Master of Arts (MA)


Foreign Languages and Literatures

Document Type



The subject of Maya music is by no means a new field of study for Hispanic cultural scholars or Mesoamerican anthropologists. For example, the archeological reports of Dr. Norman Hammond and Dr. Paul Healy have greatly increased the information in this area of study. The instrumentation utilized by ancient Maya musicians and the raw materials that were the essence of their production have been the major themes in these previous publications. However, these perspectives exclude the sound of music and aspects of ancient Maya society. This thesis has been planned to examine ancient Maya music according to archaeology, society and the sound of music. The first chapter of this study will deal with the known facts surrounding Maya musical instrumentation based on the more popular studies published by Hammond, Healy and other prestigious scholars. The purpose of the first chapter will be to introduce the main forms of instrumentation: idiophones, membranophones and areophones. Then, the second chapter will involve the most popular known exhibition of Maya musical performance, the Bonampak frescoes of Chiapas, Mexico. The analysis of these frescoes will include the sound of the instruments of this performance to draw conclusions about musicians and hierarchy. Next, the third chapter will pertain to ancient flutes and ocarinas, the most common instruments surviving today. I will use the sound and physical characteristics to identify which musical instruments were status symbols. My fourth chapter will deal with the recreation of Maya music that occurs in media productions such as Patricia Amlin's "Popol Vuh: The Creation Myth of the Maya". Master flute makers such as Robin Hodgkinson and Guillermo Martinez will be discussed along with their work to give insights public perception of ancient Maya music. The final chapter will be a summary that will reiterate issues surrounding the instruments, sounds and the musical hierarchy of the Maya. This last chapter will demonstrate how the sound of ancient Maya instruments has been used to further the classification and information known about this musical culture.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Heather I McKillop