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HOME : PRE COLUMBIAN ART : Pre-Columbian Art Collection/ HK : Basalt Metate in the Form of a Jaguar with Jaguar Legs
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Basalt Metate in the Form of a Jaguar with Jaguar Legs - PF.2633
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 100 BC to 500 AD
Dimensions: 9.75" (24.8cm) high x 26.25" (66.7cm) wide x 13.75" (34.9cm) depth
Catalogue: V13
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Costa Rican
Medium: Basalt

Additional Information: Hong Kong

Location: Great Britain
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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 transformation--a rebirth, the beginning of a new life. This particular metate, carved in the stylized shape of a jaguar, displays still 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 wet 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. Here we see the rectangular stone dish of the metate forming the body of one jaguar, whose deftly carved head protrudes with a mighty force. At the same time the four legs of this jaguar are imaginatively portrayed as two more jaguars, each animated body facing in the opposite direction. A boldness of spirit springs forth from this feline, sculptural masterpiece, just as the ancient jaguar springs courageously through the dark and forbidding Costa Rican forest. - (PF.2633)


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