Ceremonial Metate

Date: 10th–11th century

Geography: Honduras, Mesoamerica

Culture: Honduras; Maya (?)

Medium: Diabase

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Stone-Implements

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.887


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.