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date: 10 December 2019


  • John M. Schechter


Percussion idiophone of Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico, used especially by the Aztecs and Maya-Quiché. The Maya instrument, called kayab, appeared as early as the 8th century ce (in a fresco in Structure 1 of the Bonampak temple paintings at Chiapas). It was later employed by the Aztecs. It was a turtle shell struck with a stag’s antler on both ends of the plastron (ventral part of the shell), sounding two pitches (Fig.1). Among the Aztecs the áyotl seems to have been closely associated with sacrificial and memorial events; it was used for death feasts, funeral processions, and feasts of the rain or mountain gods.

See also Tortuga .

P. Collaer, ed.: Amerika, Musikgeschichte in Bildern, vol.1/2 (Leipzig, 1967; Eng. trans. 1973) R. Stevenson: Music in Aztec and Inca Territory (Berkeley, 1968)

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