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A Metate (also known as grinding stone, milling stone, and hand mill)  is the larger stationary bottom stone on which the mano is operated. The mano (Spanish for hand) is the hand held stone. Metate, also Spanish, adapted from an Aztec word "matlatl".  In combination they operate as a mill for grinding seeds and beans to make flour.

 

1900's Photograph showing Hopi Maidens using Metates & Manos

Postcard showing a Navajo woman using a Metate & Mano

 

Both the Metate and Mano are made in different shapes and forms and from different stone materials. Most of the materials used are vesicular basalt, granite, sandstone, conglomerates and other stone indigenous to the local area. Metates can be slabbed (flat and thin), have basins, or troughed. The deepness of the trough or the thinness of the slab will vary according to how much use each metate received.

Some metates contain evidence of being pecked with hammerstones. It is believed that this was done to roughen the work surface when it became worn smooth in order to aid in the grinding. Manos were usually shaped to fit the particular companion Metate. However during some excavations multiple manos are found with a single metate. It is possible that different grinding coarseness might be achieved with different manos or perhaps each mano fit a particular hand of a family member.

All tribes of the Southwest utilized this item up until the contact with Europeans. The metate and mano have been replaced by modern blenders and milling machines. Very few cultures of today still use this ancient way of food preperation. In Mexico, the Tarahumara still utilize metates and perhaps even in some remote areas of  today's reservation lands one might catch a glimpse of a metate and mano in use.

 

This page last revised: 06/18/2010

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