The origin of Marimba isn’t known, but it seems it started off as wooden bars laid over a hole on the ground which was struck with some sort of stick. In the myth of Zulus (of South Africa), there is a story about a goddess called “Marimba” who made an instrument by hanging gourds below some wooden bars. It sometimes is referred to as the source of the name of this fine percussive instrument.
Marimba, which was born in South Africa, was brought all the way to South America in the early 16th century by the Africans who were taken there as slaves. There, a Guatemalan called Sebastian Hurtado made a Marimba with a wooden resonator pipe instead of a gourd. This formed the basis of the modern marimba.
Marimba, which was improved in South America was brought to the United States eventually, and they started to make marimba around 1910. Deagan of Chicago changed the wooden pipe to the metal pipe. Numerous other improvements were made since then including the rearrangement of the keytop to resemble a piano. Modern Marimba is now treated not only as an orchestra instrument but also as a solo instrument thanks to the louder sound achieved by the pipe.
Most vintage Mirambas go for over $5000, but you can build your own Miramba very cheaply.