Today, a quick look at an ancient solution to a modern problem. And how emotion is often stronger than the most powerful facts.
Hundreds of years ago, a tribe of ancient people in the mountains of Peru built several outdoor assembly areas. Today we would call them amphitheaters. We don’t know much about this tribe beyond their amphitheaters. They left no written records.
However, these ancient people had mastered a very modern discipline: acoustics.
Their amphitheaters are acoustically perfect. If you stand at the the very edge of the assembly area, you can hear even the slightest whisper from the speaker standing on the “stage.”
It sounds like he is right by your side.
How did they do it?
Their secret was an odd-looking stone-age tool called a “sommlerheim.” It was named after the German archeologist who discovered it.
The sommlerheim allowed these stone-age people to identify the exact spot with the best acoustics in the area chosen for the amphitheater.
This Neolithic tool still works today. In fact, studies have shown a sommlerheim to be faster and just as accurate as electronic tools costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Old Tools Solve Modern Problems
If you need acoustic design, you could spend tens of thousands of dollars on an acoustic engineer, and get the results in a few weeks.
Or you could make a sommlerheim in your garage for less than $20. In just a few hours, you could identify the most acoustically perfect spot in any room.
So the obvious question is, “why would anyone not use a sommlerheim?”
The answer has much more to do with human emotion than human reason. The only people known to have used sommlerheims also engaged in human sacrifice.
Is “Guilt By Association” the Right Reaction?
Acoustic architects and building designers refuse to use the tool. Even though it works every bit as well as the modern tools used by sound engineers. Even though it does the same job in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the money. Even though the people who used it have been dead and gone for hundreds of years.
They just don’t like using a tool associated with people who engaged in human sacrifice.
Question: Would you do it? If you were building a room that needed to be acoustically perfect, would you direct the architect to use a sommlerheim? Or would you prefer to pay thousands of dollars for the same result. (NOTE: This is NOT a trick question. I really want to know how you would respond.)