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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Basalt Jaguar Metates : Costa Rican Basalt Metate in the Form of a Jaguar
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Costa Rican Basalt Metate in the Form of a Jaguar - PF.2294
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 1 AD to 500 AD
Dimensions: 12.125" (30.8cm) high x 12.125" (30.8cm) wide x 30.375" (77.2cm) depth
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

Location: United States
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This unique type of zoomorphic effigy grinding stone 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. The metate as a utilitarian grinding stone in every-day life had the 'power' to transform seeds and kernels into flour. When placed in the tomb, the metate symbolized for the deceased he assurance of a transformation, a rebirth, the beginning of a new life. This particular metate, carved in the stylized shape of a jaguar, displays yet another symbol of extreme importance to the members of Costa Rican society at the time of its creation. The jaguar was regarded as the most powerful animal in the world, to be honored and revered; it even had certain divine characteristics. In mythology, the most important God, Maira, became the sun during the day, making the great journey from east to west across the lands. At night, however, Maira assumed the form of a jaguar and stealthily made his way from the west back to the east, where in the morning he would rise again in the form of the sun. These commanding attributes of transformation and power are artistically portrayed in this monumental metate. The sweeping upward curve of the rectangular plate which serves as the feline's body, the large and powerfully extended neck and head with their exquisitely sculpted openwork carving, the sculpted face with its ferocious visage, all combine to give this stone feline the timeless regal ness that would befit any God. The reverence with which this piece was afforded in antiquity clearly extends into the present. - (PF.2294)


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