Marilyn A. Martorano, MA, Martorano Consultants LLC, presents
A new class of prehistoric artifacts called portable lithophones has been identified from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado. “Litho” is Greek for stone and “phone” means sound; a lithophone is a musical instrument consisting of a purposely-selected rock (often formally-shaped) that is tapped or rubbed with friction to produce musical notes. Portable and stationary lithophones have been utilized in ancient and modern cultures around the world. Only a few highly-modified, portable lithophones have been formally recognized in North America and none have been previously documented in Colorado. The artifacts being studied were originally thought to have functioned as grinding stones, pestles, and/or digging tools; however, testing has verified their acoustical properties. Twenty-two lithophones were analyzed as part of a Colorado State Historical Fund archaeological assessment grant. Their characteristics will be discussed, and a few sample lithophones will also be demonstrated.