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Margarita Díaz-Andreu receives an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for a research on the acoustic features of cave paintings

Many places with extraordinary acoustic features are usually given a sacred meaning and they are chosen as a place for cave paintings. Photo: Margarita Díaz-Andreu.

Many places with extraordinary acoustic features are usually given a sacred meaning and they are chosen as a place for cave paintings. Photo: Margarita Díaz-Andreu.

16/04/2018

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ICREA researcher Margarita Díaz-Andreu will lead the research project Art Soundscapes at the UB, for which she has received an Advanced Grant, the prestigious grant given by the European Research Council (ERC) to senior researchers. The study will use methods from different disciplines to study the role of sound and hearing experience in the creation of cave paintings and sacred landscapes of prehistory.

ARTSOUNDSCAPES, one of the eighteen projects ERC has selected in the country, will receive a funding worth 2.2 million euros and a length of five years. “Although the hearing experience is an integral element of the human condition and an essential element in the ritual, archaeology hasn’t been able to study it systematically. Cave painting landscapes are not an exception and despite having some studies, they are known to have a lack of scientific rigor and subjectivity”, says Díaz Andreu. The researcher notes that sound has the power “to stimulate powerful emotions and therefore, it is a common way to contribute to make some places special”. “Ethnographic and ethohistoric sources tell us that many of these places with extraordinary acoustic features are usually given a sacred meaning, and they are chosen, for example, as a place for cave paintings”.


The ARTSOUNDSCAPES project will be pioneer in combining several interdisciplinary approaches: the archaeological experience in cave art and its localization in landscape, acoustic physics, psychoacoustics, anthropology and the study of ethnohistorical sources and other sciences. The final objective is to get closer to a phenomenological understanding of sacred sound landscapes created by the latest societies of hunter-gatherers and the first ones of farmers.


With methodology from acoustic engineering and an objective and quantitative perspective, the program will assess the acoustic properties of cave painting landscapes in selected areas around the world: the western-central Mediterranean (Europe), Siberia (Asia) and Baja California (North America).


Another methodology to be used is psychoacoustics. This will focus on which way the special sound features of some places lead to experiences that can be related to a state of alteration of the mind or mystical states. It checks the neural effects of certain sounds in the brain activity.


Last, the ARTSOUNDSCAPES project will use ethnographical and ethnohystorical sources to look for information on the behaviour of societies of hunter-gatherers and the first farmers regarding the sacred sound landscapes. Also, it will also explore the work carried out by geographers, theologians and sociologists.


The project, which includes a collaboration with universities from different countries, will have the participation of the director of the Research Group on Cognitive Neuroscience (BrainLab) of the UB, Carles Escera, and the support of Angelo Farina, from the Department of Engineering and Architecture of the University of Parma (Italy). Also, it will fund the research of several doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, like the UB researcher Tommaso Mattioli.

In this call for the Advanced Grant, two other projects in which the UB has taken part have also been selected, one from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Barcelona on the relation between diet fats and metastasis and the other from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) on the exposure to pollution during the prenatal period and brain development in babies.


The aim of the Advanced Grants is to promote European research and make it more competitive internationally. These grants given by ERC support excellence researchers who work on research projects in emerging fields (frontier research), able to make progresses in the field of know
 

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