Ancient Aztec music and highly specialized dance were important components of Aztec religious ceremonies. Among the first writings of European explorers in regard to Aztec music were made by Bernal de Castillo in the mid-1500’s, who was appalled by their use of music in their gruesome ritualistic sacrifices. Yet, the Aztec people deserve much credit for their creativity and ingenuity in creating a wide variety of musical instruments.
Despite the way in which Aztec music was used, the Aztec people did design some magnificent percussion instruments. The Ayotl, for example, was made of a tortoise shell. A pair of prongs was placed on the belly side of the shell and these were struck with portions of antlers to make sound.
The Omichicauaztli, on the other hand, was made from the bones of deer and played by scraping the larger bones with smaller bones.
The Aztecs also made a variety of rattles, including the clay Cacalachtli and the gourd shaped Ayacahtli, which was filled with beads, seeds, or pebbles.
The Chicahuaztli was another form of rattle, but it was made with a much longer stick and had a jagged point. This instrument was particularly important in religious ceremonies.
Omichicauaztli (stone replica)
The Aztec people also had specialized wind instruments with which they created their unique music. A variety of trumpet-like instruments were made from readily available materials, such as the Atecocoli made of a large perforated conch. The Tepuzquiquiztli was made of copper or very large gourds and the Quiquiztli was made of a smaller conch shell. Flutes were also popular in Aztec music, including the Chichitli whistle flute and the Cocoloctli, which was a flute that made a special buzzing sound.