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person bangs on a lithophone with a piece of wood

Rock On!

A person uses a piece of wood to strike a lithophone, an instrument made of solid stone by Native Americans between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. When struck, the lithophone emits a pure tone, like a bar on a xylophone. Amateur archaeologist Bill Moody brought two lithophones to WHOI in January 2012 for a closer look by WHOI scientists Henry Dick, Horst Marschall, and Ken Foote, who advised him on how the stones’ composition might affect their acoustic properties. Moody had the stones in his collection for years, but thought they were pestles used to grind grain or nuts until archaeologist Duncan Caldwell recognized and described them as lithophones. Prehistoric, portable lithophones of this shape have been found in the Sahara and Equatorial Africa, but these are the first identified from North America. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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