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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Basalt Metates and Altars : Ceremonial Basalt Altar
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Ceremonial Basalt Altar - PF.4167
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 17.75" (45.1cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

Location: United States
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The metate served a dual purpose in Costa Rican life. As a tool it was used to turn maize into flour. Its other role was to be placed in tombs to symbolize rebirth. Life and death mirrored in perfect symmetry; as two halves of the same whole. The concept of circularity is important in this mysterious and beautiful object. The round surface may represent the sun, where seeds flourish and then are ground into powder for life sustaining food. Beneath the sun's orb is the underworld teeming with fantastic creatures--represented here by fierce demons or shamans wearing masks. It required the skill of a master craftsman to carve this altar from a single block of volcanic stone. Only the noble classes could afford to hire such professionals. It was the wealthy that wanted control over earthly affairs such as food production, as well as power in the life to come. To help ensure this desirable state of affairs, objects such as this metate were created. To possess such awe inspiring work of art is to join the quest of noble warriors in pursuit of the fruits of this world and the next! - (PF.4167)


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