General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Two-toned drum (teponaztli)

Aztec tongue drum or teponaztli, British Museum

Two-toned tongue drum, Mexica (Aztec), wooden, length 49 cm., British Museum

The teponaztli is a hollow cermonial drum or gong with two slotted tongues cut into the top, which, when struck, produce different notes. The fact that the carving on this one is in mint condition and on a perishable material warrants the surmise that it was never below ground (not an archaeological find), but rather was probably part of the loot sent to Europe in the sixteenth century. The owl... was a bird of ill omen and the harbinger of death... It is therefore possible that this drum served some funerary purpose.

From Before Cortés: Sculpture of Middle America exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, p. 308.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

Another teponaztli in the British Museum

Our teponaztli feature