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Decorated metates in prehispanic Lower Central America

Jones, U; (1992) Decorated metates in prehispanic Lower Central America. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Metates are stone objects on which corn and other substancesa re ground with hand-held stones called manos. Metates and manos have formed part of the standard household equipment in the Americas ever since settled life began to develop there in the 2nd millennium B. C. In Lower Central America - and specifically within the area bounded by eastern Honduras in the north and the Panama Canal in the south - prehispanic peoples fashioned some of their metates in a highly individual manner, often with a display of sophisticated and complex imagery both in form and decoration. They were made in this distinctive way over a period of at least 1500 years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. The aim of this study is to show that, in spite of their diversity, these metates represent an unmistakable cultural trait which is particular only to the isthmian region of Central America. It is proposed that, as such, the decorated metate can serve as a diagnostic marker for essentially Lower Central American cultural traditions in prehispanic times. In earlier studies, many of these elaborately carved objects from Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama have been referred to variously as 'altars', 'thrones', 'ceremonial tables', and - sometimes - as 'metates'. In the course of research for the present study it was found that the majority show traces of wear from grinding and that they can therefore be classified as metates. This thesis brings together material from the entire Lower Central American culture area and presents a comprehensive corpus of decorated metates from reported sites together with specimens available in museums and private collections. Based on some 650 examples, a classification is proposed which hasbeen organized according to formal attributes and supplemented by a stylistic analysis of recurring motifs and decorative patterns. A chronological and geographical framework has been added with the help of known data on decorated metates recovered from controlled excavations.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Decorated metates in prehispanic Lower Central America
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS. The original pages 5 to 651 of volume two have been removed due to third party copyright.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1355098
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