General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Stone teponaztli sculpture

Aztec stone teponaztli drum

Sculpture of a teponaztli slit/tongue drum, Mexica (1325-1521 CE), stone, length 72 cms., National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Many Aztec ceremonies were accompanied by wind and percussion instruments, the two most important - indeed sacred - being the horizontal ‘teponaztli’ and the vertical ‘huehuetl’. This sculpture represents a (and is an exact reproduction of an original wooden) teponaztli, the queen of Mexica musical instruments; it’s highly unusual in that the eyes of the face engraved on the front are formed by human hands. The imagery is surreal, almost psychedelic, and is strongly reminiscent of Aztec sculptures of Xochipilli, god of music and song. Indeed Dr. Elizabeth Baquedano (on our Panel of Experts) sees a connection here with the consumption of psychedelic drugs in Aztec ceremonies - often attributed to Xochipilli. 16th century chroniclers report that stone sculptures of Xochipilli were carried out to large open patios alongside sacred drums.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

See our feature on the teponaztli...