The arqueological site of Bonampak:

Evidence has been found of the instruments used by the Mayas, remnants of instruments, paintings and codex. Whistles, flutes, drums, “raspadores”, ocarinas and images and texts that make reference to music.

At the archaeological site of Bonampak, for example, several musicians can be seen painted on the murals.

The Inspiration

These musicians play different instruments, such as turtle shells played with deer horns, trumpets, drums, rattles made with bule (the dry fruit of a plant).

During Mesoamerican times, before the arrival of the Spaniards, the most commonly used ritual instruments were drums with a single drumhead called “zacatán” amongst the Mayans, and a hollow tree trunk with two reeds called “tunkul”. These two were the quintessential sacred instruments and were always played together.

The more simple instruments must have been commonly used by society in general, while the more complex and beautiful instruments must have been reserved for high officials, priests and military people as was the costume in Mesoamerica.

Amongst the Mayans, as well as among the other civilizations of the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican world it was common to use music for different purposes. The royal court musicians definitely had aristocratic titles or military rank.

While court musicians must have been busier naturally with praising the gods, military musicians were trained to give out sound signals in order to coordinate the maneuvering of the fierce warriors in the battlefields.

It is also evident because of the type of instruments that they used, that they were capable of making signals with drums and trumpets that could be heard from miles away, as well as play with an exquisite variety of tones that they were capable of producing, which would have delighted the most demanding noble ear among the Mayans.