The huēhuētl [ˈweːweːt͡ɬ] is a percussion instrument from Mexico, used by the Aztecs and other cultures. It is an upright tubular drum made from a wooden body opened at the bottom that stands on three legs cut from its base, with skin stretched over the top. It can be beaten by hand or wood mallet.


This ancient percussion instrument originated from Mesoamerica and was often used by the Aztecs and Tarascan.[1] The huehuetl were used during festivals such as warrior gatherings. The drum itself is made from hollowed tree trunks and thus, came in different sizes. Carvings of animals, faces or warriors were also often carved into the base of the drum. The skin used for the top of the drum was mainly from ocelots.[2] Currently, there are still groups of musicians who use huehuetls to perform Aztec music.


Terminology[3] 1st Component 2nd Component
English Nahuatl IPA English Nahuatl IPA English Nahuatl IPA
drum huēhuētl [ˈweːweːt͡ɬ] old (adjective) huēhuē [ˈweːweː] singular noun suffix -tl [t͡ɬ]
medium size drum panhuēhuētl [panˈweːweːt͡ɬ]
large drum tlālpanhuēhuētl Nahuatl pronunciation: [t͡ɬaːɬpanˈweːweːt͡ɬ] (listen) on the ground or
throughout the country
tlālpan [ˈt͡ɬaːɬpan] drum huēhuētl [ˈweːweːt͡ɬ]
war drum yāōhuēhuētl [yaːoːˈweːweːt͡ɬ] war yāōtl [ˈjaːoːt͡ɬ] drum huēhuētl [ˈweːweːt͡ɬ]
huēhuētl drummer huēhuēhuah [weːˈweːwaʔ]
drumming tlatzotzonalli [t͡ɬat͡sot͡soˈnalːi]
to drum tlatzotzona [t͡ɬat͡soˈt͡sona]
musical instrument tlatzotzonalōni [t͡ɬat͡sot͡sonaˈloːni]

See also


  1. Beristain, S. (2013). "Teponaztli, An Ancient Percussion Instrument". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 134 (5): 4158. Bibcode:2013ASAJ..134.4158B. doi:10.1121/1.4831237.
  2. Beristain, Sergio (2015-04-01). "Ancient Aztec drum, the Huehuetl". The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 137 (4): 2318. Bibcode:2015ASAJ..137.2318B. doi:10.1121/1.4920460. ISSN 0001-4966.
  3. Nahuatl dictionary. (1997). Wired humanities project. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from link

Further reading

  • Coe, Michael D. (2002); Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs London: Thames and Hudson.
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