scientists pottery soundsBy David Ponce

I think this is just about freaking incredible. Belgian scientists (previously known for their delicious chocolates), have been able to extract recordings from 5,000 year old vases. How can this be? Well, here’s the deal.

It seems that the vase makers used long sticks to carve decorations on the clay vases as they were being made on rotating stones. These sticks picked up the minute vibrations in the air (caused by, say, conversations) and transformed these into grooves and bumps, much like what happens when you make a vinyl record. The Belgian scientists then analysed these patterns and extracted what is believed to be the world’s oldest known recordings.

In this link you will see a video of a relatively pompous looking pipe-clad professor type explaining the whole deal to you in French. However, about two-thirds of the way through, you get to hear about ten seconds of the recordings in question. It’s a man, speaking in Latin, and laughing.

It’s kind of eerie. Think about it. This was recorded, what, 3,000 years before JC was even born!

[Pottery Recording Video] VIA [The Raw Feed(Yes, I know it says 6,500 years. But I speak French, and the video says 5,000, so that’s that]

Update: Um… rumors that this might be someone’s idea of an April fool’s joke. So, beware. Anyone heard anything to corroborate or, uh, demystify?

Update #2: Further evidence that this is most likely just, either a hoax, or simply a misunderstanding can be found here. This links to the page of some guy’s filmography, and it looks like the footage might just have been someone’s school project or something.


  1. Um… Might want to hold off a little while before you forward this to your friends or co-workers. I can’t find the URL now, but I saw a site earlier today that found that this was someone’s April Fools’ joke from last year. Maybe someone else will post a followup here if they happen to have seen the same information. This would be amazing if it were true, but I don’t think that’s likely. Besides, if this recording were really from 3,000 BC or earlier, they wouldn’t have been speaking Latin…

  2. The recording you hear is from the second vase, which is 2000 years old and came from Pompei … The first vase they speak of is from South America, where they did not speak latin 5000 years ago, nor 2000 year ago either. We don’t hear the first vase recording (a shame) …
    I don’t know how old is that news but i heard from it a few year ago…

  3. I heard something very similar to this as a (I think) BBC Radio 4 play broadcast in December 1996. The vase there had captured the voice of Christ who said he *wasn’t* the Messiah on it! Great story, really well done, wish I knew who wrote it…

  4. So funny,
    i’m french, the scientist sound serious,
    but if you understand latin, you should listen something at the end of the movie…..

  5. I see this in a CSI episode, i don’t know much X.file (maybe also there)
    If you can see this CSI episode…
    CSI – Committed – Air date: April 28,2005

    Extract from
    “Sophia Curtis places Adam’s pot on a turntable in the CSI lab and uses a laser to pick up some sound that was recorded in the grooves”

    I ‘am a Sound and Acoustic Engineer, and in my professional opinion this is not true
    If you listen to the first recordings made in modern times, they sound very bad, and they have a big horn to move a little niddle to record.

    If some object can touch the surface of the pottery, must be in a very precise distance
    If you add that the sound in the area must be VERY VERY loud to move the object…
    Also add the noise by the rotation of the base …
    And also de “noise” of the irregular pottery…
    – Low frequency (by the rotation): VERY Loud
    – Low frequency (by the rotation): Loud
    – Mid-High frequency (by the speaker): Loud (but not much)

    If yout think a speaker can be louder than the rotation … maybe, but to a distance, no just millimeters from the pottery…
    And always, the loud frequency is easyer to record, because have more power than the high.

    And Also, some words are “too clear”, even in early recording they have several problems with the recording of high frequency.

    When I see this article i was shock. But after a little thinking… may be just a joke.

    (Sorry for my bad english, but i from Chile, so I speak spanish)

  6. Several years ago someone did this with an ancient pot, and released a recording of the motion of the potters wheel, which I think is a lot more convincing concept. That one was supposedly not a joke, and basically it sounded about like you’d think–a rhythmic rushing sound. Perhaps this one, which does sound like a joke, draws on that concept.

  7. You people need to try reading instead of watching television. This idea first came forward at least 20 years ago in a science fiction story. Can’t remember the title or author but it was exactly the same scenario. So X-files and CSI stole the idea. The story stuck with me and I’ve been waiting for the day it actually happens. This may well be a hoax but it may well happen at some point. Technology marches on.

  8. you can tell by the production values that it’s totally fake

    i.e. the framing of the guy they’re interviewing… half his head is out of the shot.

  9. X-Files, the “Lazarus Bowl”, a religious artifact that was a pot being thrown by Lazurus’ mother as Jesus commanded him to rise from the dead. When decoded and translated from the original Aramaic it said, “I am the egg man, I am the egg man, I am the walrus” and although the translator had problems he thought the next line was “koo-koo-ka-choo”

    It was probably a fake

  10. Ancient Sounds Indeed–We Get Hoaxed!

    We could not resist the idea that ancient sounds had been recovered from pottery grooves. The idea was so fascinating that we didn’t stop to read the website involved carefully enough. It’s actually a brilliant hoax posted last April 1. This is especially ironic, because we have a notoriously bad habit of posting hoax stories on April 1 ourselves. So kudos to those of you who wrote saying this could not possibly be real, and thanks to the alert reader who pointed out to us that the site is featured in the web’s wonderful Museum of Hoaxes.

  11. This is actually a proven method of recording voices, scientists at the SD Institute of Archaeology MADE a working replica of this and placed it on display, it sounds eerily life-like…

  12. While I believe that some ancient sounds will eventually be recovered in this or some similar manner (the field is known as Archaeoacoustics), this story is not proof.

    For a simple reason – there was no Latin language in 3,000 BC.

    Also, when such sounds are eventually recovered they are most likely going to be in one- or two-second fragments, tops, not extended speech.

  13. This may be a hoax but the operative concept behind it can’t be too far from the truth. There was a science fiction story from many years back that featured a way of recovering sounds from objects based on molecular imprintation. I suspect that sooner or later we will be able to pick up sound patterns from solid objects much in the same way that the intelligence agencies can pick up converstations from the vibrations of glass window panes. Imagine the possibilities: being able to listen to the original words of Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha and others. History may be rewritten in many strange ways in the near future.

  14. I’m french and I can give you a reliable translation of the figures quoted in the movie:
    -The first vase is said to be 500 years old (“5 siecles”) and not 5000 as I have read in many comments.
    -The second one is said to be 2000 years.

    Therefore, figures presented here match with History (cf Latin Language). What I am much more skeptical about is the reliability of this so-called scientist. It sounds like a big joke to me.

  15. NOT FAKE! Saw this for the first time when it was displayed at the Reuben H. Fleet Science center in San Diego. It is a hands on Science museum and they had a laser wand and speakers set up so visitors could “play” the clay pot. Very cool, very real – Very wild! Believe it…! Granted, it didn’t have digital clarity, but you could hear laughing and talking.

    Now, I haven’t seen the video posted on this site, though… maybe THAT is fake…

  16. I believe that light and sound are recorded in a variety of materials on the earth. All with at different levels, clay, melting glass, drying concrete plant life maybe some of the easiest to find, but it is recorded in all material, the patterns that atoms, and sub-atomic particles travel is affected by outside sources such as sound and light waves. And the change is recorded. WatchThisFriday the MESH