The Cultural Understanding of Sound in Rock Art Landscapes: The Limits of Interpretation

Perspectives on Differences in Rock Art - Jan Magne Gjerde

Margarita Diaz-Andreu [+-]
University of Barcelona
Margarita Díaz-Andreu is ICREA Research Professor at the Departament de Història i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona. She is interested in the prehistoric archaeology, rock art and acoustics of Western Europe. She is also concerned with heritage, history of archaeology and the politics of identity in archaeology. She has undertaken fieldwork in rock art landscapes in Europe and Latin America. In the last few years she has focused on the relevance of acoustics as a factor for the production, location and active use of rock art sites and landscapes. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC Artsoundscapes project (2018-2013).
Tommaso Mattioli [+-]
University of Barcelona
Tommaso Mattioli is Senior Researcher (ERC project Artsoundscapes) at the Departament de Història i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona. He is an archaeologist (PhD) working on prehistoric rock art, geophysical prospecting, GIS, landscape archaeology and archaeoacoustics. His research particularly focusses on post-Palaeolithic rock art of Mediterranean Europe by ‘balancing’ the application of contrastable scientific methods and the study of symbolic aspects of past material culture and landscapes. From 2014 to 2016 he has been a Marie Curie IEF Postdoctoral Senior Researcher at the University of Barcelona with the proyect “SONART:the sound of rock art” in which he investigated causal links between the placement of decorated sites and the acoustic properties of rock art landscapes.
Michael Rainsbury [+-]
Independent Scholar
Michael Rainsbury is an independent rock art researcher whose interests focus mainly on British, Australian and north African rock art. He was associated with the Breaking Through Rock Art Recording project in the U.K. and has undertaken field work in Britain, north-west Australia and the Sahara. His PhD (2009) dealt with regionalism in north Kimberley rock art. In the last few years he has published on historical recordings of Australian rock art made in the nineteenth and early twentieth century


This article provides an overview of the information gathered from ethnographic accounts regarding how premodern groups around the world understand sound in rock art landscapes in places where rock art is produced. Data have been divided into three main sections related to sounds connected to rock art in its production; through lithophones and sonorous landscapes; and beliefs in spirits living in the rocks that are then decorated with rock art. In view of the possibilities of linking rock art and sound in the Western Mediterranean – an area in which there are no informed sources, the article ends with a reflection on the possibilities and limits of interpretation that prehistoric archaeologists find when discussing the association between rock art and sound when only formal methods are available.

Notify A Colleague


Diaz-Andreu, Margarita; Mattioli, Tommaso; Rainsbury, Michael. The Cultural Understanding of Sound in Rock Art Landscapes: The Limits of Interpretation. Perspectives on Differences in Rock Art. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Nov 2020. ISBN 9781781795606. Date accessed: 13 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.31910. Nov 2020

Dublin Core Metadata