A Ceremonial Metate with Mano, Greater Nicoya, Late Period IV - Early Period V, ca. 300-700 CE
PS2117Regular price $1,500 USD
The metate is a type of grinding platform found in the ancient Americas; forms vary from simple utilitarian, such as this example, to highly decorated ceremonial models. The curved grinding plate on this volcanic stone metate rests on three slab legs pierced through and sculpted with stylized human heads. Two nodes or tiny heads extend from the front edge. The upper surface of the plate is carved in low relief at the front end (supported by one leg) in an interlocking plaited design. This motif may represent the woven mat, a common sign of authority in Mesoamerica, especially among the Maya. The position of the design on the concave plate suggests that the metate was stored with the upperside exposed. The matching grinding tool, called a mano, is of a thick cylindrical shape with flat ends that easily fit the hand.
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 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 a related example in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, see: Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing with New Eyes, p.134, catalogue number 293.
Dimensions: Metate: 14 x 7 1/4 x 6 3/4 inches (35.5 x 18.4 x 17.14 cm), Mano: 9 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches (23.5 x 6.35 cm)
Condition: A loss to one of the legs and one edge of the mano, with some very minor chips that do not detract.
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. 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.