About This Artwork

Nicoya, Guanacaste province, Costa Rica

Ceremonial Grinding Table (Metate) in the Form of a Feline, A.D. 500/1000

Volcanic stone
41.3 x 34.9 x 86.4 cm (16 1/4 x 13 3/4 x 34 in.)

Gift of Richard J. Faletti, the Faletti Family Collection, 1997.66

In Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States, flat stone grinders (metates) were used to prepare cornmeal and corn dough for cooking. Sculptors in ancient Costa Rica developed elaborate metate forms as symbols of sustenance; large, finely carved examples often feature effigies as emblems of a ruler or religious official. Metates have been discovered in burials, where they served as biers for deceased leaders, but they were probably primarily intended as throne-like seats for chieftains, thereby linking rulers’ political power to their obligation to ensure abundant harvests to sustain their communities.

— Permanent collection label

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