Ancient Central American Stone Metates in the Michael C. Carlos Museum: Aspects of Use Open Access

Commander, Julia Morgan (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/00000074s?locale=en
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Abstract

Collections of Ancient Central American artifacts commonly feature metates, stone tools traditionally used for grinding. As suggested by contextual evidence from excavation sites, metates played a role in various spheres of society, from domestic settings to high-status burials. Understanding the versatile nature of the tool requires an investigation of the range of styles and characteristics observed in the objects. This paper examines a group of metates in the Michael C. Carlos Museum and focuses on traits potentially related to physical and non-physical aspects of their use. Traits of interest included rock type, iconography, and use wear. While previous categorizations of metates have suggested that the object's degree of iconographic elaboration can reveal its use history, results from this study do not support a division based on levels of symbolic decoration. Considering multiple traits of a metate and drawing comparisons between examples emphasizes a varied spectrum of uses for these multifaceted tools. Traits that emerge as indicators of use type include use-polish and morphological proportions.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction..................................................................................1

II. Overview of metates in Central America ..........................................4

III. Materials and methods ...............................................................16

IV. Results .....................................................................................20

V. Discussion ..................................................................................24

VI. Conclusion ................................................................................28

Appendix A. Tables ..........................................................................29

Appendix B. Object catalogue ...........................................................32

References.....................................................................................47


List of Figures, Tables, and Images

Figure 1: Geometric designs on metate underside ................................9

Figure 2: Vesicle with fiber ..............................................................19

Figure 3: Biotite mica phenocryst .....................................................19

Figure 4: Examples of low (left) and high (right) height/length ratio ......22

Figure 5: Jaguar effigy metate with geometric incisions .......................23

Figure 6: Grinding platform with use polish ........................................24

Figure 7: Waxy residue on metate ....................................................28

Table 1: Metate descriptions ............................................................29

Table 2: Use-related factors .............................................................31

1979.58.8A...................................................................................32

1979.58.8B...................................................................................33

1992.2.217...................................................................................33

1991.2.218...................................................................................34

1991.4.39.....................................................................................35

1991.4.44.....................................................................................36

1991.4.45.....................................................................................37

1991.4.48.....................................................................................37

1991.4.49.....................................................................................38

1991.4.161...................................................................................39

1991.4.162...................................................................................40

1991.4.204...................................................................................40

1991.4.211...................................................................................41

1991.4.378...................................................................................42

1991.4.379...................................................................................43

1991.4.380...................................................................................44

1991.4.386...................................................................................45

1991.4.549...................................................................................46

1992.12.100.................................................................................47

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