This volume attempts to get at the interpretations of the archaeological record from the back-end by studying the modern Maya metate life cycle, including procurement, production, acquisition, use and discard. The author spent two years in Guatemala conducting ethnographic research with metate producers and users in three Maya communities. It is through this rich research that he greatly expands our understanding of metates by providing background of their complexity through several avenues. For example, he documents contemporary gifting traditions, noting that families still give metates as wedding gifts to couples, even as their use decreases with the presence of electric mills. Sometimes the metates are passed on through several generations, and families view them as symbolic of coupledom and marriage. He also examines the gender complementarity of metates—the fact that while only men make them, it is primarily women who use them to prepare the foods that men grow. He even details cultural taboos related to their use, such as males never touching metates after a female has used it out of respect for the woman and the tool.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Mathews, J. (2013). [Review of the book The life giving stone: Ethnoarchaeology of Maya metates, by M. T. Searcy]. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 32, 494-495. doi: 10.1111/blar.12093
Bulletin of Latin American Research