Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ceremonial Metate

10th–11th century
Honduras, Mesoamerica
Honduras; Maya (?)
H. 11 3/4 x W. 21 1/2 x L. 37 1/4 in. (29.8 x 21 1/2 x 94.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Metates as large and impressive as this are rare. Known examples come from northwestern Honduras. This is the region where the ancient Maya and the peoples of Central America diverged culturally. The two differing cultural traditions can be seen here in a synthesis that produced this elaborately carved metate. Metates were quite common in Precolumbian Central America while they were not in the Maya realm. Yet this metate—even though it has the requisite three legs, up-curving central plate, and imposing, well-carved head on the front—is not stylistically consistent with Central American examples. It is made of a harder, polishable stone, is shorter in the leg, and plainer in overall appearance. The plainness focuses attention on the imposing feline head, details of which call to mind aspects of Maya feline depictions.
President of British Honduras, 1800s; Alphonse Kahn, Paris (Galleries Lafayette), 1900s; [K. John Hewett, London, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 547.

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