Rock Art Acoustics Home

Rock Art Acoustics

Steven J. Waller's Rock Art Acoustics page

This site describes scientific research on Archaeoacoustics.
See below for studies relating echoes to prehistoric cave art. 
Click on the left sidebar to go to the page that describes studies relating interference to Stonehenge.

SYNOPSIS: Were echoes the inspiration for cave paintings? This web page describes my scientifically testable theory about prehistoric art correlating with echoing locations, suggesting sound as a motivation for cave paintings and petroglyphs. The cultural significance of echoes is shown by myths that attribute echoes to spirits. An implication of this research is the previously unrecognized need for the conservation of the natural acoustical properties of the environment around rock art sites. [Scroll down to see everything.]

Welcome! This page last updated on: 24Aug2016. ©1997-2016 by Steven J.Waller, Ph.D.

NEWS: A lecture entitled "Cave Art to Stonehenge: Artifacts of Mythical Beliefs Arising from Auditory Illusions of the Supernatural" was presented by Steven J. Waller, at the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society general meeting starting 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 15500 Sand Canyon Ave, Irvine; see for description.

- Click image below for a short YouTube video of the sights and sounds of my "Echoes Inspired Cave Art" exhibit/installation (has live didgeridoo music echoing in the background) or go to .

- The book entitled "Archaeoacoustics" contains a chapter entitled "Intentionality of Rock-art Placement Deduced from Acoustical Measurements and Echo Myths" by Steven J. Waller. The book is a McDonald Institute Monograph edited by Scarre, C. & G. Lawson, Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Click here for ordering infomation

- Recent additions (see below for details and complete list of over 500 sites): Cedar Springs (41VV696), Red Linear site (41VV201), Fate Bell (41VV74), Black Cave (41VV76), Angel cave, and shelter number 41VV75 in Presa Canyon.

II. Photo of me at Back Canyon Pictograph site, CA

Photo of me at Back Canyon Pictograph site, CA (photo thanks to R. Kieffer).

Graph of acoustic measurements at Back Canyon

Graph of acoustic measurements at Back Canyon (#CA-KER-2412), where an ethnographically-recorded Kawaiisu shaman vision quest dream experience states that "He heard the sounds of deer in the rocks." (M. Zigmund 1980, quoted in D. S. Whitley: The Art of the Shaman, p.78.) The percussive echoes shown in the graph do indeed sound very much like hoof beats.


I. Example audio recordings of echoing rock art sites

II. Photo of rock art and example graph of echo analysis

III. Background explanation of acoustic theory relative to ancient rock art

IV. List of hundreds of rock art sites with known sound reflection

V. List of publications by S. J. Waller

VI. Symposium on "Sound and Rock Art" held at the 1999 International Rock Art Congress.

VII. Upcoming / recent meetings, events, field trips

VIII. Contact info for comments or questions.

IX. Links to related web sites

I. Example audio recordings of echoing rock art sites

1) Click this link to listen to sound reflection acoustics at Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah. (You will hear a percussion sound that I made, followed by the echo of the percussion sound.)

2) Click this link for some more sounds: snippets of various sounds at rock art sites in caves and canyons

(Below are some of my sound files that were cleaned up so nicely courtesy of Kees van Dongen of Astraea Magazine, that the recordings took me back to re-experience the sense of place as if I were there again:)

3) Click this link to listen to a voiced echo at Shaman's Gallery in the Grand Canyon, AZ

4) Click this link to listen to a flutter echo that sounds like a rattle, at the Indian Hill rock art site, CA

5) Click this link to listen to a decorated ringing rock in CA


IFRAO sound files

Click link above to listen to sound files for paper entitled "Thunderous Reverberation and Rock Art Thunderstorm Imagery" by Steven J. Waller, presented at Congrès IFRAO de Tarascon-sur-Ariège2010, in the symposium SIGNS, SYMBOLS, MYTH, IDEOLOGY - Pleistocene Art: the archeological material and its anthropological meanings, and submitted for publication by IFRAO:

Click this link to listen to "Sounds of Spirits" recorded live at the ARARA 2016 banquet; lyrics by Steve Waller, inspired by William Breen Murray and sung in tribute to him, echoed by Janet Lever-Wood’s vocals and Rich Braun’s percussion, performed to the melody of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence.


(Click the audio player window closed when finished listening.)

II. Photo of rock art and example graph of echo analysis

II. Photo of Horseshoe Canyon Great Gallery in Utah, with graph of acoustics showing echo

"Photo of rock art in Horseshoe Canyon Great Gallery in Utah, with graph of acoustics showing echo."

III. Background explanation of acoustic theory relative to ancient rock art

The relationship of rock art and acoustics has been the focus of my research since 1987.

Since many ancient cultures are known to have had supernatural explanations for echoes, my theory is that echoing locations such as caves and canyons would have therefore been considered sacred, and were decorated with the images evoked upon hearing the echoes. For example, I've found that echoes of percussion noises such as clapping can mimic the sound of hoof beats, and hoofed animals are a frequent rock art theme. Voices appear to emanate from rock surfaces where beings are depicted, as if the images are speaking.

I have tested over 300 sites (and have been told about many more; see list below) in France, Australia and the U.S. for sound reflection, and found echoes and/or reverberations at almost all of them (the results at some sites were indeterminate because of interference). I encourage all rock art researchers to clap or call out upon approaching rock art sites and listen to determine if the echoing is better there than surrounding terrain. Let me know the results for inclusion in the list.

I recently completed an analysis of acoustic data I collected throughout Horseshoe Canyon, and found that the five art sites correlate exactly with the five locations within the canyon possessing the greatest intensity of echoing. I presented a paper describing these results at the ARARA meeting in La Junta in May of 1997, and it has now been published in American Indian Rock Art (2000) 24:85-94 (see below under publications).

Plot of Horseshoe Canyon acoustics

"Plot of Horseshoe Canyon acoustics."

An important implication of these discoveries is that the environment around rock art sites should be left in a natural condition so that the acoustical properties are not affected. For example, it's impossible to hear the echoes if "protective" walls are constructed around the art, or worse yet if the area is flooded because of a dam.

IV. List of hundreds of rock art sites with known sound reflection and/or unusual acoustic properties (tested by S. J. Waller unless otherwise indicated; some have links to photos, sounds, more info):


Tassili (Mazonowicz 1974:117); Rose Cottage Cave (S. Ouzman); numerous rock gongs (B. Fagg, 1956); Great Enclosure and Matobo in Zimbabwe (G. Douse); Ngomakurira in Zimbabwe (D. Bartell); Twyfelfontein (M. van Hoek); Klipbak, Steenkamp, Ncwaneng, and 5 other much smaller sites in the Korrannaberg mountains of South Africa (R. F. Rifkin)


- INDIA: Pachmarhi, Bhimbetka, and Isco (Somnath Chakraverty, personal communication 1996); Kupgal Hill musical stones (N. Boivin -- see ); ringing rocks at Hiregudda (Ramadas -- see ; Manav_Sangrahalaya.

AUSTRALIA / New Zealand /Tasmania :

- Queensland, near Laura: Mushroom Rock; Bachelor1s Camp; Yam Camp; Death Adder East; Death Adder South; Flying Fox Site; Red Lady Site; Garfish Site; Honeymoon Site; Boy's Place; Amphitheater; Tunnel Place overlooking Brady Creek Valley; Emu Dreaming; Giant Wallaroo; Giant Horse Gallery;

- New Zealand: "some rock art shelters here in the South Island also have echoes" (K. Hulme) [see link below];

- Tasmania: Trial Harbour ringing rock (K. McPherson).


- ENGLAND: Church Hole (Britain's newly discovered cave art -- see; Hanging Stones, Pancake Stone and Swastika Stone on Ilkley Moor.

- FINLAND: Lakes Nuuksionjarvi, Vittrask, Valomen-jarvi, and Juusjarvi in the Helsinki area, and Yovesi lake near Mikkeli (I. Reznikoff in Musical Signification, 1995); Lake Onega (R. Lauhakangas); Astuvansalmi by the lake Yövesi close to Mikkeli (I. Luukkonen); Valkeisaari (A. Lahelma).

- FRANCE: Abri du Roc aux Sorciers in Angles-sur-L'Anglin; Abri Poisson; Bara-Bahau; Bernifal; les Combarelles; les Combarelles II; Cougnac; Font-de-Gaume; Largerie Basse; Largerie Haute; Lascaux; la Mouthe; Oreille d'Enfer; Pech-Merle; Rouffignac; Cap Blanc, Commarque and Laussel in la Vallée de la Grande Beune; Vallon des Roches of Castelmerle at Sergeac including the Riverdit shelter; Tayjat; Abri Pataud; Sainte Cirq; Grotte du Portel (Reznikoff, I and M. Dauvois 1988 La dimension sonore des grottes ornées. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 85: 238-246.); Réseau Clastres (Dauvois and Boutillon 1990 Etudes acoustiques au Réseau Clastres: salle des peintures et lithophones naturels. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Ariege-Pyrénées 45:175-186.); Niaux, Fonanet (I. Reznikoff in Musical Signification, 1995); lithophones in Roucadour, Les Fieux (L. Dams, Oxford J. Archaeology, 1985); Chauvet (J. Clottes); Gargas, Bedeilhac, Mas d'Azil; Les Trois Freres (Y. Montelle);

- MACEDONIA: Cocev Kamen = Tsotsev Kamen = Tsotse's Rock, and Markova Kukja = House of Marko (D. Aleksovski)";

- PORTUGAL: Escoural (L. Dams, Oxford J. Archaeology, 1985);

- SCOTLAND: Balphetrish 2 NM027487 locally known as 'Clach na Choire' or 'The Ringing stone' (W.B. Morris, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1967 -1968) vol 100 p. 53) see; Tiree (see; Gleann Da-Eig, Perth and Kinross, Invervar panel 4 (G. Currie) -- see

- SPAIN: Altamira (Mazonowicz 1974:1 Voices from the Stone Age. Thomas Y. Crowell Co., NY.); La Pena de Candamo (Mazonowicz 1974:47 Voices from the Stone Age. Thomas Y. Crowell Co., NY); Nerja(L. Dams, Oxford J. Archaeology, 1985); Cova Parpalló (R. Picó, L. Piqueras, B. Roig, J. Redondo).

- IRELAND: Piperstown Standing Stone (A. Murphy) see;

NORTH AMERICA (and Pacific Ocean):

- ARIZONA: Lomaki in Wupaki National Monument; Honanki; Red Canyon near Sedona; Hedgepeth Hills; Estler Peak; Red Tank Draw's canyon; Red Tank Draw's boulder by road; West Clear Creek; Montezuma Castle; Picture Canyon near Flagstaff; Petrified Forest; Verde Valley; Woo Ranch Canyon; Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail just past first tunnel on south rim; King Canyon; Signal Hill; Holbert Trail in South Mountain Park; Painted Rocks State Park; Sears Point; Gillespie Dam; Waterfall and Goat Camp trails in White Tank Mountains; Heiroglyphic Canyon; Yavapai Wash / "Hootenany Holler" near Prescott (D.J. van Kraut); Horse Tank canyon near Yuma (D.J. von Kraut); Canyon de Chelly (Marglyph*); Baird's Chevelon Steps #AZ:P:2:62 (Marglyph); Shaman Gallery in Grand Canyon; Jump Up Canyon (Marglyph); Cocoraque Butte (Marglyph); Sutherland Wash (Marglyph); Snake Gulch (E. Billo);

- CALIFORNIA: #CA-RIV-506; #CA-RIV-1024 = Dog Rock; #CA-RIV-1025 = Fin Rock; #CA-RIV-1036; #CA-RIV-1037; #CA-RIV-333 which is a thunderhead-shaped rock with cupules; #CA-RIV-61 = Spring Shelter, Winter Shelter, heavily vandalized boulder, and boulder on opposite side of creek in Mockingbird Canyon; Painted Cave near Santa Barbara; Wikwip (Hedges 1992 Places to See and Places to Hear. Paper presented at the Second AURA Congress, Cairns, Australia; Occasional AURA Publication No. 7:17.); Ringer Site / San Emigdio Canyon near Bakersfield (C. Bjork); cave in central California (M. Stiles); Upper Renegade Canyon / Little Petroglyph Canyon at China Lake (D.J. von Kraut and SJW); Big Petroglyph Canyon; Sheep Canyon (David Lubman); petroglyph site near Barker Dam in Joshua Tree NP; #CA-KER-2412 = Back Canyon; Black Canyon; Inscription Canyon; Haiwee Springs (E. Younkin); Lizard Cave = #CA-KER-5525 (J. Sprague); Echo Canyon = CA-KER-5571 (J. Sprague); Pleito Creek = #CA-KER-77 (J. Sprague); many other rock art sites in Kern Co have acoustical properties (J. Sprague); CA-KER-878; CA-KER-317; Slippery Rocks site; Palakuch = CA-KER-17; CA-KER-15; Indian Springs; Golden Hills; Antelope Valley Indian Museum’s amphitheater ; Fontana pit-and-groove site; Chumash Wind Cave (HUSAHKIW / CA-SBA-509), Honda Ridge, Window Rock, Swordfish cave; Cow Cove / Willow Cliff (B. Boycks, confirmed by S. Waller); Surprise Tank; Hemet Maze; South Little Lake, Little Lake Hotel, Skull, and Ayers Rock sites near Ridgecrest; Zion Wash; Corn Springs; Belfast petroglyphs (G. Sivertsen); Fish Slough (D. Daro); Meadow Lake (K. Ross); Yana Salt Caves (J.Golenor); Black Tank Wash with Aiken's Arch; Granite Cove Springs cave; Newberry Cave (Carol); Moosa; Harmony Grove.

- COLORADO: Multiple sites on the "D" Ranch near La Junta; Mesa Verde; Cross Ranch (E. Lynch).

- HAWAII: Puako on the Big Island; BU1 on Kaho’olawe (Lee and Stasack 1999: 146);

- IDAHO: Shoshone's baando'aifeinna = Big Springs (C. L. Merrell of Archaeographics).

- ILLINOIS: Gorham site #11-Jn-41; Fountain Bluff site # 11-Jn-17;

- KANSAS: six sites in Ellsworth County (L. Ronsse -- see beautifuly detailed report at );

- MINNESOTA: Jeffers; Pipestone; North Hegman Lake (K. Callahan / S. Dewdney); Drum Island at Nett Lake (K. Callahan / A. Reagan);

- MISSOURI: Lost Creek; Ceremonial Cave; Wallen Creek; Washington State Park;

- MONTANA: Deer Medicine, Bear Gulch, Pictograph Cave, Face that Cries, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Weatherman Draw, Valley of the Shields, Tyrell, and Red Buffalo sites.

- NEVADA: Kohta Circus (A. McConnell); a site in the Mt. Irish District in Lincoln County (Mark Henderson); Grapevine Canyon (E. Matthews); Sloan Canyon (Marglyph); Whitney-Hartman (Marglyph); Trail Canyon (I. Nagel); Echo Cliff site #26WA3263 (A. McLane); Lizard site (furthermore, all three boulders stolen from that site were ringing rocks); Court of Antiquities; Mustard Ridge (High Basins region near Reno that includes panels called "Running Man", "Big Horn", and "Lizard Man");

- NEW MEXICO: Petroglyph National Monument's Piedras Marcadas, Boca Negra, Canyon Trail, and Rinconada Canyon in Alubuquerque; Bandelier National Monument's Long House site; Cerro Indio on the Rio Grande near Socorro (Marglyph); multiple sites in the canyon containing Tenabo Ruin (Marglyph); San Diego Mtn site near Deming (Marglyph); Chaco Canyon sites of Una Via ruins, Mockingbird Canyon, on the trail to Kin Kletso (Marglyph), and "Curved Rock That Speaks" at Petroglyph trail between Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl; El Morro (Marglyph); Rock House Ruin near Deming (Marglyph); Goodloe Ranch near Capitan (Marglyph); Arroyo de Tajo near Socorro (Marglyph); Broad and Valles Canyon south of Hatch (Marglyph); Cornudas Mountain (Marglyph); La Cieneguilla near Santa Fe (Marglyph); Village of the Great Kivas near Zuni (Marglyph); Corn Mountain/Dowa Yalanne near Zuni (Marglyph); site on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge trail in Taos (S. Hale); Alamo Mountain (Marglyph); Three Rivers (Marglyph, confirmed by SJW); City of Rocks; Comanche Gap (M. Fletcher); Apache Flats (Marglyph); Piro Plunge Pool site (Marglyph); Pony Hills (Marglyph); five sites in Largo Canyon: Blanco Star, Largo Star Ceiling, mouth of Star Rock Canyon, Fresno Canyon, Hollis Pass.

- NORTH DAKOTA: Fort Ransom Writing Rock (K. Callahan -- SEE LINK BELOW FOR DESCRIPTION);

- OREGON: Goist cave near Klamath Falls (D. Lubman);

- PENNSYLVANIA: Big Indian Rock, Little Indian Rock, and Circle Rock on the Susquehanna river;

- PUERTO RICO: Cueva Lucero; Tibes;

- SOUTH DAKOTA: Scored Rock (J. Steinbring);

- TEXAS: White Shaman (41VV124) site on Lower Pecos (S. Turpin, confirmed by SJW and by Gary Kendrick's description of "haunting sound of modern flutes as the notes echo from the canyon walls along the Pecos River" at ); multiple sites at Hueco Tanks such as Cone Heads / Cave of the Masks (Marglyph, confirmed by SJW); Whispering Cliffs in Hudspeth county (Marglyph); Mullen Ranch, Tigua Canyon and Little Cunningham Tank site in Hudspeth County (Marglyph); Centipede Cave (Marglyph -- see Rock Art Papers 16:17-30); Halo Shelter on the Devil's River in Val Verde County (R. Peel); VV1000 shelter, Painted Canyon sites in Val Verde County (Marglyph); Mystic Shelter (41VV612), Cedar Springs (41VV696), Red Linear site (41VV201), Fate Bell (41VV74), Black Cave (41VV76), Angel cave, and shelter number 41VV75 in Presa Canyon.

- UTAH: Dry Fork Creek at Vernal, including the Three Kings panel; Fremont Indian State Park; Willow Springs; Butler Wash: Wolf man/Yucca and Procession panels; Sand Island; River House ruins; San Juan River Kachina panels; Hog Springs / North Wash; Capitol Reef; Wire Pass; Horseshoe Canyon sites of High, Shelter #SR-12-5, Alcove #SR-12-3, Great Gallery #SR-12-4 [click here to listen to sound reflection acoustics at Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon, Utah], and near a small anthropomorph figure mid-way between the Alcove and Great Gallery; Hell Roaring or Hey Joe Canyon (W. Biesele); Buckhorn Wash panel (W. Biesele); Sego Canyon (W. Biesele); "Black Dragon" site (D.J. von Kraut); Newspaper Rock near Moab (D.J. von Kraut); Courthouse Mesa (D.J. von Kraut); Wild Horse Canyon (Pam Baker); Mouth of McDonald Creek (Pam Baker); Turkey Pen Ruin, Split Level Ruin and Perfect Kiva in the Grand Gulch Primitive Area (Susan Villalobos-Boehm); Titus Creek (J. Warner); Nine-Mile Canyon (L. Miller); Sego Canyon (W. Wells -- see link below); Head of Sinbad and Temple Mountain Wash (C. McGowan); Five Faces, Kane Creek, Wild Horse Canyon, Three Fingers, and Rochester Creek (Marglyph); Music Temple in the (now flooded) Glen Canyon (J. M. Bennett); Zion southgate; Clamshell; Pleasant Creek (W. Tapp, H. Mulder); Southfork Indian Canyon (L. Koss); Ivie Creek (E. Malotki and D. E. Weaver, Jr. in "Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush: Colorado Plateau Rock Art" p. 65); Smokey Mountain road site in Grand Staircase Escalante (J. Todaro); Grand Gulch [green mask at Cave Creek] (A. Chambers); Singing Rock (A. Fulton see Vestiges 2008 28(12):6,13 ).

- WASHINGTON: She Who Watches in Horsethief Lake State Park ; Horsethief Butte lizard site (J. Keyser);

- WISCONSIN: Roche-A-Cri; Gottschall Rockshelter (R. Salzer and G. Rajnovich, confirmed by Waller); Hensler site (J. Steinbring).

- WYOMING: Site #48WE33; Trail Lake / Ring Lake (Marglyph); Castle Gardens (W. Schaleben -- see link below); Medicine Creek Cave (J. Steinbring);

- MEXICO: El Canyon Del Rio Hermoso (Marglyph); Serranias del Burro (Marglyph); Cueva Pintada (E. Moore) and numerous other Baja Sur locations (Peggy Grove); Tiburon, Santa Teresa I (M. Blume); Coyote campground site in Baja has ringing rock (G. Bowman); Cañón de don Ramiro (see and ).

- CANADA: Herschel Petroglyph Site (Steinbring 1993 Thunder from the Ancient Past: the Acoustics of Palaeoart. Rock Art Research 10:97-98); Lake Mazinaw in Bon Echo park of Ontario (J. Vastokas); Agnes Lake in Quetico Provincial Park of Ontario (Tom Pankratz); Oiseau Rock in western Pontiac County, Quebec (see link below); Stein River in BC (Leigh Marymor); Oregon Jack in BC (C. Bose); Hedley cave, Paradise Ranch, Gellatly, Savona, Kamloops and Siska in BC (S. Nankivell); Petroglyph Rock in Ontario (P. Devereux); Similkameen (B. Gould); EiGf-2 (D. Arsenault); Maymaygwayshi Site (Lambert, P 1983 The Northwestern Ontario Rock Art Project); Nanaimo Petroglyph provincial park; Asking Rock #EbRj 5 and #EbRj 130 facing it from across the Stein River in BC[described in Richard Dally and Annie York's "They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever", p. 81 and 93, as "echo chambers" and "acoustical alcove", repectively; confirmed by S. Waller].


- Chile: Diablo (Claudio Mercado); stones 1A and 1C in Zone I at El Encanto (M. van Hoek); Sitio Los Mellizos (Twin Ones): una piedra “campana” que emite un sonido metálico (a stone “bell” that emits a metallic sound) [Patricio Bustamante Diaz, Aplicación del concepto entorno al análisis e interpretación de los sitios Los Mellizos y Las Bellacas, Alto Río Illapel, IV Región, Chile (electronic text found at )]

- Santa Catarina State's islands of Campeche, Arvoredo, Aranhas, Coral and João Cunha (K. Lucas);

- Venezuela: 7 sites in the Ayacucho Municipality of Tachira State (M. A. Salamanca); Petroglifos de Nirgua (L. Abate);

If you are aware of any rock art sites with good acoustical properties, please e-mail me with: site name (and # if known), location, and reference or your name to be included in this list. Thank you.

V. Publications by S. J. Waller:

(Note: since most of these on-line files are the drafts of papers as they were submitted, some say not to cite without permission of the author; however please feel free to cite the ideas in general, but if you want to publish any direct quotes or use page numbers, you should cite from the version that actually got published rather than from these drafts; please contact me if your library doesn't have the article you need.)

1993 Sound and Rock Art. Nature 363:501. (.pdf version) (.doc version).

1993 Sound Reflection as an Explanation for the Content and Context of Rock Art. Rock Art Research 10:91-101. (Paper presented at the Second AURA Congress, Cairns, Australia) (.pdf version) (.doc version). (Additional text of Reply to comments): (.pdf version) (.doc version).

1994 Taphonomic Considerations of Rock Art Acoustics. Rock Art Research 11:120-121.

(in press) Acoustical Characteristics of North American Rock Art Sites. American Indian Rock Art, in press. Ms. 1994. (.pdf version) (.doc version).

(in press) Acoustical Studies of Rock Art Sites on Three Continents. In: From Rock Art to Tribal Art: A Global Perspective, edited by Chakraverty, India, in press. Ms. 1994. (.pdf version) (.doc version)

1999 Digital Acoustic Recording Techniques Applied to Rock Art Sites, by Steven J. Waller, David Lubman and Brenda Kiser. American Indian Rock Art 25:179-190. (.pdf version) (.doc version). [Appendix: glossary of acoustical terms (.pdf version) (.doc version)]

1999 Legends of echoes linked through acoustics to prehistoric art. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 106:2227. (.pdf version) (.doc version).

2000 Spatial Correlation of Acoustics and Rock Art Exemplified in Horseshoe Canyon. American Indian Rock Art 24:85-94. (.pdf version) (.doc version) (plot as .doc).

2000 Videotaping as Documentation of Acoustics at Rock Art Sites. ARARA meeting 2000 in Phoenix, Arizona. (.pdf version) (.doc version).

2001 Sounds of the Spirit World: auditory perceptions of depth at rock art sites. (presented in Oregon) American Indian Rock Art 28:53-56. (.pdf version) (.doc version)

2002 Rock Art Acoustics in the Past, Present, and Future. 1999 International Rock Art Congress Proceedings 2:11-20. (.pdf version published) (.doc version).

2002 Psychoacoustic influences of the echoing environments of prehistoric art. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 112:2284. (.pdf version) (.doc version) (link to HTML version on the press page of the Acoustical Society of America)

2003 Conservation of Rock Art Acoustics: "Unexpected" Echoes at Petroglyph National Monument. Rock Art Papers 41 Vol 16:31-38 (presented in San Diego 2000 and 2001). (.pdf version) (.doc version of submission draft)

(in press) More “Unexpected” Echoes: the Puako Rock Art Site on Hawaii. Rock Art Papers (in press) (presented in San Diego 2002). (.pdf version) (.doc version)

2004 (draft) Morphologic Similarities between Rock Art Motifs and the Spirit Beings Described in Echo Myths (.doc version)


2004 (draft) Piute Butte Acoustics Studied in Relation to its Rock Art (.doc version)

2003 Commentary on D. Hodgson's ‘imperatives’. RAR

2004 Psychoacoustic Implications of Prehistoric Art Inferred from Sound Measurements and Echo Myths. AIRA 30:157-164.

2004 Toward a Harmonization of Global Rock Art Theories. Paper presented for the Museum of Man in San Diego

2004 “Surprising Relationships between Prehistoric Rock Art and Echo Myths from Around the World”: a sight and sound presentation hosted by The Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, CA.

2005 Archaeoacoustics: A Key Role Of Echoes At Utah Rock Art Sites. Utah Rock Art 24:43-50 (Papers Presented at the Twenty-Fourth Annual Symposium of the Utah Rock Art Research Association, Kanab, Utah, October 2004), Utah Rock Art Research Association, Salt Lake City, Utah.

2005 Morphologic Similarities between Rock Art Motifs and the Spirit Beings Described in Echo Myths. Rock Art Papers 17:155-160. San Diego Museum Papers No. 43., ed. Ken Hedges, San Diego, CA.

2005 Heard the Latest? Recent Findings of Echoes and Ringing Rocks at Rock Art Sites -- plus Newly Collected Echo Stories. Paper presented for the Museum of Man in San Diego.

2006 “Intentionality of Rock-art Placement Deduced from Acoustical Measurements and Echo Myths”. Chapter 4 in: Scarre, C. & G. Lawson Archaeoacoustics. (McDonald Institute Monographs.) Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, p. 31-39.

2006 The Divine Echo Twin Depicted At Echoing Rock Art Sites: Acoustic Testing To Substantiate Interpretations. AIRA 32:63:74

2006 Acoustical Characteristics of North American Rock Art Sites. Paper from the 1994 International Rock Art Congress, Flagstaff, AZ. AIRA

2006 Acoustic Methodologies for Rock Art Studies: Analogies between Techniques for Recording Echoes and Iconography. Paper presented for the SAA in Puerto Rico.

2006 Open, Sesame! Portals opening and closing in rock are a feature common to both rock art ethnography and echo mythology. Paper presented for the Museum of Man in San Diego.

2006 Archaeoacoustics: Echoes inspired prehistoric cavepaintings and canyon petroglyphs. In: The Best of Astraea: 17 articles on science, history and philosophy, AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN.

2007 Echi d'Arte Rupestre[Echoes of Rock Art]. Submitted (for Italian translation) to Archeo.

2007 Acoustical Testing in Relation to Rock Art at Horsethief Lake State Park

2008 Echo Spirits Who Paint Rocks: Memegwashio Dwell Within Echoing Rock Art Site Eigf-2, by Steven J. Waller and Daniel Arsenault. American Indian Rock Art 34:191-201.

2010 Echolocation of Rock Art: using sound to search for sacred sites (co-authored with Stephen Allan; my role was primary author), American Indian Rock Art 36:103-107.

2010 Voices Carry: Whisper Galleries and X-rated Echo Myths of Utah.  Utah Rock Art 29:31-35. Utah Rock Art Research Association, Salt Lake City.

2012 Sounds and Symbolism from the Netherworld: Acoustic Archaeology at the Animal Master’s Portal (Coauthored with Alan Garfinkel) PCASQ 46 (4):37-60.

2011 Thunderous Reverberation and Rock Art Storm Imagery. American Indian Rock Art 37:181-188.

2011 “Stonehenge-like Auditory Illusion Evoked by Interference Pattern” Acoustical Society of America,

2012 Acoustic Mapping of Rock Art Soundscapes: Depicting Echoes Visibly. American Indian Rock Art 38:181-188.

2012 "Virtual Acoustic Images and Sound-Attenuators as Objects of Ancient Veneration", presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada;


VI. Symposium held at the 1999 International Rock Art Congress ('99 IRAC)

"SOUND AND ROCK ART" [the very first session on rock art acoustics]

Accumulating evidence suggests that sound may have been a motivating influence for the production of some of the rock art around the world. Sound appears to have been one of the determinates for the selection of location and subject matter in a large number of cases. This symposium served as a forum to discuss observations, techniques and future directions for research, including the following:

1. Margaret Berrier*: "Proposed Documentation and Storage of Data Related to Acoustical Phenomena at Rock Art Sites" 1999 International Rock Art Congress Proceedings, (2000) Volume 1:7-18. (*aka Marglyph)
2. Janet Lever: "Sacred Sounds/Sacred Art"
3. David Lubman: "Listening to the Rocks"
4. Steven Waller: "Rock Art Acoustics in the Past, Present, and Future". 1999 International Rock Art Congress Proceedings, (2002) Volume 2:11-20.
5. Claudio Mercado: "The Sound of Rock Art, the 'Sereno' and the Acoustic of Northern Chile" (abstract read in absentia)

VII. Upcoming / recent meetings, events, field trips

- A lecture entitled "Cave Art to Stonehenge: Artifacts of Mythical Beliefs Arising from Auditory Illusions of the Supernatural" will be presented by Steven J. Waller, at the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society general meeting starting 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 15500 Sand Canyon Ave, Irvine; see for description.

- 2013 Chair, “Context of Rock Art” session, International Federation of Rock Art Organizations meeting sponsored by the American Rock Art Research Association, Albuquerque (May 26-31).

- Keynote speaker – Steven Waller – "Rock Art and Archaeoacoustics" Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Research Cluster Second Symposium – Birley Room, Hatfield College, University of Durham, UK. Wednesday 2nd September 2009. see

- See interview of me in Archaeology magazine Sept/Oct 2008, p48.

“Curved Rock That Speaks” in Chaco Canyon is co-located with “Petroglyph Trail” (Paper presented for the Museum of Man in San Diego.) At Chaco Canyon’s ceremonial site called Tse'Biinaholts'a Yałti, which in Navajo means “Curved Rock That Speaks”, acoustical testing confirmed remarkable sound effects. Strong echoes seem to originate from deep behind this concave cliff surface, exactly where “Petroglyph Trail” is located. The rock art motifs appear consistent with the Navajo oral tradition telling of siblings who, after hearing a voice and tones come from this huge cliff, entered through its portal. Inside, they were taught by deities certain tones that open the portal, giving power to the Navajo datura ceremony still being conducted there for “using sound to travel”.

- ARARA meeting in Farmington, NM, May, 2008. “Sonic Cave Replicas: Why and How” by Steven J. Waller State-of-the-art physical cave replicas of Lascaux, Niaux, etc., have reproduced the visual art to the brushstroke and the cave shape to the millimeter, yet are devoid of the profound echo effects in the real caves. Ancient myths explained echoes as spirits, revealing the cultural significance of sound reflections. Archaeoacoustic data showing correspondence of echoes and art placement suggests sound played a role in motivating rock art. Thus acoustically dead cave replicas are incomplete and misleading. Impulse convolution reverberator software can replicate a space’s acoustical characteristics -- a step toward conservation of the soundscapes of rock art. (poster)

- SAA in Vancouver, BC: March 30, 2008: Echo Masks, Echo Myths, and Echoing Rock Art Sites of the Pacific Northwest by Steven J. Waller Echo masks of the Pacific Northwest are a mobilary art form that is a manifestation of cultural beliefs in echo spirits. Much parietal rock art is also a manifestation of cultural beliefs in echo spirits, suggests archaeoacoustic evidence. Echoes have been documented at hundreds of rock art sites globally, including the Pacific Northwest. The animistic paradigm of supernatural explanations for echoed sounds, documented in many echo myths, can help explain motivations for both the location and subject matter of much rock art. The natural acoustics of rock art environments should thus be preserved. (PowerPoint presentation)

- San Diego Museum of Man RA2007: "Listening to Montana Rock Art Sites" by Steven J. Waller To further test the theory of sound as a motivational influence for rock art production, acoustical studies were conducted at a sampling of rock art in Montana. Of the sites tested -- Bear Gulch, Deer Medicine / Owl Rock, Pictograph Cave, Red Buffalo, Tyrell, Valley of the Shields, Weatherman Draw, Face that Cries, and Pompeys Pillar National Monument -- 100% produced notable echoes. The latter two sites also had some modern acoustical interference, serving as further examples for the need to conserve the natural acoustics of rock art sites. Myths from this region show the cultural significance of echoes.

- Talk delivered at the SAA meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 29, 2006: Acoustic Methodologies for Rock Art Studies: Analogies between Techniques for Recording Iconography, and Recording Echoes by Steven J. Waller, Ph.D.

- San Diego Museum of Man RA2004 talk given on 6Nov04: Toward a Harmonization of Global Rock Art Theories Steven J. Waller, Ph.D. A variety of theories have been put forth attempting to explain the motivation for the perplexing context and/or content of the rock art that is found around the world. Most of these theoies have proven unsatisfactory since they fall short of explaining the variety of rock art complexities. In this paper an interdisciplinary attempt is made to harmonize various major theories, in such a way that a wider range of rock art characteristics is covered than any one theory alone. The various theories of rock art motivation can augment, rather than conflict with, eachother, including Hunting Magic, Totemism, Structuralism, Acoustics, Shamanism and the Neuropsychological model. The various ways in which these theories can be harmonized is explored.

- The Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest hosted a sight and sound presentation by Steven J. Waller, Ph.D. on the evening of Friday, February 27, 2004. Dr. Waller presented results from his 15 years of rock art research in a lecture entitled, “Surprising Relationships between Prehistoric Rock Art and Echo Myths from Around the World”. The audience heard examples of the remarkable acoustics discovered and quantified at hundreds of rock art sites -- from the reverberations filling deep Ice Age painted caves of France, to echoes emanating out of cliffs pecked with petroglyphs in the American Southwest. Dr. Waller shared world-wide myths that reveal the cultural and religious significance of echoes. Striking photography will illustrate how major rock art themes correspond to the descriptions of mythical echo spirits. These facts and legends are woven together by Dr. Waller into a comprehensive theory in which acoustics helps to explain both the unusual locations and perplexing subject matter of rock art. This theory harmonizes with other rock art motivation theories such as Shamanism, Structuralism and Hunting Magic, as well as having unexpected conservation implications. Biographical sketch: Steven Waller is a long-standing member of the Conservation and Protection Committee of the American Rock Art Research Association. His doctoral work (Ph.D. Biochemistry, U.Va, 1981) included studies of the effects of sound waves on DNA as a tool to study the immune response. His rock art acoustics research has been featured in Nature, Discover, New Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, and on-line by National Geographic, Scientific American, and the Acoustical Society of America. He has appeared in a UK TV documentary, and interviewed on radio spots including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, PBS, ABC, BBC and CBC. See Dr. Waller's "Rock Art Acoustics" web page at for publications and further details of his research.

- Documentary on TV: For those of you in the UK, a documentary called “Secrets of the Dead: Sounds from the Stone Age” was shown on 12Nov01 at 9 PM on Channel 4. It is about the importance of sound in ancient history, and includes a segment of me discussing my theory on location at the French cave of Niaux. (See
to find out if it will be re-run).

A BBC Radio broadcast on September 15, 2004 included an interview with me demonstrating echoes at the Indian Hill rock art site -- go to the following link to hear the segment:

See the Sept03 issue of Mas Alla (175:6-7), the March03 issue of Discover Magazine (page 13), and the 7Dec02 issue of New Scientist (page 7), for recent articles about my research.

VIII. Contact info (if you would like me to answer questions write or e-mail me at the address below):

Thank you for visiting Steven J. Waller's Rock Art Acoustics web page.

Steven J. Waller, Ph.D.

5415 Lake Murray Blvd #8

La Mesa, CA 91942

wallersj[at] [replace with @ symbol for e-mail address]

IX. Links to other sites on the Web

rock art links
acoustics of Mayan ruins
acoustics at Fort Ransom, ND
audiovisual of great kiva in Chaco
Scientific American article on echoes
Acoustical Society of America (then go to members' web pages for David Lubman's description of echoes from Mayan pyramid steps)
"Artglyphs", artists inspired by rock art
Guadiana River rock art in Portugal and Spain threatened by flooding from the Alqueva dam
Oiseau Rock in Quebec (with descriptions of sights and sounds)
general (high school level) physics tutorial on sound and reflection
general (university level) physics tutorial on sound and reflection
Web site by Victor Reijs with sound-related topics
Megalithic Sound and Landscape by Aaron Watson: acoustic research at neolithic sites
European Prehistoric Art Online Database EuroPreArt European Prehistoric Art Online Database
Great Turtle Shield Returns To Castle Gardens (under construction)
Maarten van Hoek's web page (Peru, etc.)
New Zealand Maori rock art recording project
American Southwest (awesome rock art photos by W. Wells of Sego Canyon, etc.)
Join the Archaeoacoustics discussion group at!
Join the Rock-Art listserv discussion group at!
Carl Bjork's rock art web page mentioning acoustics at's Acoustics, Ultrasound and Vibration Web Site Links
Don Austin's
Visit the Stone Pages
Paul Devereux's book "STONE AGE SOUNDTRACKS The Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites" which covers in detail a lot of my work
ethereal echoey music by The Tunnel Singer, who says "I search for places with long reverberations and sing my inner songs" -- listen to clips of her wonderfully beautiful echoing music"
"Lithic flake scars, percussive sound and prehistoric symbols" by James Kences in Antiquity Vol 78 No 301 September 2004, online at"
"Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture" by Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter (Wonderful book on perceiving sound in various contexts) go to for Table of Contents and Sample Chapters.
See also Barry Blesser's Working Vocabulary for the Experience of Aural Architecture.
"Bear Gulch pictographs in Montana"
"The Best Of Astraea: 17 articles on science, history and philosophy (a book that contains a chapter entitled 'Archaeoacoustics: Echoes inspired prehistoric cave paintings and canyon petroglyphs' by Steven J. Waller Ph.D)"

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