Excavating the historic sounds of Johannesburg

South Africa
Johannesburg past and present inhabitants

What we hear now reveals aspects of the past. Yet climate change and the encroachment of the cacophonous urban soundscape have put historic aural environments in jeopardy, making it more important than ever to save our intangible collective heritage. Sonic Excavations is unearthing layers of sound at significant locations — including the Cradle of Humankind, rock gongs in the Kalahari desert, caves with rock art, and Iron Age sites — within the continuum of Johannesburg’s history. Based on comparisons of the urban versus the natural environment and the past versus the present, this collaboration involves working with archaeologists, geologists, and earth scientists from Wits University in Johannesburg, as well as the PAST institute. Revealing how sounds from the past lead us to hearing and making sounds in the present may inspire their preservation.