Featured Artifacts: Mano and Metate


A metate is a flat, or slightly concave, stone slab used in conjunction with a mano (hand stone) for grinding grain and other material into powder or paste. The larger metates, like the one shown, are used to grind dried corn into flour. Smaller metates are used to grind nuts and seeds for food, and pigments for dyeing or painting. Some metates are slanted to help the grinding process, and others have a slight lip along the edge to contain the ground food.The presence of manos and metates at archaeological sites indicates that cereals and other crops were being cultivated and consumed. Some of the earliest crop domestication in Latin America occurred in the Tehuacán Valley in central Mexico, where manos and metates were being used as early as 4000 BC. A common problem with the mano and metate is that small pieces of stone can break off and enter the flour during the grinding process. The resulting tooth damage can sometimes be seen in the skeletal remains of ancient people whose teeth were worn down from the grit in their diet.