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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Basalt Metates and Altars : Circular Basalt Metate
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Circular Basalt Metate - PF.4596
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 11.25" (28.6cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Basalt

Location: Great Britain
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A work of art is in itself a phenomenon. It is something that is both aesthetically beautiful, intense in energy, and possessing an element of mystery. The metates of Ancient Costa Rica were created for two basic reasons: as domestic objects used for grinding corn, and as ritual sculptures for the elite to be interred with in burial chambers. Both functions can be seen as one in that life is a cycle of birth (growth), death and re-birth, all in a continuous flow, symbolized by the circular shape of the metate. This fantastic metate is rich in remarkable sculptural detail. There are three figures in the form of alligators holding up the top portion. The alligator symbolized the earth's surface, which is rough and smooth, impenetrable and soft. In between the alligators are mace heads, which represent aggression and war. We see here the violent and volatile world of the jungle with its dangerous and beautiful animals coupled with the brutal reality of warfare; and yet surmounted by the serene circle of heaven. This image is exactly what the elite classes wished to project to the people: that they will be protected from the dangers of the physical world with the promise of a peaceful afterlife through the courage and influence of those who ruled them. This wonderful and very lovely metate possesses the three requirements of art, and as a result it has its own life and innate power, which is beyond this world. - (PF.4596)


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