What did this mosque sound like more than a thousand years ago?


What did this mosque sound like more than a thousand years ago?

Researchers have recreated the acoustic atmosphere of the ancient Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba. The sounds in the prayer hall have changed over the centuries.

When a building is slated for an addition or a renovation, preservation-minded architects often look for ways to keep the aesthetics visually consistent. They are less likely to consider the acoustic landscape inside. In many cases, though, sounds are a key part of what makes a place feel like itself.

Recently, Rafael Suárez and collaborators at the Higher Technical School of Architecture at the University of Seville wondered what the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba would have sounded like thousands of years ago, during the age of Abd al-Rahman I. Construction began on the Moorish structure in the 780s. It was enlarged a few times during its life as a mosque—more naves were added to the prayer hall, and more arches soared. Then, in the Renaissance, it was renovated as a Roman Catholic church.

Unlike fragments of tools or shards of pottery, sounds don’t lodge themselves in the soil. They don’t linger. But archaeologists specializing in acoustics, also known as archaeo-acousticians, can model what particular environments may have sounded like to people who passed through long ago.

To approximate the acoustic environment of past iterations of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, Suárez and his team worked backwards. They started with a present-day measure of impulse responses around the space. They placed the source of the sound near the mihrab and minbar, where sermons were recited. (To control for other, unrelated sounds, they measured after hours, when the space was empty.) …They describe their findings in a new paper in the journal Applied Acoustics.

Source: Atlas Obscura

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