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date: 06 December 2019


  • John M. Schechter


Gourd rattle of the Aztec (Nahua) and other pre-Columbian Mexican peoples, and still used in various Indian cultures of Mexico. It was important in dance and was painted in the Bonampak murals, in the Codex Becker I, and in the illustrations accompanying Bernardino de Sahagún’s Florentine Codex where it was pictured with a ‘tassel’ on the top. The gourd rattle, together with the bone rasp and flute, was played for Aztec warriors fallen in battle and also for social dancing. Early Aztec examples might have been made of gold or copper.

Nowadays the ayacachtli, found from Sonora to central Mexico, is a calabash rattle used mostly in pairs; it is of various sizes with either a short or long handle, and is decorated with ribbons or feathers. Spontini included one to accompany a Mexican dance in his opera Fernand Cortez, ou La conquète du Mexique (1817 version). According to Stevenson (...

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