Fernando Coimbra

Fernando Coimbra: Sound resonance in sacred places and mind/body experiences

Sound Archaeology (Archaeoacoustics) has been a growing field of research since the 90’, despite some earlier pioneering work. The author presents three cases studies of fieldwork in archaeological sites where significant resonance was found, which also lead to some mind/body experiences. The first case is the Cave of Escoural, in southern Portugal, with Palaeolithic rock art and Neolithic burials, where the tests focused on playing a reproduction of a Palaeolithic bone flute, vocalizations and percussion, being all naturally amplified by the cave’s environment. The 2nd case is the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, in Paola (Malta), with Neolithic burials and paintings and an impressive reverberation time of 7,8 seconds, where several acoustic tests were made by a large interdisciplinary team. Particularly interesting was playing a drum and a horn inside one of the rooms, which provoked a strong mind/body experience on a participant placed in other part of the Hypogeum, which will be fully described in the author’s presentation. The 3rd case is constituted by two groups of small funerary hypogea around Lisbon (Portugal), with Neolithic and Copper Age burials and half sphere structured resonant chambers. One of the groups is located in the municipality of Amadora and the other one in the municipality of Palmela, respectively on the north and south of the Tagus River. The tests focused on playing two reproductions of Late Neolithic/Early Copper Age ceramic drums and vocalisations. Due to the chambers’ resonance and being played at a low frequency, the drums provoked a deep relaxation in the participants. Further tests will be carried out at the Cave of Escoural, mainly in front of a specific rock art motif, in order to determine if altered states of consciousness could have taken place in Prehistory, in that specific location.

Fernando Coimbra completed his PhD in March 2007 in the University of Salamanca and a Post-doctoral research in rock art in the Geosciences Centre (University of Coimbra), in 2010. Fernando is an invited professor of the Erasmus Mundus Master on Prehistoric Archaeology and Rock Art (Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal), where he teaches Archaeoacoustics and Rock Art. He made several lectures, by invitation, in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece and published about 110 scientific articles and 11 books about Archaeology, Rock Art, Archaeoacoustics and Cultural Heritage, most of them in English. Regarding Archaeoacoustics, he was a member of the “Hal Saflieni Hypogeum Acoustic Project” (Malta, 2014), member of the Organizing Committee and Scientific Committee of the International Conference –”Archaeoacoustics III, the Archaeology of Sound” (Tomar, 2017), coordinated the Organizing Committee of the two symposia – “Archaeology, Archaeoacoustics and Neuroscience: What kind of relation?” (National Museum of Archaeology, Lisbon, 2018; Convento, Chamusca, 2019). Fernando was a member of the Organizing Committee and Scientific Comittee of several other international conferences about Archaeology. He coordinated/co-coordinated rock art fieldwork in Philippi, Greece (2005, 2006, 2010), Valbormida, Liguria, Italy (2008) and Portugal (1991-present times). Fernando Coimbra has also supervised several master and PhD thesis regarding rock art.