Listen to the Landscape

As we all know archaeologists dig in the past, scraping away layers and layers of crust to reveal all sorts of tangible treasures.

Well the past encompasses many facets. When we start to envisage the lives of our ancestors, the first strata that usually come to mind are the things they ate, the crockery and cutlery they ate with, and the artefacts they produced and the tools they used for these productions. We might overlook the sounds these tools would make, and indeed the interacting voices and other daily sounds of a busy community. Not so Mylène Pardoen who is a sound archaeologist.

Mylène Pardoen

If you take the time to stroll through the streets of 18th century Paris brilliantly reconstructed in digital format, you will hear the sounds of yore, even to the HearYe, HearYe of the town crier.

Being a perfectionist, Mylène Pardoen explains in an interview that she even went so far as to reproduce sounds in context, for example, ensuring that the ping of a tool sounded as it would in a narrow street, growing and diminishing as you stroll by. Tools of the period were used for greater authenticity.

Some may feel that it’s a pity we can’t see the people, but Mylène Pardoen explains that for her the starting point is the soundscape, and this is the frame on which everything else is built. The point being, that the sounds of the era in and of themselves are worthy of our undivided attention. Even to the choice of area in Paris: her research suggested that eighty per cent of the sounds of the 18th century city could be heard in that condensed area where an abattoir, church, court, and market vied with traders, hawkers and trades folk of all ilk. Truly a remarkable sound track, worthy of the effort, and our open ears.

Project Bretez. (2014). Visite de Paris au XVIIIe siècle (quartier du Grand Châtelet). Retrieved 1 February 2016, from

CNRS Le journal,. (2016). Écoutez le Paris du XVIIIe siècle. Retrieved 1 February 2016, from

YouTube,. (2016). TV5MONDE : Plongez au coeur du Paris du XVIIIe siècle !. Retrieved 1 February 2016, from