Ceremonial Grinding Stone (Flying-Panel Metate)
12 1/2 x 27 x 21 in. (31.8 x 68.6 x 53.3 cm)
Central Highlands or Atlantic Watershed artist
Central Highlands or Atlantic Watershed; made in Costa Rica
Medium and Support:
Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Location: Currently on view
A metate is a tool for grinding and preparing food. Because of its crucial role in ancient people’s everyday existence (see photo to the right) over time the metate evolved into a ritual object. Carved from a single piece of stone, the delicate open work on this flying-panel metate was accomplished by skilled artists using only tools made from stone or wood.
Both real and supernatural creatures decorate the base. The central figure is a shaman in the form of a crocodile. Respected for its power and swiftness on land and in the water, the crocodile is a fitting representation for a shaman.
Metates were also employed as funeral biers in the most prestigious tombs; the body was laid out on two or three metates placed side by side. The more elaborate "flying-panel" examples may have been manufactured especially for high-rank burials.
[Gallery label text, 2009]