Jerba Mosque Soundscapes
Computer simulations enable archaeologists to experiment with a variety of data types; many that do not come directly from archaeological deposition. Sound data, light data, geo-morphological data, and even hypothetical data can be simulated in order to more holistically recreate landscape and accompanying elements which contributed to the formation of tangible archaeological record. Perhaps more significantly, computer simulations can help archaeologists to better isolate those factors that may have directed social change and development.
Context and Methodology:
The island of Jerba is located off the southeastern coast of mainland Tunisia. The island has been inhabited at least since the first quarter of the 1st millennium BCE and had substantial settlement from Roman times to the current era. From 1996 to 2001 Professor Renata Holod (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Elizabeth Fentress directed an intensive archaeological study of the island to reconstruct its settlement history and cultural landscape. Within the rich and diverse data collected through survey and test excavations, a study concerning the distribution and construction of mosques on the island, documented over 300 mosques dating from the 7th-19 centuries. The Jerba Mosque sound modeling project investigates the location and situation of these mosques through time as it relates to the generated “soundscape” of the Muslim call to prayer.
By tracking and simulating the displacement and attenuation of sound on the island, we can simulate and model a complicated arrangement of social and geographical boundaries that are associated with the establishment of hundreds of mosques over the last 1200 years. Islamic practices include a characteristic "call to prayer" which traditionally was sung from atop the local mosque, requesting that all those within its range gather to pray.
However, the political and economic conditions on the island created scenarios whereby the frequency of mosques over the landscape would have enabled local communities to hear more than one mosque, demanding they make a choice between locales in terms of their social affiliations.