April 27, 2019 – 2:00 PM: Marilyn A. Martorano, MA, Martorano Consultants LLC

Did these prehistoric ground stone artifacts play the first hard rock music? What we know today about lithophones in Colorado

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.


Marilyn A. Martorano is the owner/archaeologist of Martorano Consultants LLC in Longmont, Colorado and has over 40 years of experience in cultural resource management in the Rocky Mountain region. She holds an MA in Anthropology from Colorado State University. Marilyn’s research interests include Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs), the archaeology of early Hispano settlements and the Old Spanish National Historic Trail (OSNHT) in the San Luis Valley, and the newly-identified prehistoric artifact type in Colorado, lithophones, an ancient musical instrument made of rock. Marilyn is a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA). She received the 2015 Colorado State Archaeologist’s Award for her work with CMTs, a 2018 History Colorado Stephen H. Hart Award for archaeological work at the Bromley/Koizuma/Hishinuma Farm, and a 2019 History Colorado Stephen H. Hart Award for archaeological work on the Tarryall Rural Historic District National Register of Historic Places nomination.