[ISEA2014] Paper: Frank Ekeberg – Archaeophony: (re)creating ancient soundscapes


This paper results from my participation in an interdisciplinary research project focusing on the Meso-american city of Teotihuacan, initiated by the Museum of Anthropology at Arizona State University in the US. The aim of the project was to present daily life in this bustling city at the time of its peak, around the year 250 AD, when it was the 6th largest city in the world with a population of more than 100,000. I was involved in the conceptual development of the project as well as the exhibit research, and was enlisted to create soundscapes depicting the sonic ambiance of certain central locations in the city for presentation in a purpose‑built listening environment utilizing advanced 3D surround sound technology.

Sound has a unique ability to evoke, delineate and describe different spaces and trigger memories and associations to activities and situations, and thereby offer unique insight into time, place and culture. Utilizing digital audio technology, especially technologies for immersive sonic spaces, complex acoustical features such as directionality, distance,    movement, perspective and envelopment can be manipulated in ways that put the audience in the midst of an archaeophonic setting, and transforms how archaeological data is presented, experienced and understood.

This paper describes the rationale for using sound on its own to present archaeological findings, with a particular focus on the research and original design of this project, titled City Life: Experiencing the World of Teotihuacan, as well as how my involvement in the project has shaped my thinking in subsequent work. The paper finds support in an interdisciplinary inquiry into relevant fields such as soundscape studies, archaeoacoustics, archaeology, anthropology, spatio‑ecology and material culture. These fields provide insight and context with which to set up sonic spaces that enrich the representation and understanding of ancient times and places from a dynamic, non‑traditional entry point.

  • Frank Ekeberg, NO, is an artist and researcher primarily concerned with the sonic arts. His work explores issues of ecology, time, space and memory. Using almost exclusively natural sound as source material, spatial aspects of the sounds and the listening environment are integrated as essential elements of the work. A composer by training, Ekeberg developed spatio‑structural theory, a framework for identifying, analyzing and composing sonic space in acousmatic music.

Full text (PDF) p. 295-299