Ancient architecture like Stonehenge, Great Pyramid of Giza and others have baffled modern man. The Hypogeum Hal Saflieni, Malta is a classic example of such extraordinary architecture, the construction of which will be considered as a herculean task by modern man. What makes the Hypogeum in Hal Saflieni so incredibly mysterious is that its location. Of course, its age is something that too factors in as surprise element.
Starting with the age, this temple is prehistoric. Expert archeologists estimate the age of the Hypogeum to be nearly 5,000 years. This means that it belongs to the Bronze Age. What’s really surprising is that it is a subterranean temple. Put in other words, it is an underground temple. The temple is often dubbed as ‘labyrinth’.
Today, the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni in Malta is marked as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and according to the experts, it is the oldest prehistory subterranean temple unearthed so far. The temple is mysterious in many ways. So say that it is riddled with paranormal activities and has attracted many paranormal investigators over time. The temple also became a treasure trove of elongated skulls – possibly from an unknown race of living beings similar to humans.
However, what makes the temple really mysterious is its incredible sound effect. The acoustic effects of the temple is what has attracted experts from all around the world in huge numbers. These experts have minutely studied the sound effects throughout the temple to understand how it works and what was the purpose of the temple and its sound magnification effects.
A Bit of Architectural Details About Hypogeum Hal Saflieni
The temple has three layers. The important rooms are elliptical in shape and there are smaller rooms that are all spread across three layers of the temple. These rooms can be accessed using different doors and corridors. The important rooms are way different than the smaller ones in their construction. These important rooms are given domed vaulting. They also have false bays with very elaborate construction. These false bays are all constructed in a way that we find in windows and doors of today’s constructions that are built above the ground.
Acoustic Properties of The Oracle Room of the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni
One of the chambers in the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni is made/carved out of solid limestone. This room is known as the Oracle Chamber. This Oracle Chamber is where the incredible sound effects are found. Experts believe that the temple was the sanctuary of sorts and possibly an oracle used to live in there. According to the author of ‘Malta and its Recently Discovered Prehistoric Temples’, William Arthur Griffiths, when a word is spoken out by standing inside the Oracle Chamber, the sound is magnified by hundredfolds and it can be heard throughout the temple. He says that this effect would have been enormous when the oracle actually spoke standing in the chamber and his voice resonated and echoed through the labyrinth like a thunder. It should have been mysterious, terrifying and impressive.
What would you really feel when you hear a sound standing inside the temple? To get a picture, imagine yourself standing inside a massive bell and then it rings. You will literally be shaken as some of the sound pitches will not only enter your ears but you will also feel the vibrations right in your tissues and bones.
Many experts have already studied the sound effects inside the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni. A team of researchers from Italy along with Ruben Zahra – a composer from Malta, studied the sound properties of the subterranean temple in great details and found out that the sound resonates throughout the Oracle Chamber at a frequency of 110 Hz. Interestingly, this frequency is either the same or close to the sound frequencies that have been found in many ancient chambers all over the world. One typical example will be Ireland’s Newgrange. Princeton University’s Dr. Robert Jahn holds the opinion that possibly the stone quality used for construction of the chamber along with the dimensions of the chamber determines the pitch of the echo that can be heard.
Purpose of the Acoustic Properties of Hypogeum Hal Saflieni
This is a big question – what was the purpose of the acoustic properties of this underground temple in Malta? Well, there aren’t any definitive answers but there are definitely some hypotheses. One of the many hypotheses put forward is from Niccolo Bisconti from University of Siena and Paolo Debertolis from University of Triests. According to Bisconti and Debertolis, the acoustic properties of Hypogeum Hal Saflieni was to directly impact the psyche of the people listening to the oracle and also to magnify the mystical effects of rituals. This theory has scientific backing, making it one of the most widely accepted theories that try to provide an answer to the question above.
In 2008 an experiment was conducted by UCLA’s Dr. Ian Cook and his colleagues. During the experiment, test subjects were exposed to various resonance frequencies and their brain activities were studied using EEG. It was found during the experiment that when the test subjects were exposed to the resonance frequency of 110 Hz, there was an abrupt shift in activity patterns on their brains’ prefrontal cortex, which resulted in language center deactivation in the test subjects and there was a temporary shift to right-sided dominance over left-sided dominance when it came to emotional processing. Other frequencies did not have this effect.
Of course, in context of the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni, it cannot be said for sure that this knowledge was available or not and that the 110 Hz echo frequency of the Oracle Chamber was a deliberate and scientific construction or just an accidental coincidence or not. But of course, if there were religious chantings, the echoes would have surely impacted the way people thought.
According to bio-behavioral scientists, the resonance frequency of 110 Hz switches on an area of the brain which relates to social behavior, empathy and mood.
Archaeoacoustics Conference at Hypogeum Hal Saflieni
From January 19 to February 22, 2014, an Archaeoacoustics Conference was held at the temple to understand the deep sound effects of the Oracle Chamber. During the experiment, a massive experiment was organized. Several ultra-sensitive microphones were placed throughout the Oracle Chamber. These microphones were then hooked up with digital recorders and several voices and simplest of the musical instruments were used to test how the chamber responded. The musical instruments chosen were most probably present 5000 years ago. Here are the results of the experiment:
- During the experiment it was found at that a male voice at 114 Hz and also at 68-70 Hz was capable of stimulating the resonance of the Oracle Chamber.
- Conch shell and horn failed to create any impact.
- Harmonics of a Shamanic hoop drum made of natural skin at 114 Hz managed to create strong resonance stimulation.
- A male voice singing ‘oooh’ created the same resonance stimulation as the hoop drum but a female voice failed to do so.
May be it will take us much longer to understand the real purpose of the Hypogeum Hal Saflieni and its mysterious sound effects or may be we will never come to know what really happened that the ancients built something so extraordinary. Only more experiments will have to be conducted if at all we want to find out more about this incredible prehistoric underground temple.