ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Costa Rican Ceremonial Basalt Metate - PF.2530
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 700 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 18.25" (46.4cm) high x 25.5" (64.8cm) depth
Catalogue: V10
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

This unique type of carved stone metate was the most important ritual object of its time in Costa Rica. It served as a very special burial object for wealthy, high status members of society. In everyday life the metate as a utilitarian grinding stone had the power to transform seeds and kernels into flour. When placed in the tomb, the metate symbolized for the deceased the assurance of another type of transformational rebirth, the beginning of a new life. This stunning metate, artistically carved to include the dramatic images of a monkey and three birds, displays still other symbols of extreme importance. To the Ancient Costa Ricans the monkey was a highly revered animal for it was believed that the monkey was a former warrior, with all the respected traits of a warrior. Birds were also highly respected, for avian creatures had the enviable ability to live in two worlds, that of the land and of the sky. Here we see a carved monkey caught in suspended motion as he swings from the bottom bar of the metate, his arms gracefully clinging to the metate supports. The monkeys uplifted tail ads yet another element of animation to the overall effect. Perched on the metates tripod legs, we also observe the striking images of three avian creatures, perhaps parrots. Claws cling to the metate legs while dual carved protrusions from each bird’s head dramatically curve to join each leg of the metate, echoing the curves of the monkey’s fluid arms and tail. The exuberant and spirited imagery in this metate immediately engages us in a most compelling experience, as we begin to sense and understand the primal sensibilities that are inherent in man and beast alike. - (PF.2530)

 

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