Bibliography of Maya Music, especially musical Instruments

We list theses, PhD dissertations, articles, and web sites which are not just copy-and-paste from others. We indicate where you can download free copies (when they are available).


In addition to doing reading on Maya Music, visit Casa K’ojom Musica Maya

Even though I was a student intern at Bonampak already in 1962 (a while ago), and even though I have been at Bonampak many times since then, it still helps to visit a museum with the actual Maya musical instruments.


We at FLAAR recommend you visit Casa K’OJOM, a museum of Maya music. This is a few minutes outside Antigua. I have been there twice and we appreciate the hospitality of the manager and staff there. is their web site.

You can also see ceramic musical instruments at the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, near the Guatemala City airport. And you can see other ceramic musical instruments such as ocarinas, and flutes at the Museo Popol Vuh, Universidad Francisco Marroquin.


Annotated Bibliography of Prehispanic Mesoamerican Music Especially Musical Instruments of the Classic Maya

  • ALFARO, Daniel
  • 1982
  • Folk Music of the Yucatan Peninsula, PhD dissertation. University of Colorado.


  • ANLEU DÍAZ, Enrique
  • 1940
  • Historia de la música en Guatemala. Guatemala Tipografía Nacional 1986. De las paginas 133-140.



  • BOURG, Cameron Hideo
  • 2005
  • Ancient Maya Music Now with Sound. MA thesis, Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures. 77 pages.

    NOTE: Surprisingly few illustrations and effectively no photographs.


  • CASTILLO, Jesús
  • 1891
  • La música maya quiché: región de Guatemala. Guatemala: Piedra Santa, 142 paginas.




  • CONTRERAS ARIAS, Juan Guillermo
  • 1988
  • Atlas cultural de México. Música. Secretaría de Educación Pública-Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia-Editorial Planeta, México, D.F.


  • CONTRERAS ARIAS, Juan Guillermo
  • 1994
  • La colección de instrumentos musicales del CENIDIM. Bibliomúsica 7: 49-54.


  • CRESSON, H. T.
  • 1884
  • Construction of ancient Mexican Terracotta Pitch Pipes and Flageolets. The American Naturalist. 8: 498-510.


  • 2015
  • Aspectos fenomenológicos del son guatemalteco tradicional. Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. Vol. 2, 2409-3475


  • Donahue, John A.
  • 2000
  • Applying Experimental Archaeology to Ethnomusicology: Recreating an ancient Maya Friction Drum through Various Lines of Evidence.

    Available Online:



  • 1981
  • Organología aplicada a instrumentos musicales prehispánicos. Silbatos mayas. Colección Científica No. 107. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México, D. F.


  • 1984
  • Clasificación musical de silbatos prehispánicos mayas. Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, Pages 439-446.



  • HAMMOND, Norman
  • 1972
  • Classic Maya Music: Drums. Archaeology, Vol. 25, 124-131. Part I

    1972 Classic Maya Music: Rattles, Raspers, Flutes and Trumpets. Archaeology, Vol. 25, 222-228 Part II


  • Harcourt, R. d’
  • 1930
  • “L’ocarina à cinq sons dans l’Amérique préhispanique.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. XXII.


  • Harcourt, R. d’
  • 1941
  • “Sifflets et ocarinas du Nicaragua et du Mexique.” Journal de la Société des Américanistes. XXXIII.


  • HEALY, Paul F.
  • 1988
  • Music of the Maya. Archaeology 41(1):24-31.



  • Joyce, T. A.
  • 1933
  • The Pottery Whistle-Figurines of Lubaantun. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. LXIII: xv-xxv.


  • LOOPER, Matthew
  • 2009
  • To be like Gods: Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization. University of Texas Press. 269 pages.


  • MARTI, Samuel
  • 1968
  • Instrumentos musicales precortesianos. 378 páginas.


  • MARTI, Samuel
  • Canto, danza y música precortesianos. Fondo de Cultura Económica



  • MILLER, Mary
  • 1986
  • The Murals of Bonampak. Princeton University Press.

    This is based on her PhD dissertation.


  • MILLER, Mary
  • 1988
  • Boys in the Bonampak Band. En Maya Iconography (editado por E. P….


  • MILLER, Mary
  • Bonampak

    This is based on work after her PhD research, including continued cooperation with INAH.

    In addition to her PhD dissertation, Mary Miller (Yale University) has published two large monographs on the musicians shown in the murals of Bonampak.

    I must admit that I really like these murals, since at age 17 I worked as a student volunteer for the INAH Bonampak project. I was staying in a hotel in Tenosique Mexico and I overheard people talking about Maya archaeology so I introduced myself and said that I had visited Palenque at age 16 (by myself, as a backpacker). Based on my visit to Palenque I had returned to high school and written my high school thesis on the Maya. It won first prize and I got into Harvard. So I returned to Mexico at age 17 (so before I was at Harvard as a freshman) and by coincidence was in the same hotel as the INAH group. They accepted my offer as a volunteer. So they flew me to a landing strip in the Lacandon forest. From there we hiked many kilometers to Bonampak. Like everyone else I helped carry baggage.

    I stayed at Bonampak about a week to help set up things. Then I asked if I could continue my studies of the Maya by going to Yucatan to learn about Puuc architecture. So I wandered back and then explored Labna, Sayil, etc (a tad remote in 1962).

    One thing led to another and I held three post-graduate research positions at Yale (after graduating from Harvard and with an MA degree from Brown). I then was in Graz, Austria and got invited by the professor there to enter their art history PhD program, so got my PhD there, with 8 years research on Mayan iconography and cosmology.


  • O’BRIEN, Linda
  • 1975
  • Songs of the Face of the Earth: Ancestral Songs of the … Maya. PhD dissertation, UCLA.


  • Pacheco Silva, Mónica and Gonzalo Sánchez Santiago
  • 2011
  • Los instrumentos musicales mayas en el Museo de Etnología de Hamburgo. (Editado por B. Arroyo, L. Paiz, A. Linares y A. Arroyave), pp. 909-922. Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Guatemala.



  • Payne, Richard W. and John D. Hartley
  • 1992
  • Precolumbian Flutes of Mesoamerica. The American Musical Instrument Society. 18: 22-61.


  • RIVERA Y RIVERA, Roberto
  • 1980
  • Los instrumentos musicales de los Mayas. SEP INAH, Mexico D.F. With photographs by Nicholas Hellmuth, FLAAR.


  • ROSSAL S.J., Roberto
  • 1988
  • Aproximación a la música vernácula de Guatemala: un ensayo bibliográfico, en busca de nuestra identidad nacional. Guatemala Serviprensa Centroamericana. Universidad de Texas. Páginas 125.


  • 2010
  • Las culturas musicales en el Itsmo de Tehuantepec. Una aproximación antropológica a los instrumentos musicales prehispánicos. Tesis de maestría inédita, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología social, Oaxaca.


  • 2005
  • Los artefactos sonorous del Oaxaca prehispanico.

    NOTE: Our focus is on musical instruments of the Classic Maya, but when a book of this class is available on music of other pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, we feel it should also be mentioned, especially when the entire book is available on-line (at no cost).


  • SAPPER, Carl
  • 2006
  • Música tradicional de las tribus indias de la Mesoamérica septentrional. En Etnomusicología en Guatemala (editado por Matthias Stöckli y Alfonso Arrivillaga cortés). Tradiciones de Guatemala 66. Páginas de 101-108



  • SAVILLE, M. H.
  • 1898
  • The Musical Bow in Ancient Mexico. American Anthropologist, Vol. 11, No. 9 (Sep., 1898), pp. 280-284.

    More debate on whether the Q’eqchi’ (Kekchi) and Yucatec had stringed instrument before the arrival of European musical instruments with the Spanish conquest. But subsequent research documents that the codex figure at the far right was eroded and repainted for an illustration (Stevenson 1968: 23ff).

    Free to view on the Internet:


  • STEVENSON, Robert
  • 1968
  • Music in Aztec & Inca Territory. University of California Press.


  • STÖCKLI, Mattias
  • 2006
  • Etnomusicología en Guatemala. Guatemala: Centro de Estudios Folklóricos, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.


  • STÖCKLI, Matthias
  • 2005
  • ¿Una música maya prehispánica? Incursiones en la arqueomusicología. Centro de Estudios Folklóricos Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala. Conferencias del Museo Popol Vuh. 6 páginas.



  • TOZZER, Alfred M.
  • 1941
  • Landa’s Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán: A translation. Kraus, New York.

    Shortly after the conquest Bishop Diego de Landa observed and wrote about the Yucatec Maya people and their way of life.



  • YURCHENCO, Hennrietta
  • Music of the Maya-Quichés of Guatemala: The Rabinal Achí and Baile de la Canastas.


Has a nice list, intelligently organized into percussion instruments and wind instruments.
Mayan Chirimia and Drum music, with a short recording.
Instrumentos musicales de los antiguos mayas. Summary; no photos.
This is the web site of the best museum of Maya music which we have found so far in Guatemala.

Centro Cultural La Azotea, final calle del cementerio, Jocotenango, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala,C.A. tel (502) 7831 1486- tel/ fax (502) 7831 1483, email:
No photographs, and list is not everything which the Maya had 2000 years ago, but is nonetheless a helpful resource.
Has a nice soundtrack.
Since this has actual photographs for each and every musical instrument, this web page, albeit basic, is one of the most helpful.
Shows lots of CDs and photos of local groups recreating pre-Columbian music. To judge the authenticity, I would have to see and hear in person.
Fragmento de revista Cultura de Guatemala, propiedad de la Universidad Rafael Landivar.
Explicación música para niños
Video of a lecture on Maya music by Vanessa Rodens.

Recordings of the Sounds of Mayan Instruments, Youtube, etc.
Text which discusses the identical Maya case is as a document; not a video
Has links to five or six videos with pre-Columbian music (mostly Aztec, but they had pretty much the same instruments as the Classic Maya).
Has links to six mp3 sound tracks.
A capable musician playing a conch shell instrument, however in a very modern manner (different than usually played, in part because this individual clearly knows modern music).

Vocabularies of Mayan Languages which have good quantity and/or quality of Mayan words for musical instruments

  • ALVAREZ, Cristina
  • Diccionario etnolingüístico del idioma maya yucateco colonial, Volume 3.

Sources on how to make Mayan musical instruments today

Luis Mendez;
Photo of Maya trumpet made of quiote of pulque maguey (Agave salmiana). But no information of by whom or how.


Posted mid-February 2018.


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Articles by FLAAR Reports for REVUE Magazine

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3D Scanning Equipment Reviews For Field Work

GigaPan Epic Pro System

Bibliography Mayan dye colorants

TECHNOLOGY, BOOK REVIEWS on Digital Imaging, especially 3D

Private Museums of Mayan Archaeology



Agriculture, diet, food

Maya Vase Rollouts

Minerals & Stones Pre-columbian Mesoamerica

Maya ethnohistory

Trees of Mesoamerica

Mayan languages of Guatemala

Museums of Mayan Archaeology

Carlos Pellicer, Tabasco

Lectures on Maya topics Now available

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Archaeology of Iran

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