The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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Hal Saflieni Hypogeum used ‘super-acoustics’ to alter states of consciousness

Malta Independent Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 09:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

The prehistoric inhabitants of Malta may not have had drugs but, according to research conducted by the Clinical Neurophysiology Unit at the University of Trieste, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola used ‘super-acoustics’ to alter states of consciousness similar to that achieved during meditation.

Inside the 5,000-year-old mortuary temple, scientists have detected the presence of a strong double resonance frequency at 70Hz and 114Hz. Laboratory testing indicates that exposure to these particular resonant frequencies can have a physical effect on human brain activity.

Tests conducted at the Clinical Neurophysiology Unit of the University of Trieste in Italy may answer the question of how prehistoric builders were able to achieve advanced engineering knowledge. 

Dr Paolo Debertolis reports: “Volunteers with a frontal lobe prevalence during testing received ideas and thoughts similar to what happens during meditation, while those with occipital lobe prevalence visualised images.”

He goes on to say that under the right circumstances of sound, “Ancient populations were able to obtain different states of consciousness without the use of drugs or other chemical substances.”

A select international team, including Dr Debertolis, examined the Hypogeum because of its unusual acoustics and exceptional state of preservation.

The builders of the site exploited the phenomenon of deep resonance, using architectural techniques to boost these “super-acoustics”. A radio frequency spectrum engineer observed that, in the Hypogeum: “The Oracle Chamber ceiling, especially near its entrance from the outer area, and the elongated inner chamber itself, appears to be intentionally carved into the form of a wave guide.”

Project organizer Linda Eneix points to other features: “The carving of niches that concentrate the effect of sound, the curved shape of the Oracle Chamber with its shallow 'shelf' cut high across the back, the corbelled ceilings and concave walls in the finer rooms are all precursors of today's acoustically engineered performance environments.”

She adds, “If we can accept that these developments were not by accident, then it is clear that Hal Saflieni’s builders knew how to manipulate a desired human psychological and physiological experience, whether they could explain it or not.”

Reports from the on-site project and details of the laboratory tests appear in a new book entitled Archaeoacoustics: The Archaeology of Sound. The Hypogeum site evaluation was initiated and funded by The OTS Foundation, a USA not-for-profit organisation for research about the Neolithic Mediterranean, with offices in Florida and Malta. 

Hal Saflieni was sculpted from solid rock and used during a period between 3,600 and 2,400 BC – predating both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. The same builders created complex and highly decorated megalithic temples above ground, including a complete solar calendar that still functions. 

The Hypogeum was used as a shrine for the dead, once holding the bones of an estimated 7,000 people. Unlike the exposed temples, it has retained its structural integrity and is completely intact. Low voices boom through the rooms in bone-chilling echo waves that last as long as six to eight seconds.

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