Pre-Columbian, Panama, Chiriqui, ca. 800 to 1000 CE. A very large ceremonial metate used as seat for an elite leader and/or shaman, skillfully carved from a single block of volcanic stone, with three legs - one featuring an iconographically and decoratively rich flying panel presenting an openwork section of the base depicting a large bird with outspread wings - most likely an eagle or similar raptor, a sacred animal whose real-life counterparts were often given to the gods as sacrifices. The legs depict other avian forms, and the rim of the seat is carved with an attractive beaded band. Size: 18.25" L x 26.25" W x 9.875" H (46.4 cm x 66.7 cm x 25.1 cm)
According to several scholars, in the Pre-Columbian world, the graceful soaring flight patterns of eagles and other birds of prey inspired the ancients to see them as metaphors for the sun. In addition, their keen visual acuity, great speed, and powerful talons made them ideal models for hunters and warriors. Furthermore, given their ability to fly to impressive heights and make dramatic dives, these birds also were believed to communicate with the celestial gods. Such powers and abilities were not only adopted by shamans, but also appropriated by the elite ruling class.
This ceremonial metate carved from volcanic stone represents one of the most unusual traditions of the ancient Americas. While some metates were used as grinding slabs, others showing more intricate designs like this example were intended for ritualistic ceremonies and as burial offerings. It has also been suggested that some metates were actually used as thrones for rulers to sit on. The iconographic/decorative program of this metate suggests a ceremonial function. The ornament may be related to the owner the piece or the ritual in which the metate was used.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection, ex collection of Mary K. F. Leong, Washington, USA, acquired 1980 to 1990
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Natural erosion to the top surface with minor chips to high point areas and peripheries. Chips to foot compensated with cork to level. Otherwise quite nice.