A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE
A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE
A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE
A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE
A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE
A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE

A Costa Rican Basalt Metate, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300 - 700 CE

PS2109

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The metate was a type of grinding platform found in the ancient Americas; forms vary from simple utilitarian to highly decorated ceremonial models. The curved grinding plate on this volcanic stone metate rests on four zoomorphic legs, with a human trophy head carved in high relief at the front and a long tail curving around one leg at the back, vertical notches carved in low relief into the circumference of the plate rim.

While various types of metates were used all over Costa Rica, this is a characteristic example from the Greater Nicoya region.  All materials that needed to be ground were done on a metate, including maize, cacao, and slip pigments.  Both the metate and mano (pestle) were carved out of various types of porous volcanic rock, often microdiorite or andesite. The rough and brittle surface, often made rougher by weathering, actually assisted with the grinding, making it easier to break down any tough or fibrous materials.

For related examples in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, see: Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing with New Eyes, p.137, catalog numbers 303 - 304.

Dimensions: Length: 13.5 inches (34.3 cm)

Condition: With some expected wear to the surface, overall intact and in very good condition.

Provenance: Mirtha Virginia de Perea (1929 - 2019) private collection of Costa Rican art.  Mrs. de Perea spent her entire 48-year career with the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, DC, achieving the rank of Cultural Minister-Counselor and Consul after having started as a secretary. She was a devoted patron of the arts, promoting numerous local artists and sponsoring many cultural events throughout her career. She also amassed an impressive collection of Latin American art. After retiring in 1999, she became a US citizen and continued her support of the arts through her membership in the Women’s Committee of the Washington National Opera and other local groups.

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