Soundscape and Place: Acoustic Archaeology in the Mountains of the Middle Atlantic

Author(s): Carole Nash

Year: 2018


As permanent landmarks, waterfalls and associated plunge pools are documented among traditional peoples as liminal and sacred spaces. A review of ethnographic and archaeological literature identifies these features as sources of life and transition, requiring proper preparation in advance of approach. The symbolic and experiential character of waterfalls may be in evidence in the Virginia Blue Ridge, where a small number of Middle and Late Woodland sites near named waterfalls are outside the topographic parameters of modeled site locations. Found on north-facing, steep slopes, these small ceramic-bearing sites have been documented in the several well-known falls settings in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Decibel readings and sound mapping with ArcGIS demonstrate the correspondence of archaeological site locations to areas where waterfall sound is most highly magnified by stream hollow walls. An example of Feld’s ‘acoustemology,’ which takes into consideration sensory experience and memory as central to place identity, these Blue Ridge sites may represent locations where Native peoples paused to prepare themselves prior to approaching spaces requiring reverence.

Cite this Record

Soundscape and Place: Acoustic Archaeology in the Mountains of the Middle Atlantic. Carole Nash. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445343)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21512