Are these mysterious Great Sand Dunes stones musical?

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018 12:15 PM
Archaeologist Marilyn Martorano shows off a set of lithophones she has studied during a presentation near Longmont.

A set of rounded stones shaped like French baguettes have baffled scientists since they were discovered in the high desert near Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. Researchers assumed they were tools to grind nuts or seeds.

Longmont archaeologist Marilyn Martorano didn’t buy that theory.

The stones were clearly shaped by human hands but didn’t have the right wear marks around the edges to indicate they’d been used for grinding. So she set out to find a better explanation. About a decade later, Martorano believes she’s identified some of the earliest musical instruments ever played in Colorado.

“You really have to hear them,” said Martorano, who grew up in the San Luis Valley where the dunes sit. “That’s when you believe it.”

Read the rest of the story, and play the stones to hear their sounds, at Colorado Public Radio.