Hearing the past

Visitors to Stonehenge in Wiltshire rarely experience the historic site without the rumble of traffic noise from the nearby A303. But UK researchers have managed to recreate the sound of a ritual there, as heard by our ancestors 4,000 years ago.

The research - which starts in an echo-free recording chamber and uses latest computer modelling techniques - has also been used to recreate the acoustics of Coventry Cathedral before it was destroyed in World War II.

The same work is also being used to design better buildings of the future - with the acoustics of Stonehenge for instance, helping to inspire modern concert venues. It is also influencing the way museums use sound to give visitors a sense of history, such as the hustle and bustle of railway stations during the age of steam.

For BBC Radio 4, Prof Jim Al-Khalili went to investigate the sounds of the past.

To see the enhanced content on this page, you need to have JavaScript enabled and Adobe Flash installed.

Hearing the Past can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 1102 BST on Monday 12 September, and on BBC iPlayer.

All images subject to copyright. Audio by Reckord Media / Alfi Media.

Slideshow production by Paul Kerley and Jane Reck. Publication date 8 September 2011.

More audio slideshows:

James Watt at the Science Museum

Fruit flies - up close

The story of how we got our alphabets

Wellcome Trust at 75 - Henry's story

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.