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Pasha 36: The sounds of our ancestors

Studying the Middle and Later Stone Age, which was about 300 000 to 300 years ago in South Africa, is a vital way to learn about an important period for our ancestors.

We know a fair amount about the tools and the paintings made by people of that time. But very little is known about the sounds that people made and listened to. This lack of knowledge made a group of South African researchers curious about these sounds – and so they set out to learn more. Some of their findings suggest that an instrument known as a woer woer, akin to a bullroarer, was among the key sounds of the time.

In today’s episode of Pasha Sarah Wurz, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Joshua Kumbani, a PhD student at the same university, discuss these ancient sounds and their purposes.

Read more: How our African ancestors made sound in the Stone Age

Photo: Photo taken of the pendants used in the research. Academic paper

Music “Happy African Village” by John Bartmann found on licensed under CC0 1.

Sounds The sounds of the replica bullroarer & the woer woer in action. Source: Neil Rusch, personal archive.

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