Unfortunately, neither instrument would prove to be a musical Rosetta Stone that could tell us exactly how vihuelas were made and, more importantly, how they sounded.
In the 1950s Cesar and Fernando Vera, master guitar makers in Madrid, began experimenting with reconstructed vihuelas made from Swiss pine and cypress, often with mixed results.
After being buried under forty decades of dust, the music of the vihuela, a Spanish instrument similar to the guitar, was for the first time being reintroduced to the culture that had created it, celebrated it, and relegated it to obscurity.
The vihuela -- sixteenth-century hybrid of the Renaissance guitar and the lute -- was a purely Spanish creation.
The story of the vihuela began with clash of the Christian broadsword and the Moorish scimitar.
The result was the vihuela, which had the body of a Renaissance guitar fitted with eight tied-on gut frets and twelve strings (six pairs in unison) in lute tuning.
The creation of the vihuela ushered in a new generation of indigenous artists who wrote exclusively for the vihuela and created some of the most exquisite music of the sixteenth century.
Their short reign of forty years began in 1536 with the publication of Milan's Libro de musica de vihuela de mano, intitulado El Maestro [Book of Vihuela Music, Entitled the Master], dedicated to his patron, King John III of Portugal.
In Portugal the instrument was played at court, while in Italy the celebrated lutenist Francesco da Milano, whose skills earned him the name Il Divino, also performed on the vihuela.
After him the vihuela flourished with the publication of five more books of music, but with the printing of Daza's El parnaso [Mount Parnassus] in 1576, the instrument began its slide into oblivion.
By 1611 lexicologist Sebastian Covarrubias Orosco noted, "Since the invention of the four-course Renaissance guitar, there are very few who study the vihuela.
From California to Texas and other states with large Mexican-American populations, children are picking up trumpets, violins, traditional guitars and two other types of instruments unique to the mariachi - a small, round-backed guitar known as a vihuela
and a large, deep-voiced guitar called the guitarron - and learning the music of their ancestors at school and in after-school clubs.