For thousands of years, lithophones - a term to denote musical instruments crafted from stone - have captivated audiences around the world. Much like a xylophone or a marimba, lithophones produce musical notes when struck. They come in all shapes and sizes, with the stones carved or shaped to create a variety of pitches and tones.
The specific kind of stone used to create a lithophone can vary, including granite, basalt, limestone or other resonant rocks. They have been discovered across the world, from Europe and Asia to the Americas and Africa, and these stone instruments have frequently been associated with ceremonial or ritual practices, underscoring the innovative approaches that ancient societies found in exploring and harnessing acoustics and sound.
Believed to be the source of some of the oldest music in the world, fascinating ancient examples dating as far back as 10,000 BC have been found in far-flung locations including Vietnam, the Saharan region, Spain, and Central America. There is extensive archaeological evidence for this prehistoric rock music, which was often accompanied by rock art and other artifacts to help set the mood.
But what do lithophones actually sound like when people play them? Watch the videos below and find out!
Find out more about the fascinating stories of lithophones that have been discovered around the world in the article ‘Prehistoric Rock Music: Lithophones: Resonating Rocks of Antiquity’ available in the November - December 2023 issue of Ancient Origins Magazine. Get it here!
Featured Image: Representation of a prehistoric musician playing a lithophone. Source: Image created by OpenAI's DALL-E
By Cecilia Bogaard