mapped survey points. To provide a standard reference, we employed an electroacous- tical test signal that is preferred for architectural acoustical measurements to produce impulse responses, which we also generated manually via a handheld percussion instrument (wooden clappers). In the broad Andean plain where Huá- nuco Pampa is located, simultaneously surveying colleagues reported hearing our tests in distant site sectors. Extrapo- lating our measured sound levels over the site map dem- onstrated the likely audibility of pututus to its perimeters (which extends 1.7 kilometers from the central platform), consistent with other data on pututu sound transmission. Postsurvey analyses of the recorded audio suggested that the particular frequency range of large Andean pututus (cen- tered around 300 Hz), in combination with typical ambient daytime conditions in the central Andes (low humidity and moderate temperatures), makes them practically immune to wind shear, which is one of the environmental charac- 36 | Acoustics Today | Winter 2018
teristics of high-altitude Andean sites, especially in the late morning through afternoon (Kolar et al., 2018). Theory- backed acoustical experimentation thus supports cultural evidence linking these instruments to political power in the Andes from the present back to the Inca (approximately 13th to 16th centuries CE) and as early as Chavín (1st mil- lennium BCE).
Archaeoacoustics: Acoustical
Science in the Service of Archaeology Working at a new scientific frontier, archaeoacousticians responsively adapt acoustical science methods to archaeo- logical research. An archaeological science, archaeoacous- tics enables specific characterization of sound-related mat- ters and methods for evaluating the extensibility of findings from one context to others or generalizing findings to a broader archaeological interpretation. Archaeoacousti- cal research worldwide has demonstrated the feasibility of adapting acoustical theory and methods to diverse archaeo- logical sites and materials. Archaeoacousticians re-sound silent traces of past life, bringing the past into the sensory presence. This unique combination of science and humani- ties research provides novel opportunities for thinking and working across disciplines. Archeoacoustics connects the human experience across time and geography.
Many thanks to archaeoacoustician David Lubman for the interview given here and for his generous invitations to participate and collaborate in archaeoacoustical discourse ( Arthur Popper’s keen edito- rial sensibilities greatly enhanced the direction of this text.
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Blake, E., and Cross, I. (2015). The acoustic and auditory contexts of human behavior. Current Anthropology 56, 1.
Both, A. A. (2009). Music archaeology: Some methodological and theoreti- cal considerations. Yearbook for Traditional Music 41, 1-11. Available at Accessed August 12, 2018.
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Cook, P. R., Abel, J. S., Kolar, M. A., Huang, P., Huopaniemi, J., Rick, J. W., Chafe, C., and Chowning, J. (2010). Acoustic analysis of the Chavín putu- tus (Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets). The Journal of the Acousti- cal Society of America, 128, 2359.

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