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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : 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.2516
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 100 AD to 500 AD
Dimensions: 17.5" (44.5cm) high x 13.75" (34.9cm) wide x 35.375" (89.9cm) depth
Catalogue: V11
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

Location: United States
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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 particular metate, carved in the stylized shape of a jaguar, displays yet another symbol of extreme importance. To the Ancient Costa Ricans 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 two 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 jaguars body, the large and powerfully extended neck and head with exquisitely sculpted openwork carving, the sculpted face with its ferocious visage, all combine to give a potent presence that truly befits this exalted creature. The reverence with which this piece was afforded in antiquity clearly extends into the present as we experience its indomitable spirit and energy today. - (PF.2516)


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