Research suggests that Mesoamerican pyramids like the Maya temple Kukulkan in Mexico were designed to produce sophisticated acoustic effects…
Including the chirp of sacred birds. Learn more about those mysterious sacred sounds in the post below.
The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza is one of the seven new wonders of the world.
It’s one of the most spectacular (i did prefer Kalakmul) and the most frequently visited Mayan site in Mexico.
Constructed around 1100 A.D., the 32,400-square-foot pyramid features four stairways with 91 steps each. Combined with the single step at its entrance, there are exactly 365 stairs, which is the exact number of days in the Mayan calendar.
Now, if you stand at the bottom of the steps and clap your hands you get this incredible chirping sound.
Echoes off buildings are common, but no one distorts sound like this pyramid.
Whether the pyramid was constructed to deliberately make this noise, or it happened by chance, is still a matter of debate among scientists and archaeologists.
Known for its vibrant plumage, the resplendent quetzal was revered by the Mayas and associated with the feathered serpent deity Kukulkan, to whom its namesake temple is dedicated.
Acoustic studies have revealed compelling similarities between the pyramid’s chirping echo and the call of the sacred bird. Just check it out by yourself with the following video:
The Maya built majestic stone cities centered around pyramid-temples like Kukulkan, where people would go to worship their gods and participate in ceremonies timed to their highly sophisticated calendar.
It was probably during these gatherings that Maya priests or other leaders may have clapped their hands to invoke the quetzal’s call.
Here a spanish video explaning this link between these sacred birds and the chirping pyramid.
So what’s behind the sound of Kukulkan Pyramid?
When a clapping noise rings out, the temple’s high and narrow limestone steps act as separate sound scatterers, bouncing back a chirp-like tone that declines in frequency.
In other words, reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo being altered.
The reason that a chirp like a bird is produced is because of the geometry.
The time between later reflections is longer than early reflections causing the frequency of the echo to rapidly drop by about an octave.