Metate

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Metate, mano and corn, all circa 12th century AD, from Chaco Canyon, USA

A metate or metlatl (or mealing stone) is a type or variety of quern, a ground stone tool used for processing grain and seeds. In traditional Mesoamerican culture, metates were typically used by women who would grind lime-treated maize and other organic materials during food preparation (e.g., making tortillas). Similar artifacts are found all over the world,[1] including China.Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). One of the oldest and most prominent themes in Chibcha art is that of the Crocodile god. Depicted as an anthropomorphic being with a crocodile head, he has been carved into fly-panel metates, sometimes shown standing on a double-headed saurian and other times on a jaguar. As a symbol, the double-headed Saurian has the longest use and distribution of any iconographic element in the Isthmo-Columbian area.

Costa Rica flying-panel metates date to the 1st and 7th centuries. However, certain features of the Crocodile god depicted on flying-panel metates show him with unnatural U-shaped elbows and long, narrow fingers, as seen on crocodile gods made in gold that date to the 10th-16th centuries. These stylistic forms make sense for use in the small gold ornaments made with the lost-wax technique, but seem strange for use in carved stone. Perhaps these metate date much later than previously thought, and were inspired by the depictions in gold.[2]

Birds with long, curving beaks that seem to represent vultures, toucans or maybe hummingbirds are another popular theme. First found in Costa Rica on Pavas and El Bosque-phase pottery, these are a common element in flying-panel metates, sometimes depicted with or pecking at human heads.

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References[edit]

  • Graham, M.M. (1981). Traditions of Costa Rican Stone Sculpture. In Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica, pp. 113–134. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York.
  • Lange, F.W. (1996). Paths to Central American Prehistory. University Press of Colorado. Niwot, Colorado.
  • Quilter, J. & Hoopes, J. (2003). Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama and Columbia. Dumbarton Oaks. Washington D.C.
  • Snarskis, M.J. (1981). The Archaeology of Costa Rica. In Between Continents/Between Seas: Precolumbian Art of Costa Rica, pp. 15–84. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York.
  • Stone, D. (1977). Precolumbian Man in Costa Rica. Peabody Museum Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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