Jaguar-Form Metate (Stone Grinder)

Jaguar-Form Metate (Stone Grinder)

1000–1500 CE
Central Region
Costa Rica
Atlantic Watershed
Volcanic stone
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer

Unknown artist, Atlantic Watershed, central region of Costa Rica. Jaguar-Form Metate (Stone Grinder), 1000–1500 CE. Volcanic stone, 11 ⅝ x 38 ½ x 17 ¾  inches. Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of the Collection of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1995.582.

height: 11 5/8 in, 29.5275 cm; width: 38 1/2 in, 97.7900 cm; depth: 17 3/4 in, 45.0850 cm
Mayer Center, Arts of the Ancient Americas
Arts of the Ancient Americas
This object is currently on view

Jaguar-form Metate
About A.D. 1000–1500  
Costa Rica or Nicaragua, Greater Nicoya region
Volcanic stone (vesicular andesite)
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1995.582

This metate, or grinding platform, takes the form of a fierce feline (probably a jaguar) with bared teeth and staring eyes.  The legs, tail, and platform edges are decorated with geometric interlace patterns – abstract representations of the jaguar’s spotted pelt.  The animal’s supernatural nature is demonstrated by the presence of much smaller human figures between the cat’s front and back legs.  

The plate’s curved surface is worn smooth by grinding, but it is uncertain what foods, medicines, or magical substances were processed in it.  The delicacy of the metate’s form suggests that it was used for special occasions, rather than for everyday purposes.