Manos were used in prehistoric times to process wild seeds, nuts and other food, generally used with greater frequency in the Archaic period, when people became more reliant upon local wild plant food for their diet. Later, manos and metates were used to process cultivated maize.
In its early use in the American Southwest, the mano and metate were used to grind wild plants. The mano began as a one-handed tool and once cultivation of maize became more prevalent, the mano became a larger, two-handed tool that more efficiently ground food against an evolved basin or trough metate.
Besides food, manos and metates were used to separate and pulverize clay from earthen debris and stones. The resulting clay was used for pottery-making.
Metate and mano.
A mano, a smooth hand-held stone, is used against a metate, typically a large stone with a depression or bowl. The movement of the mano against the metate consists of a circular, rocking or chopping grinding motion using one or both hands.
Ancient Pueblo People often set up work rooms, called mealing rooms, that were established with sets of manos and metates for mass grinding efforts.
Gheo-shih (5000 BC-3000 BC), which translates to “River of the Gourd Trees” in the Zapotec language, is an open-air site found in the Oaxaca Valley that holds what is considered as the earliest representation of civic-ceremonial architecture. Within this site is a cleared area lined by boulders that is thought to have been used for rituals, dances or athletic competitions. This site could have held 25-30 people and is believed to be a congregation site for microbands during the rainy seasons of the Archaic period.
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