The acoustical phenomenon observed at an ancient temple in the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza was described as ‘‘little short of amazing—an ancient whispering gallery’’ by Silvanus G. Morley, leader of the Carnegie Institute’s archaeological team that excavated and restored these structures in the 1920s. Since then, many others have experienced the extraordinary acoustics at Chichen Itza and other Maya sites. Despite these reports, archaeologists and acousticians have until recently shown little interest in understanding these phenomena. After experiencing Chichen Itza’s remarkable acoustics as a tourist in 1994, the author commenced collecting and disseminating information about acoustical phenomena there and at other Mayan sites, hoping to stimulate interest among archaeologists and acousticians. Were these designs accidental or intentional? If intentional, how was the knowledge obtained? How were acoustical features used? This paper highlights the author’s collection of anecdotal reports of mysterious Mayan acoustics (http://www.ianlawton.com/pal.htm), recommended reading for scientists and engineers who wish to pursue this fascinating study. Also recounted are some of the reactions of archaeologists—ranging from curious, helpful, and insightful to humorous and appalling—to outsiders’ efforts to bring serious scientific attenation to the new field of acoustical archaeology.
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Wayne Van Kirk; The accidental (acoustical) tourist. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 November 2002; 112 (5_Supplement): 2284. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4779169
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